19 Dec 2011
THE STATE OF THE UNION (PART III)
WHAT IS STRENGTH?
No Other Area In Sports Is As Fraught With Misinformation As Is Strength Training.”
Robert L. Bartels, Ph.D., FASM, Professor Emeritus
The Ohio State University
What is “strength?” An over statement of the obvious? A fore gone conclusion? Hardly! When one considers the historical evolution (or lack thereof) of strength training in sports and fitness, what should be blatantly obvious is instead blatantly obscure.
In my last column, I suggested that to define strength we must focus on 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 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.
Given THE WHAT, the next logical question would involve THE HOW. In other words, if strength is the product of contractile force, what is the most effective means/methodologies for increasing contractile force outcomes?Once again, a simple question, yet within the context of mainstream interpretation and application, is very complex to say the least.
“Strength Development”is the most misunderstood element within the physical fitness equation; and as such, is the most controversial. Consequently, the prescription of strength training protocols for the purpose of developing maximum muscular force potentials has long been a subject of debate and disagreement. Rather than sharing a consensus understanding as to the optimal means/method/model for developing strength potentials, one is instead inundated with many conflicting camps of contrasting thought:
THE PERIODIZATION MODEL
THE DELORME – WATKINS MODEL
THE OXFORD MODEL
THE ASCENDING – DESCENDING MODEL
THE CURCUIT – TRAINING MODEL
THE HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING
Given such diversity and disagreement, it becomes apparent why ignorance, confusion, frustration and paranoia is the rule rather than the exception when one begins to formulate a philosophywith regard to strength development. Rather than sharing a consensus understanding of strength and universal means of developing it, different planes of understanding create a dichotomy in training methodologies. In an attempt to clarify the prevailing misunderstandings regarding “strength”, in future columns we will discuss what strength is notand the fallacious protocols that have resulted in an industry fast becoming one where the blind are leading the ignorant.