“Strength is the mother of all qualities”, Tudor Bompa, the father of periodization, once said.
Greater strength increases your performance in absolutely everything. It’s easy to see how getting stronger can help you lift heavy things, punch people harder, etc. but it also helps you in not so intuitive ways.
Although we value and practice the training of endurance, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, accuracy, flexibility, and stamina, we consider strength to be the mother of them all.
One way more strength helps you is that the perceived level of exertion goes down. A team of Norwegian scientists did an interesting study in which they put elite endurance athletes on a pure strength regime: 4 sets of 4 repetitions of heavy squats. At the end of the study, all the guys were stronger and could jump higher. But what surprised them was that the athletes ran faster and race times went down. It doesn’t matter what you are trying to achieve, strength is the number one attribute to train. When in doubt, get stronger.
The key mistake strength and conditioning coaches make when they are training an athlete is forgetting that strength is the master quality. Prof. Leonid Matveev, one of the foremost Russian sports scientists, stated that strength is the foundation for all the other physical qualities. “Be what you choose to be, but be strong first!”, he said. People have forgotten that fact.
Fashions come and go. Right now, corrective exercises and metabolic conditioning are fashionable. A little earlier it was “functional training,” and soon it will be something else. This doesn’t mean that metabolic training or correctives don’t have value. They obviously do—but strength is the mother quality. It should never be out of style.
It’s entertaining to watch people who are very weak do a lot of repetitions with light weight, trying to develop strength endurance. But before worrying about strength endurance, why don’t you build some strength to endure? Why did strength coaches and athletes step away from strength development? Because they have been distracted by the “shiny new thing”.
The second biggest error is seeking more and more conditioning. The sad thing about conditioning is it is a quality that disappears quite quickly. What is strange about brute, absolute strength is that it stays. Literally, if you couldn’t lift for years because of illness and injuries, when you are finally able to lift again, your strength numbers return rapidly. Strength does not evaporate, it stays. Conditioning disappears rapidly.
Another coaching mistake is disregarding general strength exercises like deadlifts and cleans and doing nothing but loaded variations of athletic movements, “sport specific” exercises. This type of training may have its place in a highly experienced athlete’s regimen. But unless you are knocking on the door of competing at the national level, you do not need these “sport specific” exercises. Just do general strength preparation and practice your skill or your sport.
Whenever you sprint, jump, or throw, you’re always overcoming inertia. What makes you overcome inertia? Getting stronger. A lot of people miss the point that you really have to build a base before you can specialize.
Get stronger and build muscle for Crossfit
Many guys who got into Crossfit did not do so with the intention of becoming a more “functionally fit” human being. The goal of covering every aspect of fitness so that they could handle any task life threw at them was possibly not the sole reason for embarking on such a testing fitness regimen. Rather, it was to look like Rich Froning, Dan Bailey or Jason Khalipa…and what’s so wrong with that?
But firstly, if you are naturally skinny, Crossfit will not make you bigger.
Secondly, the only people who are genuinely content with having a six-pack are the ones who were big (and tubby) to begin with, who then worked their way down to being lean. If you were svelte from day one, then you’re not content with being shredded, because it’s always been easy for you to accomplish. By that same token you will also likely be the guy who has never been strong.
Despite the wide array of physical skills that are necessary to exceed in Crossfit, there is one that will carry over to the highest to all other physical disciplines, maximal strength. The benefits of improved maximal strength are vast, but due to the high number of physical skills the successful Crossfitian must possess and the high level of stimulus being provided to their bodies, it is both possible and necessary to develop strength in the most economical manner possible.
The benefits of increased maximal strength manifest themselves in many ways during the Crossfit Games: the two most notable are increased force production and improved strength reserve. The stronger a muscle is, the more force it is capable of producing; the more force is being produced, the farther each step will carry you, the more powerful each swim stroke is and the higher each jump will be, in addition to many other movements being improved. Strength reserve is the difference created between maximal strength and the strength needed to perform certain physical tasks. For example, in the Triplet Sprint, a Crossfit Games Crossfit Games event where women are required to do 4 sets of 10 deadlifts with 75 kg interspersed by muscle ups, sit-ups and sprinting. The less the 75 kg represents of that athlete’s maximum, the faster they will be able to do the reps and the less energy they will spend doing them.