How strong?

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Jason Nunn
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How strong?

Post by Jason Nunn » Fri Aug 13, 2010 7:36 pm

One of my clients asked me today a philosophical (sp) question that got me thinking. How strong does a person need to be? Also, I have my own philosophy, but how do YOU define strong?

I think that strong is being able to pick up heavy things off the floor, press heavy things over your head, and be able to carry heavy things for a set distance or time. How do you define "heavy"? I define it as anything over 90% of 1RM, but that is a relative term. It's not an absolute number. Is there an absolute number? I've seen the performance standards on this website. As many of you know I compete in strongman at the high amature/professional level and most, if not all, of the men I compete against would hit elite in all catagories. So, for me, that's average. Don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to be boastful. What I'm asking is if you guys think there is an absolute number that defines strong. Where do you draw the line? Is it purely a relative number?

This being said, how strong does an MMA fighter have to be? Football player? Golfer? Is there such a thing as too strong for these, or any other, athletes? What about regular housewifes and weekend warriors?

Just giving you a little insight into what goes on in my head, haha


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Post by Jungledoc » Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:19 pm

For me, "strong" depends on the context, and even on my mood at the moment. Most of the time "strong enough" is just a little stronger than I am now. I've been thinking a lot lately about the increasing difficulty that one has increasing strength as one ages, and realizing that this will only get worse. So I want to get as strong as I can so that when and if the gains peak and decline begins, I'll have a good starting place to decline from.

If (for instance) I plateau my DL at 70 at 405 (that's my life-time goal, by the way), and start losing at 75, say 20 pounds off my DL per year, that means that by 95 I won't be able to lift my hands from the floor. But if I peak at 450, then I'll still be able to DL the bar at 95. You get the idea anyway. Obviously, the losses won't be any more linear than the gains are, but you see what I'm getting at, I'm sure.

When people on this or other forums discuss goals, I often think that my real goal is to be able to tie my own shoes when I'm 92!

I want to stay "functional" in activities of daily living for as long as I can. I want to be able to pick up grandkids and maybe great-grandkids without breaking. I want to be able to move most of the items in my home without calling for help, or injuring myself. I want to be able to carry my own suitcase when I travel, and I still want to be traveling when I'm in my 80s.

So I don't pay much attention to the strength standards. The were written for people who are 30 years younger than me, anyway.

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Post by hoosegow » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:17 pm

There is no absolute number and I think strength is relative to your objective. I think at some point in time, muscle gain rather than strength gain starts to hinder overall general performance for many pursuits. There is a reason why you don't see super fast 260 lb guys or world class large gymnists.

So I think you can never be too strong in any pursuit, but there is a point were too much muscle that comes with the strength becomes a liability can be a problem.

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Post by stuward » Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:20 am

Keith Norris explores this subject quite often in his blog. He mostly looks at athletes and how strength development has declining benefits once you pass some threshold that is sports specific. http://theorytopractice.wordpress.com/2 ... ng-enough/

I think for middle aged weaklings like me, there really is no practical maximum since any increase will be beneficial. Like Doc said, as we age there will be inevitable drop offs in strength, and the stronger you are now, the more reserve you will have and the longer you can go self sufficient and mobile.

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Post by Immortal » Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:53 pm

although I am very young and very naive, I honestly think that true strength isnt defined by how much u can lift... because honestly a 150 pound man who has been practicing grappling and combat can take out a 250 pound body builder who does nothing but lift, this was proven by royce gracie many times, he took on countless of guys bigger than him, and there a videos of him even today on youtube destroying body builders.. I honestly think theres a fine line of difference between having muscle and having strength...

For instance when I went to Ralph Gracie's training Grounds in NJ, there was a guy who never lifts, he was 190 pounds and he was the instructor there, his name is wil horneff and you guys can look him up on youtube too.. he doesnt lift and he was throwing around everyone.. why? because his strength from always being in combat training was greater than any the strength people gained form lifting... Just cause someone can bench 500 pounds doesnt mean theyre stronger than another person.. So bottomline my opinion of strength is how a strong a person is against another in a physical sport


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Post by Matt Z » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:25 pm

"he doesnt lift and he was throwing around everyone.. why? because his strength from always being in combat training was greater than any the strength people gained form lifting..." Immortal

I think you're confusing strength with skill. If you have superior technique, you don't need much strength to throw someone.

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Post by Matt Z » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:33 pm

Likewise, you don't need to be very strong to armbar someone since you have both arms and legs working against just one of his arms.

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Post by Matt Z » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:39 pm

"I think at some point in time, muscle gain rather than strength gain starts to hinder overall general performance for many pursuits." - hoosegow

True, but I doubt very many natural athletes can get that big without making hypertrophy their main goal.

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Post by Matt Z » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:43 pm

Of course, there are exceptions ... Endurance athletes for example can't afford to bulk up at all.

Likewise, fighters may limit weight training simply because they need to make weight.

