5 Pillars of Supreme Strength
The Five Pillars of a Supreme Strength Program
By: Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS and John Gaglione
Pillars are often used as a metaphor for the foundation of strength programs. Like Milo and the calf, (for you 6 centery BC Greek Wrestling fans!) their symbolism serves as a constant reminder to build strength progressively, by solidifying the basics. Here’s a five pillar colonnade of proven strength necessities.
- Maximal Strength: Strength training is used as a means to accomplish many ends. Some use it for fat loss, and others employ it to boost athletic performance. No matter the goal, building maximal strength is the central pillar of a supreme program—as all other physical attributes are directly related to maximal strength
Consider the case of fifteen female cross-country skiers that trained for maximal upper-body strength for nine weeks. Not only did they outperform their control group counter-parts on strength testing, but they also outlasted them during upper-body endurance testing (1)!
Maximal strength improves our ability to develop every other physical quality. A program that dismisses is sadly remiss.
The barbell deadlift is a fantastic tool to build and measure Maximal Strength
- Relative Strength: As maximal strength is the central pillar, relative strength is its most important subsidiary. It’s the most important progress barometer, with body weight exercises serving as the mercury.
Relative strength is the maximal amount of strength produced at a given body weight. If your sport bids you to maintain a body weight of 205 pounds, you must get as strong as possible while weighing 205 pounds. Gain weight beyond 205 and your relative strength has decreased. And likely, so has your performance.
To monitor relative strength, it’s imperative that body weight exercises are included in strength programs. It’s great to put thirty pounds on your bench press, but if you’ve lost the ability to do pull-ups—there’s an issue.
Here an example of Real Relative Strength Weighted Pull Ups
- Dynamic Strength: How quickly can you demonstrate strength? If you’ve never asked yourself this question, you are missing out on huge strength gains and improved athletic performance.
Dynamic strength is also known as power—the ultimate precursor to athletic domination. Power takes the strength that is built during heavy training and transfers it to athletics and life outside the weight-room. Power is the bridge between pillars.
Dynamic effort barbell exercises, combined with jump training, build dynamic strength and power.
Here is an example of a jumping drill to develop power
- Repetitive Strength: Athletes also have to produce strength repeatedly. The one and done show is reserved only for powerlifters and Olympic lifters.
While high rep training can’t dominate a strength program, it must be an active component. Every athlete must overcome fatigue—and do so without compromising performance.
Repetition effort training is designed to meet this end—with the goal of completing each rep with power, even as lactic acid burns and energy fails.
Body Weight Training as well as dumbbells are both great tools to build strength endurance.
- Core Stability: Our core is the axle that transfers strength and power to and from our moving limbs. It’s the pillar that sturdily supports all of the other pillars—even maximal strength. Every strong core is capable of pillar-esque rigidity.
Optimal core stiffness is always a goal of a supremely written program. Develop stiffness and stability by training the core from all angles and by resisting movement from all directions. Avoid the core and you’ll be a pillar short of a colonnade.
Roll Outs are an excellent variation to train the core stability and strength
Pillar, foundation or base—use whichever metaphor you like; successful strength programs are built on basic principles. The best strength programs transform basic principles into sustained actions that produce continual results.
More From John and Todd in their
I’ve known John for a few years now, and he is one guy that I see at LITERALLY EVERY SEMINAR (including our Synergy Seminar last summer). The guy has turned himself into a wealth of knowledge. I’d recommend checking out Supreme Strength.
- Hoff, J., Helgerud, J., &Wisloff, U. (1999). Maximal strength training improves work economy in trained female cross-country skiers. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 31(6), 870-877.