Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


by Daniel Oakes | April 19, 2022

lifter at the bottom of a squat

Nobody mentions it, at least not anybody who isn't perceived as an obsessive freak. It's an awkward, alien, somewhat ugly topic of conversation – makes those involved feel raw and naked. Maybe, as a species, we aren't ready to discuss it seriously yet; maybe we are in the infancy of discussing it, hence the myths, fashions, and trends that dominate the somewhat vain corners of our minds.

There are those who try, with sincerity, to educate us about it. However, insecurities often flare up, and a simple topic, which could be delivered like a shot of vodka, often morphs into a convoluted mess. The eternal battle the strength pioneer faces, is not the battle to make their teachings known, but to make their teachings seriously known.

Strength is currently needed everywhere, like clean water is needed in a desert. People will struggle with shopping bags and say, “This is all the exercise I need,” in the belief that the object is the evidence of exertion. Under such logic it would be best to be as weak as possible, so as to always be out of breath and always “exerted.” People who shouldn't be struggling to get off the pot are simply ignoring the elephant in the privy. Why?

Perhaps the barrier to progress is born out of poor perception. The gyms, with their maze of mirrors, give the impression that you are there for narcissistic reasons. And, in fact, the mirrors and dumbbell racks probably lure in the types of people that want a quick circle jerk with their muscle-bound buddies. The strength pioneers, however, try to demonstrate that there is, in fact, another side to the fitness coin: instead of mirrors and vain music, they present us with gray walls and the sound of clanging iron. Instead of insect-esque eight packs, there is a bit of nonchalant belly. They take note of the fireman, who can carry another man down a flight of stairs, the policeman who can pin down a man with his left hand alone, and the soldier who weighs 250lb but can do everything a 150lb man can.

Where will the strength pioneer take us next? Yes, they are opening up real gyms – the ones that utilize chalk – and people of all ages and abilities are joining en masse; but a pioneer is always looking forwards. Where are they looking?

Strength acquisition is a way of life, not just an activity in the gym. Sleep, diet, and extracurricular activities all have an impact upon performance in the gym. In fact, it's taught that you don't get stronger from lifting weights – you get stronger from recovering from lifting weights, and thus the strength pioneer teaches us to sleep well, eat well, and rest well. This teaching is no easy task. Many people won't sleep, eat, or rest well enough. But the strength pioneer isn't stupid. He or she isn't targeting the 25-year-old who is long gone – they are now targeting the 10-year-olds. There will soon be a whole new generation that values the way of life that the strength pioneer proposes.

What's the point of all this? Well, what's the point of going to the moon? And at least strength acquisition benefits us all on a daily basis. We should be grateful that there are those who seek not just to teach us about strength, but to change the narrative, so that we all, every one of us, feels comfortable and welcome in the fitness world.  

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