Is Strength a Skill?
Feb 22, 2021
Strength is a skill.
You may have heard that before. That is true, in its proper context. Strength, in the weight room, or strength inside of strength training, is a skill, especially in the absence of strength.
I’ve said a lot there, but I’ll try to break it down. Strength training is a skill.
Strength training movements are specific movements made with specific tools for a specific outcome. For example, the clean and jerk is a movement done with a barbell for the purpose of developing strength and power. There is the skill of learning the movement with the specific tool.
But strength is a skill itself - in the weight room. What I mean is, you can cognitively learn how to position your body, how to brace, how to generate tension, how to irradiate or direct strength in order to lift a heavy load.
For example, the deadlift can be preceded by visualization, foot-stomping into the ground, pulling the body down under tension, tensing every muscle in the body, and then trying to wedge the body down into the floor in order to lift the bar from the floor. This is a skill - knowing how to position, brace, and link the body to move a heavy load.
This skill can be useful in the weight room, or the powerlifting sport, especially in the absence of strength.
Ok, I’ve said that twice now. What does that even mean?
Before strength became a skill, or before strength was a skill that needed to be learned, strength was a birthright. Your body is designed to be strong. You are designed to lift and move heavy things, but you’re actually designed to just be able to do it without a great deal of cognitive effort.
When your body has its foundation of reflexive strength, it just knows how to move and how to move things. It knows how to position itself and it knows how to brace without cognitive effort. It even knows how to time the brace with the effort for maximum effective efficiency. When your body has its reflexive strength, it has the ability to predict and react, to send energy where it needs to go before and as it is needed, in order to lift or move heavy things.
By design, strength is your birthright.
But, but, many do not have their reflexive strength.
They don’t have a solid foundation of movement and strength to operate from.
This is when strength is often sought out and the skill of strength becomes important. Learning how to cognitively engage the body in the weight room, or when training with tools like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. is needed to become stronger and to keep the body from getting injured - in the weight room. I say this because this skill makes the body “stronger” but really it makes it “stronger” on top of a faulty foundation, which can make the body susceptible to injury - out of the weight room.
I know this may be confusing but the human body is designed to be strong without a lot of mental effort. If we rely on the skill of strength without having reflexive strength, what happens when we are in our home and we just want to pick up our grandchild or move the couch, without first cognitively positioning and bracing everything?
If all we know how to do is create excessive, inefficient tension to move or lift things, how can we function “on the fly” in life when we have to move something besides our own body? Ever hurt your back picking up something 1/200th of the amount of weight that you would pick up inside of your strength training session?
Strength has to be more than a skill. It has to be an expression. And it is.
To be honest, I love strength training. It makes me feel good. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that strength training feels a lot better when it’s an expression of who you are rather than an attempt of measured efforts to become strong. You’re designed to express strength, not chase it, or fake it. In fact, you have superhuman strength in your body right now, you just may not have access to it.
You do have the keys to it though:
- fill your lungs up from the bottom to the top
- control your head through movement
- engage in your gait patterns
These are the keys to establishing your reflexive strength. These are the keys to making strength an expression and not a skill.
If you love strength training, awesome, do it. If you love the “skill of strength,” fantastic. Stack those skills on top of a solid foundation of reflexive strength and find your joy in those expressions. That’s true strength, it’s an expression. And it’s that expression of who you are that enables you to live your life with purpose.
If none of this makes sense, I get it. I’m all over the place trying to say something very simple. So I’ll try to streamline this:
- You’re born to be strong.
- Claim your inheritance by engaging in your design regularly.
- Engage in and express your strength as a consequence of being who you are - you are strength.