Strength Is Not Linear

Let me know if this sounds like a familiar conversation you’ve had in your head. “If I just add 5 pounds every time I do this lift, before you know it I’ll be doing 30 more pounds.” I have a newsflash for you. It doesn’t work that way. I know it’s this shocking revelation, but strength takes YEARS to develop, not weeks. It takes YEARS to progress to elite weightlifting numbers, not months. Let’s dive into why that is. 

I’m sure most of you first started lifting weights or doing weightlifting, yes there’s a difference, once you hit adulthood. It wasn’t something you spent time doing in your youth. And, when you first got started, you did a lift and it was relatively light. Then the next time you did it, you jumped maybe 20 pounds. And, then you did it again and you jumped another 10 pounds. Now, it’s been a few months or maybe even a year and you’re staying somewhat stagnant. Well, yea, the first time you do ANYTHING you’re going to develop a change in muscle tissue or learn how to do something better. The muscles in your body were so unused that any kind of weightlifting was going to yield some significant improvements. If I have a person who is in their 60s and has never worked out before, don’t you think if I have them just do 5 sets of 10 reps of wall push-ups they’re going to be sore? Of course they are. The tissue just isn’t ready for any kind of strain. 

Now, as I’ve mentioned before the human body is the greatest adapter in the world. If you’re constantly doing something, the body is going to adapt to handle the stress. It just is and the more you do it, the better it’s going to get at handling the stress. This is part of the reason why numbers can get stagnant. The other part of the reason is the real topic of this blog and that is — strength is not linear. 

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s say it’s Thursday and you’re doing a lifting workout. Let’s say it’s 5 sets of 5 back squats. But, you worked out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Let’s also say that you had a work project that went late into the night Tuesday so you only slept 6 hours. Then Wednesday your boss asked you to do some extra work to cover a team member who got sick and you were stressed to get it done as well as get your kids to their sporting events that evening. Not to mention you didn’t spend any time doing any kind of rolling out or extra stretching this week to make sure your tissues are recovered from the week. Now, you expect to come in and hit 105% for 5 reps? You’re dreaming. 

Life happens. And half the equation, when it comes to strength is speed. You can ask any weightlifting coach that’s experienced and noteworthy. They’ll tell you. Speed leaves you much sooner than strength does. If you’re feeling beat up, tired, stressed and it’s a lifting day, you need to be honest with yourself and say “nope I don’t have it today.” And, if that’s the case, you need to stick to 75-80% and try to move it faster and with better form. Your body won’t lie to you. You know when it’s a day to push it and when it’s day to just work on speed. Listen to your body. Strength takes time, but it also takes speed. Don’t get in the canoe with only one ore.

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