Strength: Defined

We put Strength Training in simple terms, AND share the magic trick to getting stronger.

Man lifting a giant tire

Why train for Strength?


As we discussed recently in our article, Mobility: Defined, Strength, Coordination, and Flexibility are the holy trinity of moving well.

Strength training has a positive influence on…

    • Bone health
    • Posture
    • Weight control
    • Mobility
    • and many more aspects of health, especially as we age!


Women need strength training, too

Mature women – START NOW! because it is not too late to build muscles and feel the huge positive affects of greater muscle mass!

Young women – START NOW! so that you are aging from a place of strength and commitment.


When you have a clear understanding of the terms in this article, you will communicate more clearly with your fitness professionals. You will also get get better search results if you are looking for programs online, and you will have a greater understanding of the miracle that is your body and how it works.

Strength is…


the body’s ability to produce force.

The main ways to train strength are…

    • Weight Training
    • Bodyweight Training
    • Resistance Training without weight.

They all have one thing in common: they require muscles to adapt to produce greater force. Add more weight: require more force.

Understanding Strength

To understand the basics of strength training we need to define three terms:

    • Adaptation
    • Progressive Overload
    • Super Compensation.


You know that your physical body changes with strength training, but did you know that your neurological system changes, too? Adaptation to Strength Training happens in two ways.

    • Muscular Adaptation – The muscle’s filaments (or fibers) get bigger and more numerous. This means the muscle itself gets bigger.
    • Neurological Adaptation – There is an increase in how many nerve signals are sent to the muscle, how fast they are sent, and how specific the signals are. The result is that brain-muscle communication gets more efficient.

Over time and with consistent training, these two aspects of adaptation work together and the result is an increase in strength; your muscles are able to produce more force, your brain and body communicate more effectively, and your body feels more and more capable.

Progressive Overload & Super Compensation

We’ll take these two terms together.

    • Progressive Overload means placing more demand on the muscle than it can meet. That could be more weight, more resistance, or more repetitions.
    • Super Compensation is the muscle’s response to the increased demand.

When we place more demand on a muscle that it is used to, for example, lift more weight than is comfortable, the muscle sends signals to the brain that say something like,

“Hey! We are struggling down here! We need to adapt! We need bigger muscles and better communication with you to meet this new challenge!”

Then, after your workout, during the recovery period, the brain and body get to work, sending resources to build and increase muscle filaments and strengthen those neurological connections – the process we call, “compensation.”

The next time you try to lift that heavy weight, your body is a little more prepared. Repeat this process consistently and, over time, you build stronger, more capable muscles.


The magic trick to get stronger

Are you ready for it?…Failure. Yep.

The magic trick to getting stronger is to fail.


We said earlier that you need to place more demand on a muscle than it is used to. We meant a LOT more demand. Lifting an extra pound here and there won’t cut it. Going for one or two extra reps won’t build muscle. In order for a muscle to adapt, it needs to register the demand as pretty big.

You need to…

    • work ALMOST to failure for the bulk of the workout and,
    • work all the way to COMPLETE failure at the very end of the workout.

When designing a strength training routine we work with this recipe:

    1. Chose a set; we usually start with 3 sets.
    2. Chose a rep range; we usually chose 6 – 15 reps per set.
    3. Chose a weight where the last 2-3 reps in sets 1 and 2 are very difficult to complete AND the last rep of the last set is COMPLETELY inaccessible.

Many, many of us have an aversion to failure.

We back off of the weight so that we can complete that last set. Failure gets a bad rep. No one likes to fail. But when it comes to strength training, this is the way to make gains! Think of it this way:

The number of repetitions you do, the number of sets you do, even the amount of weight you use – these are all arbitrary numbers. They will change day to day, year to year. The specific numbers are not magical. What is magical is working to failure! Get close to failure for most of your workout and go all the way to failure at the end and you will see the magic happen! Consider failure your greatest strength training achievement!

thought bubble on strength

The video linked below shows a Dumbbell Workout that builds Strength. Try it, and be sure to work to failure!


We hope this article helps organize your understanding of Strength and gives you some language to use when working with fitness professionals, when searching for inspiration online, or just for your own love of movement.


Interested in experiencing Strength training for yourself?  Use the form below…

Movement for All, Movement for life

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