How to get started now

Today I moved over 8,000kg in 45 minutes. I’m tired.

I am almost 100,000kg (or 220,000lbs) into my total volume goal of 1 million pounds lifted this year using the squat, overhead press and deadlift. I really believe in these movements as the basis for strength, not just for men, but for women, as well.

A dear friend posted this comment, and I’d like to take the opportunity to help some of you who are interested in building a basis of strength to get started.

She said:

Thanks for these two posts! Am processing as a middle-aged woman who wants to be a faithful servant of the Lord and His people for as long as He gives me breath. Prov 31:17 comes to mind. Would love to hear any thoughts you might about specific physical goals for women!

Well, I’d love to share some thoughts! How about that?

It comes down to this – time. We only have so much, and we’re hoping to use our time training to make the best investment we can in our current health and long-term usefulness. So, what’s the best use of training time for most of us?

People train because it provokes adaptation. Training and exercise aren’t the same thing. Exercise is burning some calories. Training is doing specific things, aimed at stimulating specific kinds of adaptations that your body is designed to make in response to stress.

So, what kind of adaptations do we want? Well, all kinds. We’d all love to have excellent endurance, plenty of strength, crazy agility and gumby-like mobility. But it’s hard to train for all those adaptations at once. So, which one is most important? The research says strength.

Really, it says strength is the base of the pyramid, because positive strength adaptations mean you need less energy to do more (endurance), and you can usually do it faster (speed). Stronger joints get injured less frequently as you later build agility, and moving increasingly heavy weight over time (small, small increases over long, long time) builds strength in the full range of motion (mobility).

Further, strength adaptations take longer to make, but it takes a lot longer to lose strength adaptations than other kinds of adaptation. High school athletes get in adequate cardiovascular condition in two weeks before the season, and a week after the season is over, they’ve lost it. Not so with strength. Put another way, you can add adequate (not olympic, but adequate) cardiovascular fitness to a foundation of strength. But cardio fitness has no strength carry-over. You can have all the cardio endurance in the world, but it’s not going to help you pick up that bag of gravel. Cardio is good, but it’s not a good foundation.

Is this different for men and women? No. For older and younger people? No. Older people take longer to recover, but they make the same adaptations. Men and women make adaptations the same way, but the hormones responsible for those adaptations are flowing in higher volumes in men, so men get bigger and stronger. Women also get a little bigger, and lots stronger – but less so than men on both counts, usually. And everybody burns lots and lots of fat.

So, for anyone looking to build a foundation of strength, I’d recommend the following:

  • Use StrongLifts 5X5. It’s a program a Dutch guy name Mehdi adapted from the strength programs of a strength-training great. It’s excellent for beginners because it comes with youtube videos that teach you proper form, and (best of all) a free app for your smartphone that tells you exactly what to do every time you go to the gym, and tracks your progress for you. The 5 movements in this program are gold. Learn them well, incrementally increase the weight you lift every time you to the movements, and you won’t be a beginner for long. This guy will tell you to start with just the barbell. You won’t want to. BUT START WITH JUST THE BARBELL. It’s better to make small progress over a long time without stalling, than to make quick progress and stall a lot. Stalling a lot teaches your body to fail.
  • If your gym has a coach, ask him or her to teach you perfect form on those 5 lifts. Form is everything. Get those 5 lifts. Do your workout and go home.
  • If you want to scrap one of the lifts and keep it to 4, lose the bench press. There is almost no carry-over into real life for most people, as most people aren’t playing professional football or having to throw an opponent off them from their back in the UFC ring. If you only want to work with 4 movements, scrap the bench press. Maybe do some push-ups instead.
  • End of Three Fitness is a great site. I think the guy is a believer. His programs work, his advice is good, and he has the professional chops to make me trust him. Also, unlike other sites that teach you to grow strong, he doesn’t use profanity every three lines and isn’t into the frills and fluff.

I’d work with that, man or woman, young or old or in the middle. Start there, stay with that until you’re stalling all the time (unable to complete your sets frequently), and then either move on to intermediate training plans, or stay with the beginner plans (which are 90% of the gains you want to make, anyway) and start adding conditioning or sports. I.e. run.

Ok. Enough for now. Stay tuned for another post in the OneLove category soon. In fact, the system didn’t alert readers to it last time, so you may have missed one. I’d love to get your thoughts on that, so take a look and leave a comment!

Strong and True.

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