There is a line in Pavel Tsatsouline’s Beyond Stretching book that goes like this, “Americans don’t think they can be flexible enough, but the truth is you only need flexibility just a bit beyond the range your sport demands.” It’s interesting that Pavel doesn’t think the same way about strength.

I agree that strength is important, but there is a point where the pursuit of it exposes a lot of problems. If your form isn’t perfect, or your posture has issues, lifting heavier and heavier weights will cause a problem where none needed to exist. Even with good form and posture, increasing weights is similar to driving faster and faster—you increase your risk and decrease the margin of error.

Occasionally I see charts in lifting books that indicate how strong you should be in particular lifts, typically the bench press, squat, and deadlift. They purport to tell you a multiple of your body weight you should be able to lift in those lifts (e.g. 2.5 times bodyweight for deadlift).

Steve Maxwell has said that he never meets older lifters who wished they lifted more weight when they were younger. If anything, it’s the opposite.

So, how much do you need to lift? I suppose it’s debatable, but going back to Pavel Tsatsouline’s flexibility guidance, you’d lift just a little bit more than you need to meet your daily life demands.

For example, using the 53 pound kettlebell to develop strength is sufficient for most of the activities of daily living and will make you feel great all over. I can’t imagine what you might be doing in life that would require more strength than this. And, this level of strength is relatively easy to attain.

A sample:

  • Kettlebell swings (up to 100 per workout, sets of 10-20)
  • Kettlebell press (5-20 per workout in sets of 5)
  • Kettlebell goblet squat (10-30 per workout in sets of 5-10)
  • Bodyweight chin up or pull up (up to 25 per workout in sets of 5, add weight as necessary)
  • Hanging leg or knee raise (up to 25 per workout in sets of 5-10)
  • Or, as Pavel would write, to keep it simple, 3-5 exercises, 3-5 reps, 3-5 days per week. The only real exception here is the swing which is preferable in higher reps.