Reconsidering Strength

What is Strength?

I’ve considered it many times before, and I still like “my” definition –

The ability to overcome.

With regards to physical strength, who is strong?

That’s obviously relative to the goals of the individual.

How about a Powerlifter who can squat 1000+ lbs?

Very strong.

If he can’t do a 1-arm Chin-up, does that make him weak?

It’s all about your definitions.

What about a rock climber who can scroll steel?

One of the most impressive things I’ve seen is my friend Kevin Perrone, who at 5’11” and 165lbs could do a pull-up with 130lbs hanging from his body, one-arm chins, scroll steel, tear phone books, and destroy the RKC Snatch Test. But he couldn’t Power Clean for anything. Does that make him weak?

Watching Brett Jones bend a Red Nail at an RKC Meet and Greet was also right up there.

Here’s another – watching Mark Reifkind tirelessly rebuild his body and recapture lost function for the last 10 years.

Or watching a video of John Brookfield tearing 59 decks of cards in 60 seconds.

And finally, one of my clients who I trained last night – a 71-year old, 110lbs grandmother who, despite being told by her Ortho that she has degenerative disc disease, can still deadlift her bodyweight. And, despite having severe arthritis in her hands still looks for ways to keep her dexterity.

Strength is really what YOU make of it. As long as you keep seeing progress and improvement in your life, you are still getting stronger.

When you’re not, it’s time to pull the old proverbial car off the side of the road and take it in for a check up.

For me, I used to measure strength by how much I could lift over my head. Now, it’s all about energy acquisition and management, which I realize after writing, seems nebulous. It really is that I no longer want to do anything or train in such a way that diminishes my energy levels to the point that I can’t participate in the life I currently have and create the life I want.

And that means having had to give up certain things. Like weightlifting. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll step back onto the competition platform, but right now, everything I’m doing is to undue all the stuff that was damaged by chasing that dream.

But I don’t want that to sound like a bad thing – it’s not at all. For example, yesterday was my first foray into “One-arm Chin Land.” And it was FUN! It’s a new adventure. And Sunday, I was able to do 15 consecutive (and explosive!) Pistols off a 1/2 inch block on my left side and 13 on my right – a new PR for me. Both of these things I either couldn’t do or wouldn’t have considered trying back when I was weightlifting.

(For the record: My Pistol is now more stabile, more explosive, more controlled, and I am able to endure longer doing it than I EVER have.)

So what’s my point in sharing all of this with you?


Strength is how YOU define it.

And it’s different for different people. And no matter how you measure it or define it, never let anyone diminish your ideas of strength.

And, just as important, just because you can’t do one particular thing do to an injury or movement restriction, doesn’t mean you can’t alter that movement (mentioned in my last post) or do something else altogether.

What’s the key to getting stronger then?

As I see it, it’s constantly defining and redefining your own definitions of strength and then overcoming those momentary obstacles.

What’s your definition of strength?

8 comments… add one
  • Russ Moon May 17, 2011 @ 15:32

    Strength – the body and minds ability to adapt such that what was previously not possible becomes possible for a particular individual. This could include developing strength, enduring strength, symmetrical strength, functional movement improving how they feel based on remedial work. It’s proactive, it’s forward leaning, it’s progression.

  • Aaron Depledge May 18, 2011 @ 0:33

    I remember a story form a martial arts instructor of mine during a discussion on toughness. He stated that the real tough gus were the old time Kendo men, ‘they could really take a beating and keep going’. I agree that strength is different to each individual, however the one strength that is the same in all the examples you gave is the ‘mental strength’ to keep going, without that you will never reach your desired ‘physical strength’ goals.

  • Graham Pruitt May 18, 2011 @ 18:12

    That was an awsome post. Well said Geoff.

  • Graham Pruitt May 18, 2011 @ 18:13

    That was an awsome post Geoff. Well said.

  • Russ Moon May 20, 2011 @ 18:23

    That session was epic. I didn’t want you to think it ALL went over my head. Thank you for letting me play w the Big Boy, that was a goal.

    “let’s not go for the jugular just yet” that goes into “Neupertism” book of knowledge. I give you credit, you recognized the behavior.

    Help me get to where I can show you what happens when I do, safely.

  • Billy Meyer May 23, 2011 @ 11:37

    I don’t know about my definition… but in my opinion the “little engine that could” was pretty dang strong.

  • Billy Meyer May 23, 2011 @ 19:47

    Strength: Hard to separate from courage. You have to be corageous to set goals or not give into obstacles. Strength, to me, is setting goals that are not attainable at the current time and not letting those goals defeat you. If the goal is a tall mountain, and there are small hills and valleys in between. You must dare to go into the valley, dare to go up the hill, as many times as it takes until you reach the mountain. If it is only possible to get passed a few valleys and hills, and so you set a new smaller mountain as a goal…. and are satisfied with what you’ve attained and what you are attempting to attain, allbeit smaller that is strenght. And in the end, you just might make the mountain without even knowing it. I’ve known people with pitiful physical strength, that brought out strenghts in them that I myself did not or may not ever possess at that level. One friend just died today, of ALS, and he… was stronger facing death in many ways than I am facing life.

  • Steve MKanna May 29, 2011 @ 7:08

    Geoff, I have really enjoyed your blog and wholeheartedly agree with your interpertation of strength. I became an RKC in May this year(at 56) and I felt strong. I spent time however with Jeff O’Connor and his strong is way different than my strong, yet we both set goals and when we achieve them we feel strong. I have always said that strength is relative. The RKC has taught me to focus on the skill of strength and it’s aquisition not on how much I can lift or do compared to others. I work with kids and I fight the how much can you bench battle every day. Blogs like yours and Jeff’s are great resources for me to help kids to understand true strength and athleticism vs. beach muscles. Thanks for your good work!!

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