The 7 Types of Strength

The homo sapien interacts with his environment as a system of levers. In this way, he can be called a machine. His body is a device used to multiply the force he creates with the ground. As force transfers through his rigid skeleton, the attached musculature guides the force in the direction he desires. This is Man, and force production is his nature.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IS GOING TO BE DRY IN MANY PARTS, BUT THIS NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD. NOT EVERYTHING CAN BE FUN AND SPARKLY. WE ALL NEED A REASON TO BREW ANOTHER POT OF COFFEE, SO GO DO IT.

Following a cursory examination of human anatomy and exercise physiology, it becomes obvious that strength is merely the production of force against an external resistance. When we lift a gallon of milk off the ground, we clasp the handle and attempt to push the ground away from the jug. Pushing on the ground generates force, which is an instantaneous interaction that has the ability to accelerate a mass. The ground provides quite a solid resistance and the force transferred through the body while the hand grips the jug will usually result in the jug breaking away from the floor before our feet crush the surface on which our feet are placed.

It is only later when we have been thoroughly brainwashed by academia that we believe things must be made more complicated. If my Dear Reader has ever read Kant or Hegel he knows exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes this overcomplication is for business. More complexity creates an air of superiority on behalf of the expert, which usually results in more dollars from the client. I prefer the style of Nietzsche to the overcomplicators. Philosophize with a hammer and rid oneself of that which is not necessary.

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book — what everyone else does not say in a book.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

The Experts – What Are They Saying?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a certification body, and that’s about the extent to which I understand their function. I assume they are different only in name from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), et cetera. They, ACE, tell us that there are at least seven types of strength. This is likely something we would be told by every one of these entities. I thought this article would be a good tool to understand what strength is and how it is applied. The author begins:

“Strength training is the functional application of Newton’s second law of physics, which defines force as the product of a mass and its acceleration (Force = MA). Generally speaking, strength is the ability to accelerate a mass from a state of rest, which results in the production of muscular force.” – Pete McCall

Newton’s second law of physics is: the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on the object, is in the direction of the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass of the object. My Dear Reader, imagine discovering this truth at the age of 23 and changing the trajectory of science forever. Newton is a great example of another Earthly law: we are not created equally.

Now, imagine that when I tried to lift the aforementioned gallon of milk that I pulled with the force equal to gravity, the weight (gravity acting on the mass) of the jug, and the weight of my body. This would result in a net force of zero and the jug would remain still. If I were to, say, produce more force than the gravity pulling my body and the jug down, I would lift the jug in the direction of the net force, up. We agree with Pete in his assessment of strength training as the application of Newton’s second law.

HOWEVER

He was never going to get off that easy. He slips up very technically in his general definition of strength. One would not be able to accelerate a mass (produce the force required to move the matter) without first producing the muscular force. If I want to lift the jug of milk, I must first produce the force with the ground, transfer it through my body and into the flexed hand that is clasping the jug’s handle.

The muscular effort producing force begins as an impulse in the brain. Pete is having a chronology problem here. The first Star Wars movies are four through six and the second trilogy is one through three but the new trilogy is seven through nine and all of them are bad. So no, Pete, that is not strength. It is the production of force against an external resistance. It is not an external resistance that produces the force.

We are the movers that move.

Okay, so he slipped up in his definition of strength, I am sure he will properly define all the different types of strength. Wait, are there different types? Agile, Endurance, Explosive, Maximum, Relative, Speed, and Starting strength (not to be confused with Mark Rippetoe’s more articulate invention) are the seven variations defined by Pete.

