The Bed of Procrustes

Sure, strength training plays host to many benefits but nothing quite compares to seeing more kilos being added to your barbell does it? However, sometimes the understanding of the timeline for progression is lost and we must be careful with the messages we deliver to our clients as it is not a one size fits all approach, as Matt explains:

You might notice that next to the notice board at Hammer Athletic there is a table which
outlines our “Strength Standards” (see Figure 1) – this signifies where our clients should strive to be when it comes to their strength relative to bodyweight. Most of our clients have all been educated on
where we want them to get to in relation to their strength standards and how this process
may take 6-12 months or even longer to reach a specific standard.


Figure 1 – Relative Strength Standards at Hammer Athletic











Everyone needs to get stronger; no negotiation. Strong things don’t break, hence if you build
up a large resistance (strength capacity) to breaking down then you will be more consistent
with your training. If you’re more consistent, then you will be able to train more regularly, allowing you
to achieve your health and fitness goals whether that be performance,
aesthetics/appearance or general fitness.

As coaches here at Hammer, we aim to avoid putting everyone on a “Procrustean bed” (see Figure 2).
According to Greek mythology, Procrustes was an evil character that would promise a
‘perfectly fitting bed’ to tired, and unsuspecting, travellers. However, instead of fitting the bed
to the traveller he would either cut off the limbs of his guest or stretch them out so that
the traveller would fit the bed.


Figure 2 -The Bed of Procrustes

Whoa, why use such a graphic analogy?

Well sometimes we can get caught up in strength standards and where everyone should be and should not be. Often we prescribe the same plan for everyone and expect them to get the same results without any thought of individualisation or genetics. This can lead to a variety of problems such as a lack of interest and motivation, especially when the goals expected of you aren’t accomplished. At least we aren’t back in ancient greek times where you may have lost limbs to fit a bed. There are many variables that may restrict people from achieving specific standards, for example; genetics, previous injury and joint angles (moment arm) during certain movements/exercises. I’m not saying everyone can’t be strong but sometimes it can take longer to get to specific strength levels and this depends on our own blueprint.



What does this all mean and where does this put us with our strength standards?

The message we preach to our clients is that the closer we get to hitting our specific ‘strength
standards’ the more likely we will achieve consistency on the gym floor. If you are on the
gym floor training more often, then shit; I don’t know, maybe we get closer to looking better,
getting stronger, being more athletic and lastly performing better. Isn’t that the goal!
In summation, even though we have strength standards on the wall, this doesn’t have to
completely resonate with each and every lifter. Remember they can be aspirational. What
we are advocating here is the notion that the most important part of training is training to
improve your strength. Regardless if you are a specialist lifter or a beginner, we are all
different and all take different journeys to get there. As long as we don’t rest and fall victim
on Procrustean’s bed where every progression is linear, and everything is the same for

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