For a lot, I daresay a majority, of strength trainers, the amount of the iron is then end and the means. The more iron thrown around, the better the movement is. Without a doubt, that's the number one measure of progression; the only measure of progression that counts. Look how most of refer to geting strong or working out...
You wanna get strong? Lift big, heavy shit!
I pick heavy things up, and I put them down.
Excuse me, I'm off to pump some iron now...
Meanwhile, I read and hear things like, "can you really get strong on BW- only? How much strength can you get with BW-only? No matter how much geek, know-nothings like me preach, we always come back to that same default iron addiction. The iron will make us strong.
Let's play a game. Let's say that you made your way over to my blog and found a post where I claimed to do, say, 15 push-ups with 87 lbs of weight on my back. What would you think? Maybe impressed? If I came across that, I'd think it was impressive too. Then again, let's say my hands were elevated with two boxes.
Is it still as impressive? No need to feel like an asshole by saying, "No". The fact is that the exericse has been set up to be easier. By doing hands-elevated push-ups, the push-up is easier, even with the weight tossed on board. nitpicking form isn't the point, however. I'm just drawing a point that popped into my mind the other day.
Most of us agree that weight that you throw, or can throw, onto an exericse isn't the sole measure of how good it is. That's a cornerstone to BW-strength training. Since the weight can't be increased easily, the progression comes from manipulation of the form of the basic BW exercises. I talked about this with a friend a while back. If weight alone made an exercise easier or harder, then there would be no doubt that weight-based training was completely and uttlerly superior to BW by every possible measure.
Not everyone agrees.
Here's the thought that I had: If a lot of weight can be used for the exercise, doen't that mean that the movement itself is actually easy? After all, if it was hard, there wouldn't be a need to throw a lot of extra weight into it to make it hard in the first place. If you think about the "big lifts", the lifts where people throw iron into the triple digit territory, have movements that really aren't that hard. Most of the time, the weight is kept close to the body, uses more of the biggest and most powerful muscles to move the weight, or require bracing the body against an immovable object while the body pushes or pulls the weight. Apply any of this and watch the poundage capable of being lifted in the movement soar!
That's not to say that there's anything necessarily wrong with these exercises. I'm just going out of my way to demonstrate how the weight moved isn't the test of an exercise's worth. A recurring theme of this blog is doing more with less. I don't always have the luxury of a well-equipped gym. Still, I get strong and I do it by making the most of what I have. Besides, the more accustomed you are to working with less, the more likely you are to get challenged more consistently.
Let's go to the other end of the heavy iron pile and take the kitten weights. Even I think that 8 lbs dumbbells are kind of a joke. How could they make for a brutal exercise?
Pinch one between your feet while doing an L-sit. That's how!
If you're out there, in the trenches of the real world, isolated from the robo-globo-gyms, thinking that you're screwed because you can't find 600 lbs of iron and a squat cage to work, you need get your head working. Strength doesn't come from a materialistic-like craze for more and more iron. You can get it from modifications in an exercise, or a new exercise all-together. Strength doesn't only come from, and isn't proven by, lifting prowess in one movement any more than it comes from the weight you push while doing it either.