Thursday Thoughts: The Flexibility of Strength

What follows is my attempt to create some order out of the chaos that is this site. Things are kind of haphazard as to what gets posted when, and so I came up with the idea of a few specific days covering certain kinds of posts. “Thursday Thoughts” will most likely center on the more cerebral side of this approach I’m urging people to follow.

When people think of strong people, they don’t think of flexibility.

I’m not talking about the kind of flexibility that would make a world-class powerlifter moonlight as a contortionist, though that’s probably would people would imagine in the above sentence. Though, admittedly, now that I bring up that image, I’m pretty sure no one would think that about strong people either.

What I’m talking about is “flexibility” as meaning an ability to adapt to different situations.

That’s not really something people think about when the subject of strength comes up. If I tell people they should work to get stronger, there are people who will become outraged. They might call it “toxic masculinity” or something else–though, note I never specifically stated just men should get strong. They might complain about how I’m being ableist, despite my having a couple of disabilities (learning) myself.

Either way, I’ve seen people get worked up.

Even those who don’t get worked up, though, don’t really think about why they should try to get stronger. They just picture hours at the gym, lifting weights like some meathead, and they think, “Nah. That’s not me.”

But what they need to understand is that when you’re strong, you’re able to conquer tasks you can’t when you’re weak, but the same doesn’t necessarily hold true the other way around.

For example, take an accountant.

I have a lot of respect for accountants, to be honest. It’s a career I’ve urged my son to consider, and he’s leaning that way if he doesn’t pursue engineering. In other words, I like accountants and think nothing bad about them.

But let’s be honest here. Being an accountant doesn’t require a lot of strength, does it?

Hell, the stereotype for the profession is a pencil-necked geek with a pocket protector and a lot of therapy bills from having their head dunked in the toilet. To say accountants are synonymous with strength wouldn’t be just stretching it, it would be outright lying.

Yet name just one way strength inhibits an accountant from doing their job. Go on, I challenge you to name one.

There isn’t one way.

Realistically, there are numerous accountants who train with weights regularly, who get involved with strength sports like strongman, highland games, or powerlifting. There are some pretty strong accountants, I’m sure.

And I’m also sure that most of them are great at their jobs.

Those who aren’t, though? Let’s talk about them for a second. You see, statistically, I’m sure that at least some of that batch aren’t very good at their jobs. Based on the numbers I’m envisioning, there just has to be.

But you know what? None of that has anything to do with them being strong. If they’re bad accountants, it’s because they suck at accounting. Nothing more, nothing less. They’d be bad at accounting even if they were the proverbial pencil-necked geek.

In other words, their strength is completely irrelevant to their occupations.

But it’s not irrelevant to life. We often find ourselves having to carry heavy boxes of things or having to open bottles and jars where the tops are stuck on somehow.

Those strong accountants I talked about a moment ago? They’re equipped for this kind of thing. They can help their friends move, push a car to the side of the road when it breaks down, hauls boxes of copy paper from the supply closet, any number of things that others may not be able to do.

You see, there’s absolutely no situation where being strong is a hindrance. As powerlifter turned bodybuilder Mark Bell puts it, “Strength is never a weakness,” and he’s right. There are no situations where being strong is a real disadvantage–unless you have people trying to take advantageĀ because you’re strong.

From what a friend of mine, a long-time lifter and medical doctor says, you may be underestimated because a lot of people see “muscular” and think “dumb.” And that’s about the only downside I’ve yet to find.

And that’s not necessarily a disadvantage. If you know how to use it, being underestimated can work in your favor.

But seriously, that’s about it. Unless you absolutely have to make people think you’re smart without talking to them, there’s no downside. The flipside, however, isn’t true.

While you can be weak and be a perfectly good accountant, you’re going to have problems if you’re a professional mover, construction worker, or any number of other physical jobs out there. Additionally, let’s be realistic. Regardless of your occupation, there are situations where you may be called on to do some of these “jobs” on the side.

Ever help a friend move? Have you ever tried to do home improvement projects around your home or a friend’s house? Hell, have you ever volunteered with Habitat For Humanity?

There are a lot of times when you absolutely need to be strong. It doesn’t matter what your job is, either.

Mark Rippetoe once said:

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.

He’s not wrong here.

However, let’s also look at the quality of life. A strong person can enjoy reading a book just as much as a sickly individual, for example, but a strong person has options of how to seek his enjoyment.

Here’s another Rippetoe quote:

A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.

Cue Morgan Freeman pointing to the up left-hand side and saying, “He’s right, you know.”

What many people don’t get is that being strong doesn’t mean people can’t be intelligent or spiritual, either. Again, strength does nothing to dissuade people from anything they want to do.

But a lack of strength just might.

So when I say strong people are more flexible, I’m not claiming that strong people are doing yoga or other odd stretching-based exercises. I’m just saying that they have options the rest of the world may not.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of the world decided to make it a point to be able to take advantage of those options, though?

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