I have a client I’ll call Megan. We have been working on a lot of strengthening exercises on the floor, loading her arms and her legs in different, dynamic ways. I regularly have her hold positions that are uncomfortable for a moment, just long enough to feel a sense of struggle before she moves away from the discomfort, back to a place that’s more familiar. She moves through positions that, to an outsider, might not look like much, but when done slowly are challenging. She does low reps, 4-6, before moving on to something else.
I recently had her perform a move that she initially balked at, unsure she had the strength. She tried it and successfully completed it four times, surprising herself with her ability.
I have another client I will call Jessie. She had a vague goal of doing a chin-up, so I started having her hang from her arms while doing different things, building up her endurance and grip strength. She did rowing variations with suspension straps, holding in different positions, not always performing very many repetitions, instead focusing on the quality of the movement and finding a sense of work before slowly moving away from the sensation.
I recently had her jump up to the top position of a chin-up and hold it there, using just her arms. She, too, was skeptical when she realized what I was asking her to do. “Do you think I can do that?”
“Yes,” I replied, and with that she jumped up and held herself in the chin-up, before slowly lowering herself down. Her eyes were big, and she was clearly surprised at her strength. “I did it! My arms held me!”
Building strength doesn’t necessarily require performing 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions, though that’s definitely one way to do it. What matters more, perhaps, is consistent exposure to various aspects of the skill you want to accomplish, becoming adept and strong in a multitude of ways. I find, too, when people feel supported by their structure, it matters less how many reps they perform and more that they acknowledge when something hard becomes easier through practice.