It still amazes me that so many people say that they will never be able to do something before they first make an attempt.  I can’t help but to smile every time someone watches me train and comes over to tell me how strong I am and their back cries when they see me deadlifting 400lbs for reps.

My response is always the same: Why?

This is where I get a laundry list of excuses including but not limited to: an injury that happened over a decade ago, they don’t have enough time, they are not as sexy as me, they don’t have the genetics, or they could never be that strong.

Another one I really enjoy is “I’m not as big as you.”  This is laughable since standing at 6′ tall, I only weigh 183lbs.  In some circles I am by no means considered “big” and just last week I was asked if I was 160.  I use the term “silent muscle” but I also like a phrase my girlfriend uses, “strength despite size.”

Big does not necessarily mean strong and small does not always mean weak.  Consider the butterfly effect.  I’m not talking about the terrible Ashton Kutcher flick but the chaos theory.  Could something as small as a butterfly create a tsumani that can consume Asia like I consume burritos?

If that was the case then I’m not very strong at all.

For example, a few weeks ago I competed in my first powerlifting meet and watched a kid who was 2 years younger than I and 8lbs lighter deadlift 616lbs.  This is 200+ more than my max.  Kind of puts things into perspective.

Strong means different things to different people.

So when people come to me for training and we talk about their goals I always ask what being strong is to them.

Is it being able to bench 300+lbs?  Or is it the ability to do a single push-up?

Is it being able to deadlift 500+lbs?  Or is it the ability to deadlift at all?

Is it being able to squat 1,000+lbs?  Or is it the ability to do a single bodyweight squat?

I tell them I can help them lift more and get fit but they have to get themselves strong.  I give my clients the tools and the directions but it is up to them to get strong.

To me, strength is it the ability to do something that you never thought possible and the determination to not give up until you reach your goals. That is not something I can be taught but something that must be learned.

You don’t have to be big to be strong, you just have to be determined.

And just because you lift heavy weights doesn’t mean you are going to get “big”.  For example, I began training my girl Lindsay about 4 months ago after she started reading my blog and asking questions about training.  I never got the “Wow, I could never do that” but I got “What do I have to do to be able to do that?”.

This is not only her philosophy in training but in life.  She is strong.

She has been a runner her whole life so strength training is a whole new world for her.  She is at a bodyweight of 110lbs and began with a 65lb deadlift as well as basic lunges, squats, and assisted pullups back in October.

She is now pulling over 200lbs, and is able to do 3 perfect bodyweight pullups.  Not bad at all for only 4 months of training.

Here is a current video of her training:

“Strength despite size.” – Lindsay Johnstone


Written by Steve