This is an article I wrote a while back for Tabata Times, and I would like to to give them full credit and thanks for giving me the opportunity to write this piece which has been very important to me during this stage of my life.
– I write this while travelling home to Cardiff from a seeing my family back in Kent and, in true Rebellion fashion I am sitting here contemplating my own strength. Now, I will be the first person to admit that I am nothing spectacular when it comes to strength. I am not the strongest guy in my friendship group, my gym, and sure as hell not the world. But compared to the average person I would be considered strong. This relative notion of strength is something that I find both intriguing and frustrating. I am the proud owner of a 200kg deadlift, which my friends think is great, and at the time I thought this was a big deal – for me and my own ‘gains’. But now I am struck each day by just how strong the human race is becoming.
The 1000lb squat used to be the biggest deal within the Powerlifting world – but now it is something that is being done on a fairly ‘regular’ basis. How mind boggling is that? I cannot conceive of how 1000lbs would feel on my back, and how it would feel to press that weight out of the bottom of a squat with nothing but pure unadulterated brutality. Equally, just to stick it to those haters who don’t consider Powerlifting an athletic pursuit – Lu Xiao Jun (-77kg) now has the world record in the Snatch, which I believe is 176kg.
Take a moment to let that sink in. A 77kg Chinese man, in one swift motion, hoisted 176kg over his head, sat in the bottom of an overhead squat, and then, to top it all off, stood there in lockout just waiting for the down command. HOW THE HELL CAN HE DO THAT!? No, for real, how can he do that? How can there be this massive difference in strength between us as a species, genetics and upbringing? Well for me that’s not good enough for me. We are all born different for sure. But then why is the gap so big? I get that these people have trained most of their lives to be this strong but most people, even under the same circumstances, could never even hope to achieve this level of strength.
With all of this in mind how can we actually define what is ‘strong’ anymore? My 200kg deadlift means nothing in the grand scheme of strength, but then what does? As each world record is broken, as each feat of athletic endeavor is completed, as each new yardstick is struck into the ground of human performance, how the hell are we meant to keep up and say what is strong? If no one is strong, does that make everyone weak? To those of us for whom strength in not simply a pursuit or a marker of athletic performance but a means by which we define ourselves – how can we continue to define ourselves in a field which is constantly moving forward at a rate where most of us cannot even hope to keep up?
Are we, as a generation of young lifters, developing a disconnection between us and ‘them’? The Herculean ‘them’ who are more than we are and more than we could ever hope to be? Are these great athletes losing their identity in our generation’s perception of strength? Have they become titans rather than men? In that loss of identity have we lost the ability to define ourselves as ‘Generation Iron’ in the feats of these athletes? We can all say that we have felt the pain, the struggle and the joy of lifting, but very few of us know what it is to hold the weight of the world in our hands.
To speak of bulls, my friends, is not to have run with them. I guess what it really comes down to is the fact that the strength of each individual is not measured in the end result – nor should it be. How can we as Brothers in Strength compare our strength to that of these titans? We can’t, and when we remove the end, we are left with the means, and it is in the means by which the individual achieves his/her strength that we find their true strength. The strength of the individual has to be found in the great pains they have gone to in order to find the strength within themselves to keep moving forward in the face of these leviathan like feasts of strength that we could never hope to match.
I guess I am writing this for two reasons. Partially as a cathartic release of my own pent up frustration at my own level of strength, but also as a reminder to myself – and to you my readers – that there is so much more to strength than the endless chase of an ever-evolving number. Strength must be made into a personal pursuit which has to be more than just the numbers you get to put up on your gym’s PR board. It has to be a personal love, a love so deep that to be parted from your strength would be a fate worse than death. We can’t define what is strong, only you can do that. Only you; Weightlifter – Crossfitter – Gymnast – Athlete. Find your definition of strong and hold it close, and hold it dear.