I think it’s safe to say most of us would agree being “strong” is a good thing. Being strong, physically or emotionally, is generally a desirable trait. It makes sense then, that when most of us train, we’re training to increase our strength. For most people, they associate training to be strong with resistance training (i.e. lifting weights). However, being “strong” extends beyond the power of our muscles. Perhaps not as obvious, but we also train to become stronger when we perform cardiovascular exercise (i.e. running sprints). When we have a strong cardiovascular system we have a heightened endurance, a healthy heart and lungs, and the ability to perform long bouts of work without keeling over in complete exhaustion. Or in other words, we’re moving into “sexy strong” territory.
Sexy Strong vs. Fat Strong
Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of people aren’t training for a well-rounded body of strength, or what I’ll refer to as “sexy strong”. Sexy strong is a body with not only impressive muscular strength, but a low-level of body fat, great flexibility, a tremendous endurance, and healthy and well-functioning internal organs and vital signs.
On the flip side, there’s something I like to call “fat strong”. Someone like either of the two guys pictured below would be what I’d consider fat strong.
From a muscular standpoint these guys are obscenely strong, there’s no doubt about that. But that’s where the impressiveness of their abilities ends. They’ve got high levels of body fat, low levels of flexibility, and I’m guessing a poorly trained cardiovascular system, which leaves them at great risk for heart disease as they age.
The idea of becoming a big, bulky, block of muscle is what most women fear more than death, public speaking, or being locked in a box full of snakes with laser beams attached to their heads. This is the reason so many women shy away from lifting weights…let alone weights heavy enough to make a difference.
Of course, being fat strong doesn’t have to be like the example illustrated above. Fat strong could be that girl on the treadmill who does tons of cardio but still has a layer of exercise resistant body fat because she refuses to pick up a weight and actually get her metabolism moving. You don’t need to be built like a tank to be fat strong. A disproportionate level of fitness or only placing a focus on one element of your health is all it takes.
Surrounded by Hordes of Skinny People
It’s time to realize that developing real muscular strength doesn’t have to be associated with getting gigantic. Here’s a real-life example which served as the motivation for today’s post….
A couple of weeks ago I went to an indoor rock climbing gym with a buddy who climbs. After making our way to the wall and giving it a go, I realized just how difficult rock climbing really is. A short while later, as I was sitting on the mats tending to my blistered and bloody hands, I took notice of some of the people around me. All of them…..literally, ALL OF THEM were skinny, yet incredibly defined. These skinny people were scaling up the wall like monkeys, pulling off climbs I could only dream about making. These same people were rocking out two finger pull ups on a climbing board on the other side of the gym. I was surrounded by dozens of skinny guys and girls, with seemingly not much muscle, but strength that was almost beyond imagination. What’s the moral of the story? Training to become strong and turning into a big, bulky, neckless wonder doesn’t need to go hand in hand. You can become strong..very, very strong, without giving up your physique.
This is what you need to remind yourself the next time you’re afraid of picking up a weight because you think you’re going to instantly morph into Ray Lewis. Getting that big takes work; it takes a lot of eating. If you’re not eating for super size, you’re not going to have to worry about turning into a giant.
On the other side of the spectrum we have the people who only focus on lifting weights and forget another important aspect of sexy strong; building a strong cardiovascular system. When you focus on bulking up and forget about the rest of your fitness, you’re putting yourself on the fast track to becoming a giant mound of muscle, incapable of much else besides being able to lift heavy objects in linear fashion. No functionality, no practicality, just strong for the sake of being strong.
How to Get Sexy Strong
So if you’re looking for a well-rounded and healthy body, inside and out, it’s vital to focus your efforts on becoming sexy strong. Take a well-rounded approach to your fitness and don’t neglect any one of the three pillars of your health. These pillars include:
- Good cardiovascular endurance
- High percentage of lean muscle mass and functional strength
- Great joint range of motion and flexibility
So what do you do? How do you achieve sexy strong and avoid the pitfalls of fat strong? Simply put, use a fitness routine that encompasses a wide range of fitness discipline and training methodologies. This is something I’ve employed here at Share It Fitness, as well as with my real-world clients. I call it Body Diversity Training, and I truly believe it’s the best and most effective way to build an incredibly fit and healthy body.
Training in this manner would mean using a variety of different cardiovascular workouts, varying your strength exercises, and including elements of yoga, pilates, and other fitness disciplines to ensure a well-rounded level of fitness.
So wherever you’re starting out, you have a choice to make – doesn’t matter if you’re beginning your fitness journey 80 lbs overweight or you’re already at 12% body fat and looking to take things to another level. Making the conscious decision to be sexy strong is the best decision you can possibly make. Train all three pillars of your health and your reward will be a great body and health for years to come.