“Necessity is the mother of invention”- Plato
Times change, things change, and we evolve, both in how we live and how we prepare to live. The purpose of modern day strength training essentially evolved based out of necessity; whether it was in sports or through manual labor, we trained to become stronger and faster because it was necessary to become better equipped for daily life or for competition. I love the quote by Plato but I’m noticing a paradigm shift in at least the “Western World” and wondering if the opposite holds true? Once a necessity is gone or undergoes a dramatic transformation, does the need for the “invention” then disappear or does it merely change?
“Invention” in the Workplace
Technology is amazing, and at the rate technology is evolving, sometimes I wonder if the majority will even be able to keep up. Right now, technology is all about making things faster, more efficient, and more or less becoming increasingly automated. Thinking back to when cars were new to the world, they were created because it made traveling from here to there much easier and quicker. From cars, we went to buses, trains, and even Segways, all of which now lessen our necessity to walk places. Like nutrient dense man-made foods, cars were inventions created out of necessity, but both have been taken to extremes and have combined to create public enemy number one, metabolic disease. The underlying theme here is that technology has created a new type of worker, one that is dependent on machines to do physical tasks. Obviously, this is great because it is more efficient, in that moment, but it’s created a monster in the form of a desk-ridden sloth. We no longer need a majority of our workforce to be physically capable of hoisting a sledgehammer, baling hay, or pushing a lawnmower, rather, we need them to be able to move a mouse cursor swiftly and type over 60 words per minute. If the necessities of physical ability dissipate, what are we left with?
“Necessity” of Exercise
If a majority of the workforce is dedicated to performing desk tasks from a seated position, what becomes the point of being able to lift a log over your head? Squat and pick up the end of a couch? Push your gas-depleted car to the service station? Obviously, as a fitness professional, I think it’s important to be able to do all of these things, to remain physically independent from the luxuries technology provides us on a daily basis, but how many desk workers are honestly thinking about that? Since it doesn’t really matter anymore that Joe from accounting can bench press more than Stan from accounting (not that it ever really did, let’s be honest), what’s going to provide the competitive edge in the workplace for one over the other? Longevity. Not how much weight you can move, but how well can you move your own weight?
Let’s compare this office workplace situation to one in sports, in which two collegiate football players playing the same position are competing for a spot. One guy is a beast in the weight room and can bench press the state of Rhode Island. In this guy’s seemingly infinite strength, he also has a history of injuries, due to several muscular imbalances he’s developed over the years from subpar weight lifting techniques and programming. He may be fine now, but how soon will his brute strength fail him, and injury history overcome any potential he may have had? The other guy in this comparison is hardly a beast, having never been part of organized weight lifting of any kind, but rather just spending his free time playing a variety of sports with friends. His movement is pure, range-of-motion and stability both adequate in areas where it’s required, and free of previous injuries. At first, the coach may decide to play the strongman, but what good is all of the strength when you’re sidelined due to injury? Whereas immediate impact may have been the sole measure of your added value, longevity is now the key. How long can you go, healthily, in life, will inevitably determine how truly valuable you are to your company and also your friends and family.
Exercise With a Purpose
If you’re a desk worker, your exercise protocol should probably be a bit different than that of a construction worker, but both groups need to focus more on the quality of movement and less on the amount of weight moved. Exercise with a purpose to prevent injury in general and decrease the odds of incurring time lost at work. Always remember, what good is all of that strength if you don’t have the ability to use it? There is a big problem with being able to push a car but not being able to tie your shoe unless of course, that becomes automated too.
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment