How big and strong is too big and strong? When it slows you down.
We look at strength as it pertains to athletic performance. Relative strength is the main measure of success – force output and velocity of that force expressed over time and distance. The stronger and faster someone is, the more athletic potential they have.
Most think of strength in terms of absolute strength, or the “world’s strongest humans” – this is a limited perspective. Just because someone is big and strong doesn’t mean they’re the most athletic version of themselves they could be. When an athlete is the most optimal bodyweight for their frame and the strongest, fastest and healthiest, they are maximizing their athletic potential and speed. Strength should compliment speed and vice versa.
The best way to train to increase the strength to bodyweight ratio and velocity of movement is low reps and high force output. High force can be attained by moving heavy or light weight through the desired range of motion with maximal intent. Maximal intent is the concept that leads to training explosive.
Low rep ranges of 1-6 reps per set are the most advantageous because they typically can be completed in under 10-12 seconds. 10-12 seconds is about as long as the body has to put out maximal force without losing output levels. Most athletes begin to feel a burning sensation around 5-6 reps. The optimal range for training to increase relative strength is 1-4 reps. Within this range athletes can lift heavy or light to build strength and speed. During the course of a training cycle, athletes will maintain their body weight given their eating at balanced caloric intake levels.
For young athletes ages 12-16, we want to have higher rep sets which will help develop their muscular hypertrophy, coordination and endurance. This builds a foundation for future explosive training.