What is relative strength?


By definition, relative strength is the strength of an individual relative to their bodyweight - for instance being able to squat double your bodyweight. Being big AND strong is a common relationship, but it's not always true that big equals strong. Having overly big muscles is what I refer to as redundant muscle mass: “Just what do you need that for anyway?”. If you weigh a lot and are able to lift a lot it does not mean you are functionally fit. For me, functionally fit means you are able to lift a lot for your size and also move efficiently. So having a higher strength to weight ratio is highly effective and functional in the real world.

For most beginners, your focus should be on improving your relative strength and this is best done by lifting heavier loads. Focus on the big compound movements which use the most muscle  – squats, deadlifts, bench press – and allow you to use the most load. Note that this is exactly what we'll be doing in White Dog Strength Training classes. 

As a general rule, things to bear in mind:

  • Eat like a track and field athlete or gymnast, not a body builder. This means eating the calories your body needs, not excess.

  • Train with low repetitions, like a range of about 1-5 reps per set. Training with low reps produces a response more conducive to neurological strength gain as opposed to muscle size gain.

  • Rest a lot between sets. Give the body time to recover and replenish creatine stores before attempting subsequent maximal efforts. This takes about 5 minutes.

  • Perform compound, free weight movements in order to recruit the maximum possible number of motor units. This produces neuro-endocrine responses that contribute to higher maximum strength.

  • Perform maximal strength training infrequently. This means giving the body a lot of rest between strength workouts.

  • Ensure the strength training is relevant. The movements chosen will be most effective if they are specific to the movements you want to actually get stronger at. This transfers over into the real task much more readily.

That’s a basic rundown of relative strength training. Transferred into a wider range of tasks than absolute strength, it’s not only an efficient way to train but produces tangible, efficient results.