Women with the strongest legs have the best brains because the brain meridian actually runs through the hamstrings.” ~Christiane Northrup, M.D.
Note: I imagine the same is true for men with the caveat, “best brains next to women with strong legs…”
What we often associate with age-related ailments like arthritis, bad knees, and other “malfunctioning” is actually not as age-related as we think. It is an indicator of how well we are taking care of our bodies and, ultimately, our STRENGTH.
If we become more sedentary in our daily lives, we begin to lay down dense fascia. Sitting for long periods of time every day for several decades may necessitate a hip replacement, but, as Dr. Northrup jokes, this is nothing to blame on aging, this is called sitting!
As we stop branching out into new activities or challenging the intensity in our current activities (whether that is in career, fitness, or hobby), we lose the facility to learn and to build strength. It’s not the old dog who can’t learn new tricks, it’s the person who buys into that concept and has commenced what Dr. Northrup refers to as a “near-life experience”.
In building strength, we must be on-board to repeat. Remember when you were a child learning to write cursive, ride a bike, or swim in the deep end of the pool? You mastered these activities through repetition, driven by adequate fuel and conviction. Maybe the fuel came from a PB&J sandwich and the conviction from your parents’ encouraging cheers, but you cannot build strength without repetition — and the fuel and conviction to stay the course.
Repetition means practicing something consistently day in-day out, and it also means knowing the appropriate rep range within each session. A common mistake in building muscular strength is confusing it with muscular endurance.
When you’re training for a race, when the workout has high rep ranges and low weights, or when the objective is to increase the total number of pushups, burpees, squats, or minutes in plank, you are not building strength in the muscular sense, you are building muscular endurance. That is, you are strengthening your ability to perform a specific muscular action for a prolonged period of time. Endurance improves your athletic performance and your ability to execute an exercise efficiently. It can actually make it harder to keep body fat levels low as your body becomes more adept and acclimated to the exercise.
Muscular strength is your muscle’s capacity to exert maximal force for a short period of time. This could entail lifting up a heavy box, performing a short rep range of squats with a heavy barbel, or, perhaps picking up a heavy child for…keyword…short period of time! Muscular strength through progressive overload is your tool for body aesthetics and improving your metabolism.