"When in doubt, just get really, really strong. It tends to cure most problems in training...and life." - Jim Wendler
Why strength? In my mind, it's not a hard question to answer. But for many, when it comes to strength training, they tend to shy away. New Year's Resolutions roll around, and people buy new running shoes and hit the road and jogging paths at the local park. I'm not going to bash running, though I personally no longer enjoy doing it myself, but instead I want to present to you a case for lifting.
Whether you agree with the methodology and often times cultish environment of CrossFit, one thing I am convinced they got right was their definition of fitness: 'Increased work capacity, across broad time and modal domains.' Essentially, the ability to produce power. If we break down power output, it becomes a result of dividing Work (measured in Joules) by Time (measured in seconds). Work, is the product of multiplying Force (measured in Newtons) by Distance (measured in Meters). Force, is the product of Mass (measured in kilograms) multiplied by Acceleration (measured in meters per second, squared).
If we run (or swim or bike), we do exert Forces for a Distance and therefore we do Work. However, these Forces are static because the mass (your bodyweight) does not change, and the acceleration does not vary much (you accelerate at the beginning, but little after that). Couple that with long durations, we have a decreased Power output comparatively, because as time increases, Power decreases.
If we lift, however, we see an increase in Power output. When you lift, each repetition lasts a very short duration, therefore it increases the Power output in regards to the Time element. In addition to the short duration, lifting weights requires that you move a Mass a distance. Though the relative Distance is much shorter, the Force is higher because of the changes in Mass, and the constant Acceleration of that Mass. In the long term, the more Mass you can move, the higher the Force output (or the higher the Acceleration at lower Masses), and due to the short duration, we exert more Power.
Now, let's say we get stronger by lifting weights, and then we decide to go for a run. We have probably put on some lean muscle mass (a natural adaptation that I'll cover in part 2 of this series), and our ability to move mass has increased, and therefore we can run a little faster. Run a little faster, and guess what? We increase our power output! This power output then results in an increase in fitness levels! How about that?
Now, I'm not saying to give up running or biking or swimming because those are absolutely beneficial to your fitness, but I do encourage you to look into some strength training as part of your regular exercise routine.
Still not convinced? Stay tuned for "Why Strength: Part 2", where I'll go into detail about added benefits of strength training!