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In the strength and conditioning world, strength isn’t just strength.

Types of Strength

June 14, 20245 min read

This month we’re starting our next strength cycle of the year.  In the strength and conditioning world, strength isn’t just strength.  What looks simple on the surface, becomes more complex the deeper you go. Some of these concepts are more applicable to everyday athletes like you and me, some are reserved for those focused solely on improving their strength. So let's take a look at a few of these methods and how they may apply to your needs.  

Maximal, or absolute strength:

This is the maximum amount of force you can produce.  This is your 1 rep max strength.  Not your “find a heavy for the day max”, It’s your tested and found 1 rep max.  The type of weight you can not lift again in the same session.  These are great numbers to know and test a couple of times a year, but for most of us, testing frequently would detract from the other styles of training we’re doing.  

For me, every few training cycles, I like to build up to a heavy 1-2 reps for the day on any given lift.  This gets me underneath extremely heavy loads and allows me the benefits of it without testing to find a true 1 rep max.  Finding a heavy weight for the day helps me factor in the rest of my training, my sleep, nutrition and stress and keeps me comfortable and confident with heavy loading.


Explosive Strength:

This is the maximal amount of force you can produce in the shortest time. It’s not just about how much you can lift, it’s about how fast you can move it.  It’s power.  This is olympic weightlifting, throwing or jumping. It’s all about how fast you can move yourself or an external load.  This is the type of strength you don’t realize you need, until you need it.  When moving slowly isn’t an option, you need that quick and powerful move to get something going or get out of the way and not get injured.  Explosive Strength is something that can be limited by technique, or lack of exposure. As you get away from sports, you’re not asked to be as explosive very often. However, like a good friend, it's the type of strength that when you call on it, will be there for you in a heartbeat. 


Strength Endurance:

The ability to maintain a consistent level of force for extended periods of time. This is our ability to move lighter loads,  (sub-maximal) over and over again. In the gym, around the house, or out in the world, this is a highly transferable skill to have and one of the primary goals for our conditioning workouts. This type of strength is uncomfortably comfortable. We’re comfortable with the movements, and it involves weights we can handle. So we’ll challenge ourselves to increase the number of times we do it and as that number goes up, our strength endurance improves.  We’ve all heard the phrase, I can do anything for (insert short amount of time) But what about repeated efforts over a longer duration?  Can you do it then?

During these longer durations, people get fatigued, tired, and technique breaks down. Your strength endurance becomes the limiting factor and will impact what you can do.   The goal is to move and move well continuously.  It could be a 30-45mins workout, or it could be carrying your kid around the zoo on a hot afternoon.  We train strength endurance so that no matter the task, your body can perform and stay healthy throughout. 


Relative Strength:

The amount of force you can produce in relation to your bodyweight. This is what many of us are really striving to improve. Seeing a “heavy weight” athlete throw around a heavy barbell is impressive.  But when you see a “light weight” athlete move that same barbell, it’s amazing.  These are the pound for pound strong athletes.  The ones who don’t weigh a lot, but can move a lot. Some people are afraid of bulking up, they want to get stronger, without any of the excess. It's the type of strength a lot of our endurance athletes are looking for.  Being as strong as possible, without gaining much weight is a goal you might not know you had. 


Speed Strength:

The maximal amount of force you can produce at high speed or against little resistance. This one gets trained when our workouts are using lighter loads and bigger ranges of motion. It’s the strength that typically comes out in our Benchmark workouts. 

Speed strength is not something many of us are comfortable with. If you’re untrained, it can be very unfamiliar. We get used to moving at a steady pace, or slowing down to focus on the movement itself. One of two things can happen when you try to add speed.  One, the movement quality will suffer and you won’t be as strong, or you just might not be able to move fast enough.  Speed Strength is something we train in small doses so you get the exposure, without sacrificing the quality of the movements. 

Mental Strength:

Is the personality trait of Perseverance and Passion for achieving long term goals and the ability to stay resilient when facing challenges and adversity.  This type of strength doesn’t come easy. It’s often the biggest hurdle to us making improvements in the gym and in life.  We’ve gotten used to things being convenient and comfortable. Easy and Instant and we’ve forgotten what it’s like to struggle. So we need to willingly step into uncomfortable situations over and over again to build that strength.  Sometimes it's a barbell, sometimes it’s with body weight.  Sometimes it’s just by choosing to show up everyday.  Sometimes you need to move quickly, oftentimes we need to slow down. Mental Strength comes from stacking successes, overcoming adversity and learning from our struggles. 

Each of these has its place in our training methodology and programming.  We build each one to help round out your fitness and prepare you for anything and everything your life might require. 

Where do you see your strengths? Where are your greatest opportunities to improve? Need help figuring out what to do with this info, let us know email info@vantagemovement and set up a Goal Setting session so we can walk with you through it. 

Chris Cooper

Founder and CEO of Vantage Movement

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