Agile Strength

The deceleration of a mass. This is merely slowing or stopping the momentum of the body and/or an external resistance, e.g. a barbell. To slow or stop a mass with a certain velocity, an opposition force needs to be applied to the mass. Again, this is merely force production. A soccer player learning to decelerate his body and change direction on the field requires footwork skill that needs practice, but decelerating himself is a matter of force production. It is not a different type of strength, it is an application of strength.

leather-football-helmets

Endurance Strength

Maintenance of a certain level of muscular contraction over a specific time interval, i.e. producing a certain amount of force for a measurable time. A maximum effort deadlift of a barbell for one repetition (1RM) that took six seconds to complete requires the ability to produce maximum force for six seconds. We cannot produce maximum force for long. When we make the time interval larger, say, 30 minutes, we will have to lower the intensity (percentage of 1RM) of force we produce. A cyclist can only pedal so hard if he wants to maintain a certain pace for 30 minutes. There is a level of endurance for which one needs to train if they are to pull a maximum effort deadlift for six seconds, just as there is a level of endurance needed for a Kalenjin man to run a marathon in two hours and four minutes. Endurance is not a different form of strength, it is strength with an arbitrary time interval.

paavo nurmi

Explosive Strength

Maximal production of force in a minimal amount of time, i.e. power. What is power? Work divided by time. I hate to repeat myself, but work (force x distance) executed over a time interval always produces power. The longer the time interval, the less power that is produced given the same work output. So, yes, a 1RM deadlift has quantifiable power and so does a 26.2-mile marathon, the latter being more difficult to calculate. Big power is big force produced quickly. Explosive is a buzzword people like Pete can use to justify their superfluous position at a vacuous company.

ken patera

Maximum Strength

Exactly what it sounds like. Smart people usually call this absolute strength. It is an individual’s ability to produce the most force possible in a given domain, e.g. deadlifting, leg extension, pressing, et cetera. This is just force production, like strength. I’m sorry about this, but it is not my fault people like Pete are given a platform.

arnold deadlift

Relative Strength

Usually, a tool for weak people to seem stronger than they are. It is the strength produced per unit of bodyweight. Often, we can hear a 135 lb boy talk about how many chin-ups he can perform as a way to demonstrate his phenomenal strength. However, if he were to do 12 chin-ups and a 225 lb man performs eight chin-ups, the man is doing more work. In other words, the 225 lb man is stronger. Here is the real-world conundrum that repeatedly stumps.

A 200 lb man who deadlifts 315 lb is lifting 157.5% of his bodyweight. A 275 lb man who deadlifts 400 lb is lifting 145.5% of his bodyweight. From these two lifts, who can we say is stronger? The man producing more force. In the real world, producing more force is better than producing less. The bodyweights of the men deadlifting do not matter. The Wilks Coefficient is used to compare two weight/powerlifters performances who do not have the same bodyweight and is the only time relativity is useful in the gym.

columbu hanging

Speed Strength

Producing maximal strength in a specific movement, usually a high-speed skill. This one is relative to how much strength can be produced and how good the athlete is at using this force. Pete uses a few examples, throwing a baseball, swinging a golf club, and running a sprint. Throwing a baseball is a skill that needs to be practiced. We increase the athlete’s ability to produce force by making his muscles stronger while he continues to practice throwing the ball during sport practice. Again, he is just producing force, but this time it is relative to a skill. When athletes undergo real strength training, their “speed strength” gets better because their ability to produce force improved. In other words, their skills improve without trying to combine strength and skill work.

Now, speed and skill are not synonymous, but trainers who don’t think like to conflate all of these definitions. Pete’s other two examples are both skills and involve force production. As I said with agile strength, this is not a different type of strength, it is an application of strength.

cy young

Starting Strength

Mostly self-explanatory, but it means producing force without any momentum or a pre-stretch of a muscle group, e.g. a lineman in football after the ball is hiked, a track start, et cetera. The deadlift is a test of this strength. Here’s a funky question: who’s better at starting strength, a guy who deadlifts 300 lb or a guy who deadlifts 500 lb? Pete should be waterboarded. From now on, the only mention of Starting Strength will be the entity created by Rippetoe.

starr_press_quest_og


So, the answer to the question of whether there are in fact different types of strength is a resounding NO. If it is not yet clear, strength is the production of force against an external resistance. That is it and that is all. The other garbage spewed by Pete is a way to add more pages to their worthless books.

Until next time,

Blochowiak


“Well, that about does her, wraps her all up… I guess that’s the way the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands of time until we– aw, look at me, I’m ramblin’ again. Well, I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya later on down the trail.” – The Stranger

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