Be the best version of you by building useful strength

Published 10:54 am Monday, March 26, 2018

Strength’s contribution to ease and quality of life is underestimated. It makes everything easier and sometimes the impossible becomes possible. Dangerous activities that could injure you become less dangerous. Strength makes you better able to defend yourself, perform better athletically, better at moving and maneuvering your body and is protective of joints and bones by reducing the stress placed on them.

Weight training can also improve bone density and help strengthen connective tissues. Stronger muscles even protect themselves as they withstand more force before straining.

Strength affects any physical activity and can be evident in mundane but necessary activities like carrying grocery bags, moving furniture, opening jars, carrying children, routine mechanical maintenance, shoveling snow and giving care to disabled adults.

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To maximize the benefits of strength, you should be training your entire body. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and your body is interconnected much like a chain. The most common weak links I see are hands, wrists, neck, glutes, hamstrings and core.

Strong legs can’t help you lift a grandparent if your core is weak. A strong chest won’t result in many homeruns if the batter’s wrists are weak. Some folks will avoid working weak parts all together while others will support weak links with belts, straps and wraps. I recommend training your weakness rather than working around it.

While machine weights and isolation exercises can certainly be affective, multiple joint exercises with free weights (squats, deadlifts, etc.) will provide you with more bang for your buck when it comes to full-body strength. Remember proper technique is critical when performing these lifts and seeking qualified help is a good idea.

Core strength, or the strength of your trunk (body segment from hips to shoulders), is absolutely critical to full-body strength. Core strength supports and protects the spine, can improve your posture (and therefore your appearance) and, together with stretching, can prevent back pain and related ailments like sciatica. Your core is the link between your legs, which typically produce the power, and your arms, which typically apply the force in athletic movements and many other movements of daily life (like opening a heavy door). A weak core results in a much lower-force transmission and much greater chance for injury.

Another critical component of useful strength is balance. Muscle imbalances can cause poor posture and joint pain. A balanced body is more athletic, more mobile and has healthier joints with less pain. 

To create balanced strength, you want to work the back of the body as much as the front and the left as much as the right. One easy way to accomplish this is the push/pull method. Most exercises could be classified as either a push or pull. When you push in one direction, make sure you also pull in the opposite direction, meaning guys should do seated or bent rows as much as they bench press.

I also advocate for exercises that require body awareness and handling your own body weight. This can include calisthenics, plyometrics, agility and balance work (like standing on one foot). These types of exercise require different parts of your body to work together unlike some gym exercises designed to isolate body parts. Most real-world applications of strength also require different body parts to work together.

Be safe. Be strong. Be safe by being strong.

Jamie Ness has been personal trainer since 2013, and currently provides services at the College Park gym in Winchester.  For more information, visit or email