by Ed Bauer, CPT & Owner of PlantFit Training Studio
Why does strength matter? It doesn’t necessarily. But it all depends on what matters to you. Does it matter how you feel? What about your capacity to help or protect others? Or even what you look like? If you consider any of these things to be important, you might want to overlook the commercialized, masculine hype surrounding strength and take a closer look at why strength matters and what it means to be strong!
When you’re stronger you feel better. From my experience as a champion bodybuilder, I’ve gained insights into how to get ripped and I think it’s important to share this info with guys who want to change the world. Working out naturally promotes higher testosterone levels, and when testosterone is up, you feel better. You’ll have more energy, be more motivated, and even have a higher sex drive. That, essentially, is the ultimate goal. If your sex drive is low, your body is telling you that you shouldn’t reproduce, as you are not in a healthy state. If your sex drive is high, however, that is nature’s way of saying that you’re in an optimal place to pass on genes. Focusing on strength will get you there.
Appealing to aesthetics. Who out there wants that coveted six-pack that others have achieved, or to lose fat on your stomach, or elsewhere? I’d guess, many of you. You’ve tried everything, yet still have never gotten there, so what gives? Not to discredit your hard work, but there’s a very good chance you’ve been approaching it all wrong, and it’s not your fault. You’ve been told again and again that combining cardio and dieting is the silver bullet. Let me be clear, there is a place for cardiovascular exercise and a certain amount of calorie restriction, but the equation is not that simple.
Focus on getting stronger no matter the goal. If you want to gain mass or lose fat, it doesn’t matter, the programming is pretty similar. To gain mass, you have to lift heavy, eat more protein and eat more total calories. To lose fat, you have to lift heavy, eat less carbohydrates and/or fat, and do additional cardio (and like me, you can do it as a vegan). Proper recovery is always important. Lifting heavy weights, such as barbells, dumbbells, and kettle bells in the 5-1 rep range will promote an active nervous system. This promotes more active muscle fibers. When more muscle fibers are activated, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights which promotes more lean muscle gain. More lean muscle leads to a higher metabolism and thus, more fat burning. This is what helps to get the unwanted fat off to showcase those abs.
Added Bonus. Another bonus of being stronger is that you can be more helpful and efficient. You can carry an extra bag of groceries or help a friend move without risking injury. You can carry someone if you need to, break up a fight, or get your neighbor’s jammed window to budge. You can also live a more active lifestyle in general with less risk of injury. You’ll be better prepared for traveling, sports, sex, outdoor adventures like hiking, rock climbing, running, cycling, swimming, playing, or even fighting if need be.
The last time I got in a real fight was when I was five. By being stronger, you’ll look stronger. Granted, I don’t hang out with a violent crowd, but people don’t seem to want to fight me. It might have something to do with the look that strength has given me. In a very practical way, if someone threatened a loved one, I could cause them a hell of a lot more problems by being stronger. Protecting those I care about, whether it’s friends, family, animals or ecosystems, is a really huge incentive.
The bottom line is that when you’re stronger, you’ll have a better, healthier life. Here’s one exercise I recommend for strengthening:
T H E D E A D L I F T
If you’re not used to lifting heavy weights, you might want to start with just a 45 lb. barbell to get the movement down smoothly. Then add weights.
- Stand with feet hip width apart.
- Grab the bar just outside of hip width.
- Bend your knees.
- At the same time, elevate your chest, and shift the weight to the heels of your feet (push knees back).
- Keeping your eyes focused just above parallel, lean back slightly to initiate tension on the bar.
- Keeping your chest tall, take a deep breath in, drive through your heels until you reach a full standing position. Exhale. You are half way there.
- Keeping the bar as close to your body and keeping your chest tall (back neutral), poke your butt out until the bar passes your knees.
- Bend your knees and return the bar to the floor.
- You should be in the exact same position as when you first started. That is one rep.