Is strength training and getting stronger really focused on how much weight your lifting? Why, yes! Of course, it is. The popular entertainment site Buzzfeed loves to feature list articles where various ‘experts’ are asked questions. This probably actually means that the author simply features isolated quotes from their online articles, and pretends they interviewed a dozen people for one list article. In one such article, ’18 Fitness Myths That Need To Be Stopped Immediately’ I came across a gem.
One of the supposed myths was “getting stronger is all about how much you’re lifting.” In response to this, the article used a statement by one Cody Rigsby, coach at PelotonCycle:
When gaining muscle, people worry about how much weight they’re lifting. Worry about form and properly training your body, then you can gradually add the weight.
Now, wait! I’m not criticizing Rigsby’s statement, per se. I agree that people do worry too much about the weight they’re lifting sometimes. But as a statement to support the notion that getting stronger is not all about how much weight you’re lifting? NAH!
Getting stronger is by definition about how much weight you lift, or move, etc. Inherent in Rigsby’s statement is the notion that you will add weight. How aggressive you should be, how fast or slow you should add weight to the bar is certainly a consideration, but in the end, it is ALL ABOUT how much weight you do add! The goal is not to train to get stronger but to actually get stronger. There is only one way to demonstrate absolute muscular strength: Lift a heavy external load. So if you don’t lift MORE weight than previously, as some point, you are not getting stronger! Period!
Good Form Doesn’t Make You Stronger
Good form doesn’t make you stronger. Properly training your body, which is a meaningless statement without context, does not make you stronger. Finding ways to lift heavier and heavier things makes you stronger.
Notice that the quote is actually about gaining muscle, not strength training. How much weight you are lifting is not central to muscle gaining. Alas, this is what happens when non-experts on entertainment click-bait sites try to find expert statements.
The Goal is Not Strength Training; The Goal is Lifting Heavier
The notion that something other than the goal, lifting heavy weights, is central to getting stronger is part of something I’ve mentioned many times as a central misconception. That is, that progressive overload is a training goal, rather than a principle or explanation. How you get strong may vary: You can progress in training in many different ways, and this progression may lead to lifting heavier weights. But to actually be stronger you must lift heavier weights than previously. Strength training and heavy weights are not like peanut butter and chocolate, they are like two sides of the same coin. A very thin coin.
If you want to know what strength training really is, read the aptly titled article What is Strength Training?.
If you want to know more about the difference between strength training and muscle building, read The Difference Between Strength Training and Bodybuilding.