STRENGTH IS AN POWERFUL TOOL WHEN IT COMES TO PERFORMANCE, BUT HOW STRONG IS STRONG ENOUGH?
Like any trained attribute, strength has huge returns on investment up front. The athlete will see excellent progress with basic programming and very little volume. But as you continue to train, it becomes more and more challenging to improve. The athlete will have to train harder, push more volume, dial in recovery, nutrition, as well as implement more specific programming to continue to see improvement.
At some point in time, the additional strength, and much more importantly the time required to achieve it, is simply not the best use of an athlete’s time. The reward of additional strength simply does not warrant the cost to attain it, and often times is not necessary for top level performance.
The exception to this rule is those that compete in strength sports such as Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Strongman, and high level Crossfit athletes. For almost every other sport, or profession, strength has a limited role to play in performance as there are no barbells in the mountains, on the mat, or on the field.
NOW DON’T MISUNDERSTAND ME, I AM NOT DOWNPLAYING THE IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH.
Strength is hands down one of the most important training attributes for any athlete. For the majority of athletes out there, especially in the endurance world, huge strength deficits exist and need to be addressed.
In other disciplines, such as the SOF community, quite the opposite is true. Many of these athletes already possess more than adequate levels strength for their profession, and would be better served using their training time by building other attributes and skills.
SO WHY NOT GET AS STRONG AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE?
The programming, volume, and training time to increase a physical attribute such as strength is much different than the programming required to maintain it. For strength maintenance you don’t need a ton a volume as we illustrate in our Strength First program which is designed for those athletes with limited time looking to preserve their strength.
By identifying a strength standard for genders and specific sports/professions the athlete can ID when they have acquired a sufficient amount of strength and can then dedicate that training time to other attributes or skills that will have a greater impact on their performance.
This is important to the athlete because training time is extremely valuable, and it should be used in a manner that will yield the highest ROI possible. This means that they perform better on the battlefield, mats, or in the mountains, not in the gym.
A simple is example is the Special Forces Operator that can deadlift 450lbs at a bodyweight of 200lbs. From our perspective that individual is strong enough to do his job effectively. Is 450lbs an exceptional deadlift for his bodyweight? No, but he is not a competitive strength athlete, he is soldier. He will not be a more proficient soldier if he increases his deadlift to 500lbs or 550lbs and will have to dedicate a large amount of training time to see a 20% improvement in this lift. Training time that could be used on the range, on medical skills, or mission specific skills that WILL make him a more proficient operator.
NOW WANTING TO GET STRONGER IS DIFFERENT THAN NEEDING TO GET STRONGER.
If you have the desire, and the time, to continue to get stronger then by all means keep lifting heavy and crushing life. One of my personal favorite programs was our Ronin / Shogun combo. Some of us however have limited training time and can only tolerate so much training volume. The older the individual gets, the more responsibilities life will throw at them which in turn really cuts into training time.
THE 6 LEVELS OF STRENGTH
As we started listing sports and professions into a strength hierarchy we realized just how big of a project this would be. We ended deciding to create 6 Strength Levels, with certain sports and professions falling into one of these levels. Level 1 is the lowest which includes most endurance sports, with Level 6 being the highest including the competitive strength sports. The rest will fall somewhere in between.
From here we chose 7 foundational barbell lifts and stacked them in order from strongest to weakest. Our hierarchy is based on the common athlete, not extremely high level athletes. Trust us, we know that world class powerlifters can squat more than they deadlift so no need to send us stats.
Finally we created an incremental layering system within each lift. The range from one level to the next is a consistent gradient that we found to be fairly accurate with the athletes that we work with.
Each level has a range in relation to their bodyweight, to the strength athlete these may seem easy, to the endurance athlete they may seem insane, but lets face it…you guys have a biased opinion. Let’s take a look at the levels and which sports are assigned to each.
Running / Marathon
Military – Infantry
Military Special Operations
Atomic Athlete Strength Standards
Football (High School)
Level 5- Strong as possible without interfering with sport practice
Baseball (College / Professional)
Hockey (College / Professional)
Regional Level Crossfit
Level 6 – Strong as Possible
Games Level Crossfit
NOW LET’S LOOK AT OUR STRENGTH STANDARDS BY LEVEL AND LIFTS IN RELATION TO BODYWEIGHT
Now before you totally flip shit about these let’s look at some of the caveats…
These standards do not account for:
- Older athletes – 40+
- Unusual anthropometrics (long limb length, long torso etc)
- Position played in specific sport
- Injuries / Limitations
- Personal preferences (some will desire to have higher strength and may have the time to acquire it)
If you cannot meet the above standards for your sport does this mean that you cannot perform at a high level? Absolutely not.
What is does mean is that you potentially are not realizing your full potential, as most of these standards are very achievable. So do the math, see where you stand.
If your strength is sub-par, we seriously suggest starting a strength specific program. If you don’t have access to a quality coach check out our Raider Strength Cycle, as it’s a great foundational strength cycle.
Have thoughts or questions? Did I forget something? We’d love to hear them.
Email me at Jake@Atomic-Athlete.com