Strip away technological advances, they’re relatively new to our world, society, and way of life. Remove them, for a second. Get rid of the things in our lives that do work for us, the cars, trucks, and machines. Go back to our primal roots if you want to see what a man must be; a protector, a defender, and a warrior. Take everything in our civilized society, making it once again uncivilized, and what you’re left with is the naked, raw truth about manliness and about culture and about who we are and what we need in the way of virtues or skills or attributes to be as we should be, as we must be, to truly be men.
To identify or define things we often look at their opposite. To explain night we talk about day, to define happiness we explain sadness, to define masculinity it helps to look at its opposite, femininity and women. Apart from the plumbing and the body hair and the bone structure, strength is one of the defining differences, if not the defining difference separating men and women. Our brains hold no difference in capacity, our wills aren’t stronger, our ability to persist no greater, but men are physically stronger than women are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover this fact but this fact also isn’t an attack on one or an appraisal of the other, it just is, and it is for good reason.
Can a woman become stronger than a man? Of course, but a strong woman isn’t typically seen as a more feminine woman, often the opposite. Strength has no bearing on whether a woman is feminine or a better woman or a more desirable woman, but for men strength is something much more important. A strong man is a more masculine man because it brings him further from being a more feminine one, it broadens that gap, it further highlights his separation from the feminine. Does that mean a woman shouldn’t lift? Hell no. Women should lift. They need to lift. They need to train with weights to be at their best and, damnit, to look their best. But while women who trains with weights get fitter and leaner and rounder in all the right places, they don’t necessarily get bulkier, men do. We’re made for strength, created for it. Our hormones dictate that if we get stronger our muscles will get bigger and we’ll look and feel manlier.
Go back to that stripped away, uncivilized, primal society where we are who we are and have no machines to aid us, no inventions that allow us to fake strength and artificially obtain usefulness. The defenders, the men on the outside of the circle are the masculine men, the strong men, the most important men, for without the defenders and the warriors no other men can exist. Aristotle couldn’t philosophize if he was dead. His beautiful mind was no good without the protection of the warriors outside of the city gates. Without said warriors none of the other men or women in a society would be free to do what they want to do and be who they want to be. You take away the warriors, or you have weak warriors, everyone loses, everyone dies, no freedom can exist.
Without strength, masculinity becomes something else – a different concept… Increased strength is one of the fundamental biological differences between males and females (Jack Donovan, the Way of Men).
As political correctness rears its ugly head the over-sensitive and those who think they should be sensitive because in our civilized society sensitivity is a part of being “good”, will look at those comments and scream bloody murder. Hopefully, you’re a tad more rational than that, you can see that to define masculinity as something that differs from femininity you must highlight the differences in strength between the sexes and strength being very important to one sex while not so important to the other, and again, for a very specific reason: defending and protecting and conquering.
If, then, strength of the physical variety is a defining characteristic or virtue of manliness or masculinity in our primal society where men were tasked with defending the tribe, where the stronger men were the leaders because they could be depended on to keep the rest of the men and women of the tribe safe, where is its place in our modern, civilized society?
Do We Still Need to Be Strong to Be Men?
Writing this article I have Jack Donovan’s The Way of Men to my right, which is largely the inspiration for this article, but behind this fine work, in the background, tucked away on my book shelf I spot Self Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s this work and Emerson’s belief in self-reliance that shapes my view of what a man must be and strength weighs very heavily and heartily into this definition.
If a man is to be self reliant, truly self reliant, where he can fend and defend himself and his tribe – his family, friends, teammates, whatever – he needs to be strong, it’s imperative. We have aids, machines, things that take away the need for strength. Our cities are large and defending them isn’t something we consciously do or have to do unless we’re living in parts of the world where this is a must or in parts of the world defending the cities that bore us and the individuals within them that live in a blissful ignorance of the job that strong men have been tasked with, the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the warriors, to defend us far away from our view in lands that intend to do us harm. To say I salute you would be an understatement. To say your sacrifices are appreciated would be the same. Not all of us live in this blissful ignorance, failing to see where our freedom comes from. You are in our thoughts, and you are in our prayers.
Most men, however, aren’t at the gates defending the city like we once were. We’re not on the outer circle of our tribe. But we still have a tribe, within the gates and confines of our culture we still have tribes that need defending, families that need a leader, friends that need a man. There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to get used to this artificial and superficial sense of security that the modern city and society provides. Who knows how long it’s going to be here and what man wants to depend on some outside entity or way of life for safety?
They can take care of themselves, defend themselves, and strength is a virtue they posses within themselves, a masculine virtue, a necessary virtue. So yes, even as our society has evolved (or regressed and mutated into something that it should have never become, depending on how you look at it) strength, physical strength, is still a necessary masculine virtue and something we as men need to develop to be masculine men.
Strength as Metaphor
Before we dive into how to become a stronger man, let’s highlight the metaphor of strength, something we’ve covered here and there on this site. As physical strength becomes less of a necessity in our modern, civilized society, we’ve had to adjust how we think about strength and how it can still be a virtue, because it must be a virtue.
