Functional Strength vs. One-Dimensional Strength

Discussion in 'Lifestyle, Health, Fitness & Food' started by SenorDingDong, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. SenorDingDong

    SenorDingDong Smeller of Smells

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    Alright, I'm curious as to what your guys' opinions are on this topic.

    Lately (especially in the gym) I've seen some pretty huge guys. The problem is, these huge guys, while able to move large amounts of weights in a pushing or pulling motion, have very little functional strength.

    For instance; the pull up.

    Huge guys use the excuse of, "well I weigh more," to explain why they can only do a few at any given time.

    Now, pound-for-pound strength is something that I've always believed in, and as accordingly, if you weigh 250lbs and I weigh 150lbs, we should be able to do the same amount of pull ups. Why? Because your muscles should have developed strength enough to pull that extra load of weight, as mine have for my smaller size.

    In layman's terms, the amount you weigh should not matter because your body should be, pound-for-pound, as strong as mine.

    But, of course, this isn't the case. Guys I see at the gym can, as I said, push and pull large amounts of weight, but have no "functional" strength, which means beyond moving a couch or a fridge, they are little more than useless.

    I only ask your opinion because I've become more and more curious over time. I am a very small guy at any weight because I'm very lean. I'm not tall, I'm just lean. I've had a lot of large guys at the gym comment on how strong I am for my small size, and in my mind it always comes back to that one thing; functional strength. Sure, I can only bench 160 right now, but I only weigh 135, and I haven't done strength training for over a year now.

    So what are your opinions on functional strength, one-dimensional strength, and pound-for-pound strength?

    I've noticed that, especially when I am in a period of weight training, I am pound-for-pound much, much stronger than a lot of the huge muscle-head guys at the gym; I can lift more in proportion to my body weight, I can do more reps at higher intensity, and I can push longer without break.

    Am I wrong in believing that I, at 135lbs currently, shouldn't be able to do more pull ups or push ups than a guy who weighs 235lbs of muscle because his muscles should be developed enough for him to, pound-for-pound, match my strength?
     
  2. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    You should have this conversation with one of the "mucle heads" at the gym... that way you can test their functional strength... personally. ;)
     
  3. TRENCHLORD

    TRENCHLORD Banned

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    Yeah you're wrong.
    I used to be able to do many more pullups when I was lighter even though I'm much stronger now.
    When doing pullups at 250 pounds, you are basically having to hold the equivalent of a 125 pound bell in each hand, not to mention the pull part.
    Try and see how long you can hold a pair of 125 pound bells. Takes alot of hand strength.
     
  4. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    While I appreciate what you are calling functional strength, it is definitely a lot easier to do stuff like pull ups when you weigh less. The muscles have to do a lot more work to lift the 250 lb guy.
     
  5. TRENCHLORD

    TRENCHLORD Banned

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    One other thing to consider is that when the muscle heads are doing pullups they are often focusing on making the target muscles do all the work as opposed to the novice style which is to just simply get their chin up to the bar and speed through the reps.
     
  6. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    Also, how are you defining functional strength? Using myself as an example (moderate "muscle head" here) I'm 5'10 205 lbs... I do dumbbell curls in sets with 55lbs (and I used to do them with 65's until I strained a tendon). That is somehow fake gym strength? I have no problem snatching something that weighs 50 lbs off the floor with one hand (and without hurting my back). How is that not functional strength?

    And not to be a dick (<- people only say this when they're about to be a dick ;)), but seriously man... Go across the middle and try to catch a pass on me and I'll show you how that gym strength really translates. :rofl:


    [​IMG]


    tl;dr :nutkick:
     
  7. troyguitar

    troyguitar SS.org Regular

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    What is functional strength in today's world? If you can lift 25 or so lbs you can do any decent job (outside of being a pro athlete) with 100% efficiency.
     
  8. SenorDingDong

    SenorDingDong Smeller of Smells

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    My point is, if you weigh that much, your body should be adjusted to that weight, meaning your muscles should be as strong at 250lb as they were at 150lb.

    It comes down to pound-for-pound strength; the amount of actual strength you possess in comparison to your weight/muscle size.

    Compare an MMA fighter to a weight lifter and you'll start to see what I'm talking about; the MMA fighter, while no nearly as large, is proportionally stronger, pound for pound; they lift larger weights in proportion to their own body weight, they can perform more reps at higher intensity, et cetera.


    I'm not saying huge guys are weak, only that they seem weak for their size.

    Sure maybe you can bench 300lb, but you weigh 250lb.
    That guy who weighs 180lbs and is benching 250lbs is, pound-for-pound, stronger than you. His muscle quality is better.



    And functional strength is the strength of movement in correlation to everyday movements, including flexibility of movement.

    Prime example, at 155 I was curling 50's. Pound-for-pound, I was able to lift more than you at far smaller size (even when I weighed 150 I was small for it). And not cheat reps, either; swaying doesn't count, and neither does arching your back or using momentum.


    As for being able to muscle me down, I believe that at my current weight of 135 it would be a disgrace if you couldn't. That being said, I'm also a 4:45 miler and a 2:09 800 meter runner, so it would all come down to catching me in the first place ;)



    But this is neither here nor there; I've been in and out of an assload of sports and workout programs for a long time (I can never stick to one, they get too boring), and from what I've seen and even what you've told me, pound-for-pound the littler guy was stronger than the big guy.

