Neglecting strength for aesthetics

Strength. It has been the measure of power for as long as humans have been walking the Earth. Whoever the strongest man was, he was in charge. Nowadays it’s more about size. A lot of people set targets that are based on the way they want to look, not how much they want to lift. So what’s happened? Is it just not as important to be strong anymore?

I guess the first thing to mention is technology. There came a point when the most powerful person in a culture didn’t have to be the strongest. Technology took the place of all the pushing, pulling, carrying and lifting. But that’s going back hundreds of years and we’re talking about what’s happening today.

So once we go past people getting strong as a necessity, you get people getting strong for pleasure and, most importantly, the idea of a strongman competition. Strongman went global. Whether it was in the circus, in Las Vegas, or on television, people wanted to see the strongest men in the world lifting everyday objects that others could only simply dream of moving. The idea was brilliant: to see just how far we could take human strength.

And of course strongman competitions still exist. You still see them on television and the internet has massively helped in keeping interest alive. But there is something else in the health and fitness industry that is getting in its way. It’s what I briefly mentioned above – aesthetics. Aesthetics has taken the place of strength in so many different areas. In the health media it is far more common to see talk about working towards getting the perfect six-pack, rather than beating your PBs on a regular basis.

Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The whole idea of people thinking more about lean has helped our understanding of nutrition grow immensely in a really short period of time – that is clearly a good thing. This doesn’t apply to everyone of course. There are plenty of people who are still solely focused on lifting more each and every time that they go into a gym and then they let their body take care of itself.

All this doesn’t mean that you have to make a choice between strength and appearance though. Okay, if you want to get up to the strongest men/women in the world then you are going to have to accept that you are going to get pretty big. But just because someone is lean, doesn’t mean that they aren’t strong.

A major criticism is that gyms just aren’t equipped anymore for strength. How many times do you hear that machines do all the work for you? Or that gyms aren’t organic enough? In reality of that is hyped up quite a lot but gyms have changed over the last 30 years, as you would expect.

So don’t be told that you can’t get stronger if you are cutting. But remember that it will be when you are bulking that you see the most improvements. And don’t neglect your lifting records just to get the perfect body for next summer.



Ollie Lawrence
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