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How you build strength

So often when you break away from the world of advertising and marketing about a fitness topic-and investigate the truth of how something is accomplished-it makes exercise approachable, less intimidating, and attainable. That's what we're here to do for you today, break down exactly how strength is gained.

Muscle strength can be defined as one's ability to overcome a certain amount of gravitational load or force. Muscle strength is directly related to the cross sectional area of muscle (size of muscle mass) but is also highly influenced by the type and ratio of muscle fibers you have (Type I vs. Type II) and your neurological coordination. Many other factors influence your ability to gain strength such as range of motion of joints, the status and health of surrounding muscles, diseases, and more. So while I wish it was super straight forward: do this and build this, it can be highly variable from person to person because of outside factors.

At the core and basis of building strength it comes from using resistance that requires maximum or near maximum tension development with few repetitions. This does NOT require heavy weights to be accomplished. As mentioned earlier muscle tension and overload can be created through gravitational load or force. By positioning of your body you can effectively create large amounts of muscle tension and muscle resistance equivalent to high amounts of weight however with a highly diminished risk of injury compared to using large equipment and weights.

Different types of contractions yield different forms of strength:

Isometric contractions-this is where there is no movement occurring through the isolated joint however muscle tension is occurring. This contraction will create strength however only in that exact position. It's great to incorporate for joint stability, and to prevent/reduce joint pain.

Concentric contractions-this is where the muscle is contracting into a shortened position-think bicep curl on the way up. This is extremely functional and can create (if max tension is being applied) muscle growth which in turn increases muscle strength.

Eccentric contractions-this is where the muscle is contracting WHILE it's lengthening-think bicep curl on the way down. This creates more force and tension to the muscle which can increase strength gains faster than the previous contractions mentioned. This is also a crucial area to be strong in, a lot of injuries occur during eccentric contractions of certain muscles as they didn't have the strength or stability needed to stabilize against whatever force occurred during the contraction.

If you want to dive deeper you can look at the differences between strength vs. endurance vs. power

Strength is typically assessed with 1 or very little repetitions of your max resistance/force/load.

Endurance is usually assessed at how many repetitions at a certain amount of resistance you can do without rest or compensations. The general thought is that muscular endurance is created and improved at repetitions of 12 or greater.

Power is strength + speed. How fast can you overcome muscle tension/force/load. Power is crucial for most elite athletes but is often where injuries occur.

In summary, muscle strength is gained through overcoming resistance, creating muscle tension/force/load on your muscle either through gravity and physics or through external weights.

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