How strong is strong enough?
In my personal training and at Barbell Strategy I like to prioritize strength over the other attributes. Power, endurance and muscle size are all desirable, sure, but they follow from strength. As Pavel Tsatsouline says “You can be anything you you want...but you must be strong first”.
So we focus on the basics: technique and form, setting up for the lifts and creating tension, focus and consistency. Pretty soon people have learned the movements and start making real progress. The old limiting factor was a lack of knowledge and technique. Now it is a lack of strength.
This is where things start to get interesting. The lifter at can say to themselves “I used to be weak, I know I’m not weak anymore but am I strong? How strong should I be?” And this is a tricky question to answer. If they want to get drafted in the NFL or pass a military special forces assessment there are are hard numbers they can use. But most of us are civilians and it simply isn’t useful to compare ourselves to these elite standards.
There is also the question of time and effort investment. We want to get the most of our workouts and not struggle in the face of diminishing returns. Elite powerlifters start to train in the hopes of adding five pounds to their deadlift in the same amount of time that a brand new lifter might double their max. Identifying this tipping point is vital to the busy civilian who is training for health. For them, working past that point is a waste of time.
So how do we know how strong is strong enough? In part 2 I’ll try to answer that question for myself using two sources I think are very credible: Dan John’s Strength Standards from his book Intervention and the tests to become a StrongFirst certified Barbell and Kettlebell instructor.