29 Nov 2011
THE STATE OF THE UNION (PART II)
In my last column, I attempted to make a couple of points on the state of the Health Fitness Industry:
1. I don’t presume to have all the answers. Rather; I, like I would suspect many of you
in the profession, are seeking to ask some of the rightquestions so I can facilitate
higher levels of outcomes in those who I serve and who have entrusted their health
2. It is in understanding the WHAT that will determine the HOW’s of your program
3. The current reality in the profession is that there are NO one generic/universally
accepted definitions industry wide. Consequently, there is NO one
generic/universally accepted way to develop/measure fitness.
4. There exists controversy as to THE BEST protocols for stimulating THE BEST
5. It behooves us as professionals (and as a profession) to dialog/debate and come to
a consensus understanding of how we define the different aspects of fitness and
function (i.e. strength, cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility, balance etc.) so that we
can better develop and measure outcomes most efficiently and effectively.
WHAT IS STRENGTH?
Interestingly, whenever I ask this question to colleagues in the profession, the usual response is one of dismay, disbelief and/or downright disgust. But nevertheless, it is in my opinion one of the most fundamental questions that must be addressed requisite to any intelligentdiscussions on how best to develop (or for that matter measure) strength.
Most traditional definitions of strength equate the mechanics of an automobile engine with that of muscle. The problem as I see it with these definitions is that the mechanics of an automobile engine imply movement whereas muscle does not require movement to produce work. In fact, static (or isometric) muscular strength is work that is generated by the muscle against an immoveable resistance.
Likewise, other definitions of strength not only imply movement, but how movement is expressed around the bony leverage system that is the human skeleton. The obvious problem with these definitions is that when movement is expressed around levers, by definition this is torque ... and not strength. Governed by the laws of Physics, torque outputs are the result of many factors like lever lengths, moment arms, gravity, and friction ... in addition to strength!
So where does that leave us? Well in my humble opinion, it brings us back to the source of strength ... the muscle tissue. When stimulated, the function of muscle tissue is to contract. Contraction of muscular tissue results in the production of FORCE. As such, it would make sense to me to define strength in terms of contractile force production. Simple and unequivocal, regardless of movement and how that force is expressed around our third class leverage skeletal system.
Mark Twain once said, "It is a good thing to make things simple ... but not any simpler". In regard to defining muscular strength, to speak in terms of resultant contractile force outcomes is simple and serves to clarify rather than confuse ... but isn't any simpler! May the force be with you (sorry, couldn't resist).