Super Strength - Building the Base

Super Strength is one of the classic super powers, it might have been the first major power of Superman. Strength enables better health and prevents 8 of the 10 major signs of aging. Super strength is worth it and the time investment doesn't need to be crazy. To build strength (and some other habits) doing a little bit (intensely) over a long period of time, helps you build the base.

You can become massively strong just by showing up over a long period of time. James Clear illustrates this with his story on Milo of Croton, Milo a famous olympian, trained his strength by lifiting up a newborn calf every day for 4 years until he was lifting a full grown bull. Small daily effort can have profound impact.

There are a couple of aspects of this.

First - you need to show up over time to build a your base

As Dan John says -
little and often over the long haul, is a phrase I first heard from Coach Ralph Maughan, but many have used the concept. If you want to be good in the discus, lift weights three days a week and throw the discus four days a week for the next eight years. Most people miss that last part—for the next eight years. If your client wants to be great in the discus, I don’t have a two-week program for you. The thrower is going to have to go out to that prison courtyard and toss and lift for a long time. There are no overnight sensations in mastery. We have to be in it for the long haul (Dan John, Can You Go)
One of the key things here is little and often for the long haul. Getting as much training in in as short a period as possible feels like the best way to make a progress, but for many reasons this is not the best way to go
  1. To build strength you need to recover, training too much doesn't give your body enough time to recover, so you don't get stronger
  2. Training too much dramatically increases your chance of getting injured
Not progressing as fast as possible isn't great, particularly when you are doing extra work, but the much bigger issue is getting injured. I for many years would go through a cycle, I would resolve to work out, I would commit and I would lift heavy, 3, 4, 5 days a week. It felt great until I inevitably burnt out. My resting heart rate when up as over trained or I got injured. Then I would be out for 2-4 months, and would be back starting again almost from scratch.

Finally, I shifted to lifting heavy 1 or 2 of times a week, focusing on the fundamentals, I have been able to keep going for over 3 years now and making continual progress, increasing my deadlift by 50% and overall health dramatically. 

Your body needs time to adapt and grow stronger and develop. Instead of being frustrated by this take advantage of nature, focus on lifting consistently over time and use the extra time for other goals.

One other benefit of little and often, is that your workouts can be short and intense, you can truly focus your effort on the big compound exercises (deadlift, squat, military press, etc) that are the basis of functional strength. If you work out 5+ times a week for 2 hours a day, you can't put in the focus and intensity you need to lift clean and strong. 

One very important thing to remember, you will get stronger working out, but if you don't focus on good form from the very beginning, you will get injured and push back your progress. Short, intense workouts with perfect form are the most efficient way to build your strength and your progress will get a double boost by avoiding time out from burn out or injury. 

To recap - 
Showing up is the most important thing for building a base, show up and do a little and often, you will build the base. If you can make your little and often - focused, intense and with perfect form and you will supercharge your training. 

How to do this -

One of the best ways to implement this, particularly if you are just starting to train is implementing Strong Lifts 5x5 if three workouts a week is too much, scale it down to 1 or 2, but if you lift with perfect form, and keep to it overtime you will build strength and work capacity. 

Many of Dan John's programs, such as Mass Made Simple, or Intervention, also fit this philosophy.

One of the best ways to get started on these programs, is get a personal trainer. Have them teach you the form, have them watch you and get advice. Good coaching and form at the start are a very good investment for your Super Strength, and well worth it. 


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