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Post by pdellorto » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:58 pm

I'm not sure, but I think I met Wil Horneff at NAGA. I need to ask my buddy when he gets back from vacation if that's the same guy...

I do agree with Matt, though - you're mixing achieving excellence at a sport with strength, and vice-versa. I might win a grappling match against Jason Nunn, but he's going to lift heavier objects than me much more easily. He's going to beat me at powerlifting, O-lifting, strongman, and moving furniture. My one hope is that he's not as good at stopping a triangle choke as I am at putting one on him. That doesn't make me stronger than him, it's just skewing the contest rules to match my abilities. And yeah, Royce Gracie beat some bigger guys. But they put in weight categories in MMA and BJJ for a reason - his record against bigger, stronger guys who are also skilled grapplers isn't as impressive. That's part of what makes guys like Fedor and Brock so scary - they are very physically strong and very skilled (Fedor all-around, Brock at wrestling especially).

That's one of the things that makes strength standards so hard - it's always "for what?" For sports, it's doubly difficult, because increased strength is always useful, but it's hard to tell when the point of diminishing returns occurs for a non-strength sport athlete. It's what makes MMA strength standards a joke - strength is only one factor in determining the effectiveness of the fighter. You certainly wouldn't want to say "Anyone entering the ring should deadlift X times his or her bodyweight and do Y reps in the snatch test and run 100m in Z seconds or he/she can't fight."

I agree that it's always better to be stronger, but getting stronger is going to cost time, impact recovery, possibly risk injuries, etc., and so on. Would increasing my deadlift make me a better athlete? Sure. But how much extra poundage translates into how many more wins than losses? It's hard to quantify once I'm strong enough to not be easily manhandled around. I don't think you can be too strong, but indeed, past a certain point the extra muscle you need to carry to retain that strength may be a detriment. It can put you in a different weight category (against similar sized but even stronger athletes), it has an energy cost that can be hard to maintain during a game (or cost too damn much food to maintain), and I'm sure there are other limitations that translate into "too big."

For non-athletes, it gets even more complicated. How strong does a mom need to be? Strong enough to lift her kids, sure, but until they are what age? What size? Picking up groceries is important, but that's not going to require too much raw strength. Or maybe it will, if said Mom lives on a farm, shops weekly for lots of feed, and needs to help out. Less so if said Mom shops daily at the store around the corner.

Jungledoc has been asking elsewhere about the proper focus for an older lifter - how strong do they need to be? How much muscle mass is important?

I don't mean to dodge the question. It's just it's one of the biggest "it depends" questions you'll come across.

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Post by Immortal » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:15 pm

yes lifters ahve strength, but they only have lifting strength, they dont ahve the strength to go against people if they have never trained to.. and I said royce beat a pure body builder, I never said he beat a big guy that knows jits, thats different. But IM just saying that strength where I come from is usually who can beat who head on. Of course there are people that think heavy lifters are automatically amazing fighters but that is wrong. And I never said lifting will not help a grappler, I said a body builder simply isnt strong against a grappler.. But if you take jiu jitsu and also lift, condition, and have an amazing diet, then most of the time u will be stronger than a guy that does only jiu jitsu if they are at the same belt and have started near the same time u did(there are exceptions where white belts do beat blue belts and some blue belts have beaten brown belts but only by luck. Take for instance, Bruce Lee. He wasnt a body builder at all, but he was still considered extremely powerful because he was conditoned, had fighting strength, and had skill.. He wasn't the strongest lifter but I guarantee 9 times out of 10 he was always the winner in a fight, and even that is rating it low .. I would go as far as to say he won fights nearly 10 times out of 10.

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Post by nygmen » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:02 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU9UAjI6 ... r_embedded

That is strong...

God I'm a weak little girl

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Post by Jebus » Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:36 pm

I thought we were just talking about strength here, but I guess now were venturing off to other types of strength... Like mental strength.

So to the original question, how strong does one need to be, and what is, "strong."

Well I would have to say the average person should be able climb over a fence, and be able to atleast deadlift 200lbs. Also the strength that the special forces have, mental and physical, would be optimal.

And I think defining how strong someone is, would be by how much strength he has, how much force he can exert.

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Post by Marnix » Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:19 am

nygmen wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU9UAjI6 ... r_embedded

That is strong...

God I'm a weak little girl
400kg deads with no straps and pronated grip? Thats some grip strength he must have.

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Post by RobertB » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:18 am

To me it is as simple as being marginally stronger than the average member of public - it does of course differ depending on context but to me, a "strong guy" is simply someone who can deadlift 150k vs say the average persons 100, a 200k squat vs the average persons 70 etc - i.e. my definition really doesn't need a ton of work, people in manual jobs probably fit into this if its got some reasonably taxing work involved (i.e. some manual work isn't that hard at all, like packing/some warehouse work)

a jump up from that is likely the steroid doormen in my local town, they will quite easily deal with your average member of the public, makes sense :)


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