    Now I'm not trying to out-man anyone (it would be hard to do, as I'm not really a manly man in the first place) but I've always been pretty physically gifted, and I came to wondering if I was the only one who noticed the pattern between size and strength, or lack thereof.
     
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  9. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd Dread-I Master Contributor

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    I think you're mixing up practical and functional...

    And your reasons for going to the gym simply differ from theirs. You "kinda" sound like a hater.
     
  10. Wingchunwarrior

    Wingchunwarrior OVER THE LINE!

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    LOL at competing who can bicep curl more ;)
     
  11. SenorDingDong

    SenorDingDong Smeller of Smells

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    I'm not saying any one way is better than any other, I've just noticed a large difference between the strength of a large muscled person and smaller leaner person. Then again, there are big guys like Mariusz Pudzianowski who are extremely well rounded and strong for their actual size, and guys like Ryan Hall who don't have much strength at all.

    I'm pretty sure I'm not mixing up the two: Q: What is functional strength training? - Strength/Resistance Training - Fitness Q & A - American Council On Exercise(ACE)
     
  12. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    That is due to inefficiencies with the human body. You should also not confuse strength training with body building as the goals and the results are somewhat different. At the end of the day, the stronger guy is still stronger though, in absolute terms. Getting gains to a certain point is the easy part, everything there after is tooth an nail. Those points differ by exercise, and person.

    While a gymnast may be impressive in strength to weight, they are undoubtedly not stronger, and may not even be as capable. At the end of the day you just get good at what you do.

    At the end of the day absolutes rule the game. If you can't lift it and he can, guess what, he is stronger. No dispute.
     
  13. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd Dread-I Master Contributor

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    Again... You just sound like a hater. I honestly don't see why you care what other ppl do. :shrug:
     
  14. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    My opinion..
    Training for different goals!
    Size =/= strength.
    Yes lb/lb strength is impressive, but if you're training for size that isn't going to be a priority.
    Simple as that. Do what you want to do and others can do the same:)
     
  15. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    Also, whatever the case they are going to be a hell of a lot stronger than 99% of the population, so what does it matter? Functional strength for what exactly?

    :yesway:
     
  16. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    Some thoughts here...

    Totally agree with WCW above... dont want to get into a dick measuring contest, but since you pulled yours out I might as well... wait where the F am I going with this analogy? OK you know what I mean... moving on...

    Strength increase is not proportional or even linear... if I had to guess I would say inverse log or perhaps sigmoidal. Meaning that initial gains are large (e.g. when someone that weighs 150 lbs and only benchs 90 lbs starts lifting), vs someone that has been lifting for years and only sees a moderate gain, and surely tapers off dramatically.

    The human body is very inefficient (mentioned above) when it comes to mechanical work performed (i.e if there is a god he sure built the equivalent of a gremlin or chevette when it came to designing humans). Put another way, you are arguing from a linear point of view.... as an example it is possible for a newbie to double his bench rather quickly from 100 lbs to 200 lbs max. There's no way a salty vet pushing 315 is going up to 630 any time soon, or in his lifetime.

    I'm all for different kinds of fitness, but yeah you really sound like you're just hating. To each his own... and you're lumping everyone that lifts into one category. When it comes to the 'muscle heads' there is a huge difference between bodybuilding, strength training, athletic performance training, etc. There are many bodybuilders that are comparatively huge but not nearly as strong as powerlifters that are smaller than them and not 'aesthetically pleasing'. Sometimes you get a Franco Columbu (my fav) who is the best of both worlds:

    [​IMG]
    ^ pretty sure he's... ahem... 'functionally strong' :lol:
     
  17. TRENCHLORD

    TRENCHLORD Banned

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    Something else is that;
    It's really not accurate to measure pound for pound strength with any one lift, especially not bench.
    If a person was trying to be at their strongest pound for pound on bench, then that's the only lift they'd do because gaining muscle in the calves, thighs or biceps would only lead to diminished pound for pound bench strength.
    A great example of this is the olympic lifters who compete in any of the weight classes other than the unrestricted super-heavys. Those guys don't bench or curl because it might move them up in class without an increace in their clean and jerk strenth.

    Gaining muscle mass all over your body will most likely reduce your pound for pound percentage as measured by a single lift (even deadlift) vs just concentrating on that one lift only, but it definetly gives you more total funcional strength.
     
  18. Bevo

    Bevo SS.org Regular

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    I think its on a curve and after a certain point it get harder to move more weight.

    When I was in my 20's and a boiler maker it was all heavy lifting, I could easily bench double my weight with out ever going to a gym.
    When I did turn into a muscle head it took me forever to bench 1.5 times my weight, it just never came and it was like I was at the limit of my strength.

    Good topic!
     
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  19. Necris

    Necris Bonitis.

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    In my opinion if the strength and endurance you gain from lifting is useful in your day to day activities then it is functional.
     
  20. Uncreative123

    Uncreative123 SS.org Regular

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    Came into thread, saw OP weighs 135 lbs, exited thread.




    ...But not before a hearty, "LOL". Strength is not directly proportional to size. This is FACT and it is something that can be measured. Imagine an X/Y graph going up at a 45 degree angle. A 150lb weakling doing 10 pullups is not proportional to a 200 lb man doing 10 pullups. It requires a greater energy expenditure at a higher weight- and I don't simply mean " well of course more energy is used moving 200 lbs than 150 lbs" It's not proportional like you think it is.

    Functional strength is a made-up term used by people who aren't strong/big/educated.
     
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