To be a man, a masculine man, you must have strength of all kinds, not just the physical, though we can’t and shan’t discount the role of physical strength in masculinity, there are other forms that need to be highlighted. Strength of spirit, the ability to stand firm on your principles and fight for them and persist and endure and never quit. Strength of character, the man who has no character has no value, he’s spineless, he goes with the populace and what’s popular rather than what’s right and what’s good – and yes, I just described the majority of politicians in our culture.
It’s just as important to develop these forms of strength as it is the physical form, but from a pure masculinity standpoint, we have to start with what is maybe the defining characteristic of manliness, and that is physical strength. So how do we become stronger and is it merely a matter of lifting heavy weights?
How to Become a Strong Man
A couple years ago I teamed up with a strength coach from back east – New York – to create a program that would help men do just this, it’s aptly named Strong Like a Warrior, so I highly recommend checking that out and grabbing a copy if you feel you need to get stronger or if you want to get stronger but don’t know how, it’s an incredible routine.
I get emails a lot about how to become stronger and the goal of strength doesn’t seem to be surrounded by as much “common knowledge” as, say, muscle or fat loss does. So, for the remainder of this article we’ll cover a few things you’ll need to know about getting stronger, and not just so you can lift heavier weights but so you can perform better in the ring, in the cage, on the battlefield, or, heaven forbid, in a real life situation where you’re forced to protect your tribe.
3 Types of Lifting Speeds
We’re going to use 3 different lifting speeds to become the strongest men we can possibly become. When we’re lifting heavy, very heavy, closer to our max we’ll aim to lift as fast as possible, which isn’t always that fast as the weight becomes heavier. Thus, for other sets we’ll focus on lifting heavy but only so heavy that we can still lift with speed. The third grouping is all about speed, lifting weights that are only about 60% of your max.
So, there’s heavy, which will be fast but not that fast, there’s still heavy but with more of a focus on lifting speed, and pure speed, which is a lighter weight.
Lifting to Failure
When training for strength, lifting to failure is rarely done, if ever done outside of testing. Form and speed is more important than failure. Lift until your form breaks down or your speed slows. Within each lift you should be lifting as fast as humanly possible. So those last sets where you’re struggling to get the weight up and a spotter has to be brought in to help you wiggle out one more rep don’t exist.
Good form and a fast, explosive lift, these are the things that will dominate the workout.
The basis of your strength program will focus around those three types of lifts and lifting speeds. We’ll center them around barbell complexes that focus on a certain movement or lift that will help you get stronger. In Strong Like a Warrior we do things a little differently, but the make-up of those workouts are incredible as well, with the addition of conditioning finishers at the end of the workouts that will help you bring this pure, raw strength into the real world.
Below I’ll give you the example of a deadlift-focused complex, you can then implement whichever exercises you like into the same make-up and create your own strength workouts, keeping in mind the lift speed and the focus of the various sets.
1. The first set will be the heaviest and the slowest (still fast, just slower than the others).
2. The second will be faster, more explosive, but still heavy.
3. The third will be explosive, purely explosive, a bit lighter, and more focused on that explosive power and an explosive movement (like a clean).
4. The final exercise in the complex will be the 60% of your max lift where you’re only performing a handful of reps (usually 5), coming nowhere near failure, focusing only on the speed of the lift. With this set you’re also dropping the weight down quickly. Everything about this set is fast.
So let’s get started.
- Rack Pulls (upper half of the deadlift). Reps: 4-6. Weight: heavy, overload.
- Deadlift. Reps: 3-5. Weight: heavy, but not so heavy as to make the lift a slow one. Note: there’s no eccentric phase to this exercise. As soon as the weight gets to your knees, drop it. Don’t lock it out like a conventional deadlift.
- Power Snatch on blocks or from the hang. Reps: 3. Weight, lighter. Focus purely on speed here, starting the weight from the knees or the hips, and explode up. Don’t rush this exercise, take your time with each rep.
- Power clean, hang cleans. Reps: 6. Weight, light, 60% of your max. All speed. Note: you can also do box jumps here.
Rest periods: 60-90 seconds in between each exercise, with the same rest period coming at the end of the complex. Perform 4 rounds of this complex, finish with a few rounds of planks and/or roll-outs if you like to strengthen your core, and you’re good to go.
Train Yourself To Become More Manly
This may not be a popular outlook on what manliness is or what masculinity is because people often equate physical strength with a lack of mental strength or intelligence. You don’t have to have one without the other, in fact, as we’ll discuss in coming articles, both are necessary and were necessary long before the high rise took its place at the center of our cities or the razor found its way to our faces.
As men, we can’t discount the value of pure, raw, strength, and where it fits in being a man, and becoming an optimal one. Train your body for battle, your fingers for war. Train yourself to be able to be truly free and self-reliant by being free of weakness, releasing your protection from the hands of your government and taking it back in your own. Be a man, a masculine man, a strong man, a warrior. Widen the gap. Move closer to pure, raw masculinity and start with the barbell as your ally in your quest to become the best man you can become. Your quest to become a legend.