Friday, March 14, 2008

Strength & Conditioning Attributes and Benchmarks

"God arms me with strength,and he makes my way perfect."
- Psalm 18:32

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training's private garage gym, I work to develop four primary physical attributes in my training:

1) Raw Strength
2) Metabolic Conditioning (Sprint/Interval Cardio)
3) Muscle Endurance
4) Explosive Power

When I utilize a training program, I like to hit each of these throughout the week by combining two or more attributes in a single workout through the use of supersets, hybrids and complexes. This may sound scientific, but it really isn't.

Mostly it's common sense. The majority of the people I train workout 2-3 times per week, and at a minimum, I work to ensure that each person gets at least two strength workouts per week combined with at least one of the other attributes each training session. I believe strength is number one, and the best thing I can do for anyone is to make them stronger. After strength, the other three attributes are important, and they all need to be trained for overall conditioning, fat loss and health.

As far as strength measurements are concerned, here are the strength benchmarks I'd like myself and the more advanced athletes I train to attain (these don't necessarily apply to those who come to me strictly for fat loss or just to get in shape):

Male Basic Strength Standards:
2.0x bodyweight deadlift
1.25 - 1.5x bodyweight bench press and front squat
1x bodyweight standing overhead press and power clean
.75x bodyweight power snatch
12-15x bodyweight strict chin-ups
20x bodyweight strict dips

Female Basic Strength Standards:
1.25 - 1.5x bodyweight deadlift
1x bodyweight bench press and front squat
.60 - .75x bodyweight standing overhead press and power clean
.50 - .65x bodyweight power snatch
5x strict chin-ups
5x strict dips

You'll note that these benchmarks are not assigned absolute poundages. They are based on bodyweight. Mark Twight of Gym Jones points out that there is a difference between absolute strength and relative strength. He argues that relative strength - or how strong you are compared to your bodyweight - is a much more important measure.

From my own experience, I believe the above strength benchmarks are possible without adding a lot of mass (unless that is your goal - mainly through nutritional changes). This is a huge concern for women and those who may compete in sporting events that require weight classes. Personally, I am fairly close to reaching all those benchmarks and more, and weigh just 150 pounds - my natural weight at 5'4". I believe that extra weightroom strength will transfer to better all-around performances in other sporting activities and daily tasks.

I continue to monitor my own performance improvements in certain workouts in addition to increasing strength. My current weight is slightly less than last year, but I've become leaner, stronger and a lot more fit.

The best thing I can do for myself and the people I train is to make them stronger. Strength, especially strong legs, is the basis of everything functional and athletic in nature.

*Special thanks to Rob Shaul of Mountain Athlete for the information he has provided on his web site that has helped me refine my own training ideas and benchmarks.

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