What can strength do for you

By now you should know that I like strength training.  Sure, I’m not built like a Viking warrior and no, I don’t have any crazy records to boast (yet).  Heck, sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m strong enough to call myself a “strength coach”. And in all honesty, I’m probably not.  But putting aside all my doubts, I’ve seen what strength can do for me, and for my clients.

Strength is no longer about how much weight you can put on the bar.  It’s about how much stress you can handle. The most cliché, but admittedly one of my favorite quotes is Rocky Balboa saying “it’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.”  Man, that quote just has power behind it.

I see it every day with my clients.  Honestly, some of them are mentally tougher than I’ll ever be.  I’ve seen people battle sickness, job loss, life changes, tragedy, and more.  What makes me respect the hell out of them is the fact that no matter what, they’re still in the gym taking care of their bodies and setting themselves in the strongest position possible so they can handle anything else life decides to throw their way.  If that’s not strength, I don’t know what is.

So what can you learn from squatting?  Sure, you’ll build some muscle, you’ll have that “beach booty” or whatever the hashtag of the week is, and you’ll be able to take a pretty great mirror selfie of you at the gym.  

But really squatting will teach you about balance.  A heavy bar will not go up if your body isn’t in balance.  You will fall and fail again and again until you learn to be in balance from head to toe.  

Squatting will teach you to focus.  When you have a few hundred pounds on your back, you have to focus on the task at hand.  Chores, jobs, kids, family, drama, school, and money don’t matter. Under the squat bar, everybody is equal, and the bar doesn’t care about what’s in your wallet, where you’re from, or who you are.  You’ll either succeed, or fail, and you’d better be ready to deal with either one.

Squatting will teach you stability.  One of the worst offenses and best signs of a terrible fitness guru is when they start spouting off about stabilizer muscles.  Yes, they exist, but in reality, focusing on burning out your Gluteus Medius with 1 billion booty pulses won’t teach your body to protect anything.  Your stability comes from your core - it’s the thing that protects your spine, and it’s full of great stabilizers to make sure you don’t fold in half under a squat bar like a contortionist doing the limbo.  Under the bar, you have to be stable, grounded, calm, and collected. Only then will the bar go up.  

Squatting will teach you about strength.  I started this article with examples of strength, and I’ll end it the same way.  Squatting a heavy barbell will build muscle. It will help you burn fat. It will give you a nice butt.  But squatting, at its core, holds you accountable better than any other exercise. You can’t cheat a squat.  There’s nothing there to help you. You have to go to the floor and back up with weight on your back and when that weight is getting pulled down by gravity, you have to ensure that you win.  Again, strength isn’t about the weight on the bar. It’s about not being broken when times get tough.  It’s about grinding through when you can hardly breathe, you feel like you’ve got nothing left, and it feels like nothing is working.  

At that point you have two choices: be strong, or be broken.   

--by Richard Saad