What does “strong” mean to you?

What does “strong” mean to you?

by Teo Kai Wen 26 Feb 2020

The concept of strength is a subjective one. Depending on what your lifestyle calls for, your definition of strength may be different from, say, that of an Olympic weightlifter’s. It’s important to have an idea of what “strong” means to you, but even more important not to lose sight of what really matters.


For instance, it’s easy to equate strength to how much weight you’re able to squat, press or lift. However, there comes a point when pushing your strength training above all else will so more harm than good, making you more likely to experience muscle imbalance or injury. Instead of viewing strength from the perspective of a competitive athlete, remember that the end goal of fitness (for most people) is to supplement a healthy lifestyle, not to earn a gold medal.


Instead of looking at strength as a quantitative term, consider incorporating some qualitative features to it as well. You don’t have to hold the highest powerlifting total in your age and weight-class, but you can work on improving other aspects of your fitness as well. Perhaps it can be your mobility, flexibility, speed or even recovery. Being “strong” is a mental approach as well – such as the willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone and confront weak links.


That’s not to say that playing the numbers game is inherently bad, but the idea is not to miss the forest for the trees. Add 10kg to your main lift within 12 weeks takes some serious work; are you sure you want to make it all about that for the rest of your training life? Masters at sports compete at that level because they decided early on that their goal would be to excel at that particular sport; anything else would simply be a means to that end.


After spending hours at the gym, it’s all too easy to rely on external markers of progress such as rankings or weight lifted in order to measure strength. However, spending too much time focusing on these quantifiable measures of strength can make you lose sight of the goal you started out with. Spending some time thinking about your motivation behind your first visit to the gym can be telling: did you want to feel better, stronger? Did you want to be able to lift your kids or grandkids?


Strength is what you make it. Don’t be distracted or deterred by others’ definitions of what “strong” should be, and instead make sure that your own definition is one that resonates with you. Make your strength journey one of longevity and it will hold you in good stead in the years to come.