Military recruiters know an important truth that a lot of other people want to ignore. In a 1992 report, the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces wrote this: “The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle …. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength.” Women are far likelier than men to suffer injuries like stress fractures, their aerobic capacity is significantly lower, they cannot carry as much as far and as fast, and they are more susceptible to fatigue. In physical capability, “the upper 5 percent of women are at the level of the male median.”
This basic biological reality has been universally recognized, accommodated and embraced throughout human history. Even in our gender-confused age, you never see women trying to compete against men in professional sports like soccer, basketball, football or even tennis. We understand this would be unfair.
Nobody should take these irrefutable facts to mean women are inferior. When God made human beings male and female, He purposefully gave greater natural physical strength and greater capacity for strength to the man. This is an intelligently designed, masterfully created fact of life He instituted for a reason. He fashioned the woman’s body to accomplish the demands of her role, not those of the man’s role.
Proverbs 20:29 explains, “The glory of young men is their strength ….” Strength means firmness, vigor and force. It refers to a young man’s physical capacity and ability, the might and power of his young body. This sets young men apart from everyone else and makes them special.
God gave men this glory of greater bodily strength! Why? To help us fulfill our roles as providers, protectors and leaders.
A Young Man’s Glory
Yes, fulfilling a man’s role takes strength of character, strength in resolve, strength in determination, strength in confrontation. But it also takes physical strength.
A man should not shy away from this—he should maximize it and take advantage of it. Men should develop their God-given glory: their bodily strength. Life often demands hard physical effort, and a stronger body is always a benefit. Though our modern environment requires less strength for daily survival, who knows what physical challenges you may suddenly face?
God built men to bear life’s heavy burdens. He intends us to relish sacrificing our strength for good, noble purposes. A young man with strength, who uses it to lift, carry, hold, push, pull, build, hammer, cut, pick, shovel, stack and sweat is internalizing important lessons in manliness.
God gives young men the potential for useful, glorious physical strength, but that strength doesn’t develop automatically. It requires hard work. Lots of it. Young men who put in the work are rewarded for it: With their God-given capacity, they see faster gains in strength and stamina, and recover faster, than anyone.
Many young men neglect to develop strength. Poor diets, sedentary lives, too much screen time and not enough vigorous exercise produce soft, weak young men.
Young men, build your strength. God created you to be strong. He wants your strength to be your glory! He has given you the capacity—but you must develop it.
Even as you get older, you must continue to develop strength. It is a crucial measure of health. Making a consistent, active effort to get stronger helps you remain useful and can stave off many problems that will otherwise besiege you as you age.
We need to do what God designed our bodies to do. We need to become more physically capable in our masculine duties. And we need to strengthen our thinking toward fulfilling these duties. Building your physical strength is a specific, tangible, effective means of accomplishing all these goals.
Strength Helps You in Your Manly Role
How does strength help you fulfill your role as a man?
Physical strength increases your capacity as a provider. If you work with your hands, then the stronger you are physically, the higher your quality and speed of work. Your vitality is often connected to your earnings. Even in an office job, manual tasks come up at the office and especially outside of it. And you never know when you might need to take a job as a laborer. Besides, the stronger you are, the better you can care for your property, digging postholes, lifting concrete blocks, mowing, moving furniture, and so on. The fitter your body is for these tasks, the less you will have to hire these out. And if a tool fails, you can be comfortable resorting to brute strength when you have to.
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). Embrace physical challenges. Exert yourself rigorously to get a job done. It is good for young men to work outside, digging, hauling, building brawn. We fathers should work with our sons around the house and yard; include them in doing jobs for widows or other needy folks. When your son is old enough to get a job, encourage him to consider something that will challenge him physically over something easy. We must ensure our sons learn how to work (e.g. Proverbs 10:4-5).
Physical strength is useful to be a protector. If you are on the scene when a bookcase falls on someone, or a person is trying to escape from a burning building, or a wild animal is loose, you will be more able to help if you are strong than if you are weak. Fitness also has more day-to-day benefits. When your wife is thinking about her security and the security of your children, she will feel more protected and be more protected if you are strong than if you are weak. When your teenage son gets bigger and stronger, he will have more respect and pay more deference to you if you are strong than if you are weak.
Physical strength is useful for a leader. A physically stronger man naturally commands more authority and respect than a weaker man. A strong physique is a greater asset to a leader than a weak physique. Men who are strong are healthier and have higher testosterone. Building strength combats depression, boosts mental health, increases confidence, and fortifies willingness to face challenges. A strong man will not be a good leader without higher attributes, but those higher attributes can be wasted on a physically weak man.
Building strength has an additional, perhaps even more powerful mental benefit: It teaches you to embrace hardship. Getting stronger is hard. A job offer, a good deal on a car, or a 50-dollar bill might blow your way on a gust of caprice. Not so with muscle. It only comes your way through hard work.
In his article “Why Every Man Should Be Strong,” author Brett McKay explained why Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill built their bodies: “Churchill and TR understood that if they wanted to develop their minds to their peak excellence, and do something significant on the world stage, they could not spend their lives curled up in bed reading stacks of books …. A strong body would take them where they needed to be, and help them perform nobly in the field. Without physical strength, they could never have achieved, or become, all that they did.”
“The pain and dedication required to work out regularly,” McKay wrote, “teaches you about discipline, resilience, and humility, among other things.”
“When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you,” Henry Rollins wrote about weight lifting. “If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. … It wasn’t until my late 20s that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. … I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: Pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control” (emphasis added).
You don’t need to try to attain a certain physique or a certain bodyweight. You don’t want to build your body to stoke your vanity—you already have too much vanity! No—realize that the purpose for getting physically stronger is that it is a valuable tool for growing as a man.
How should you grow physically stronger? Running and sports are good for conditioning, but building strength generally requires specific strength-building exercises.
At its most basic level, getting stronger requires simply moving something, whether a barbell, bricks, or just your own body. Push-ups require no gear. Pull-ups are excellent, and you can easily find an inexpensive pull-up bar designed to mount in a doorframe. Certain gymnastics movements build extraordinary strength and require no special equipment.
For basic and extremely effective strength-building, there is nothing better than weight lifting, and a used set of weights can be quite inexpensive. Find someone to coach you on four simple movements: the deadlift, the squat, the bench press and the shoulder press. Learn proper form, then devote some time to them. If you are doing it safely, the more effort and intensity you put into it, the greater return you will receive.
Building strength this way has many benefits, including reducing the risk of injuries and expanding your capacity for other activities. It also clears the mind and builds confidence.
“Strength is a defining attribute of masculinity,” McKay wrote. “It’s the literal power that has allowed generations of men to protect and provide for their families. It’s the force that built our skyscrapers, roads and bridges. … [D]eveloping our physical strength is still a worthwhile pursuit, for it lays a foundation for developing the complete man.
“Strive today to become stronger than you were yesterday. I promise as you do so, you’ll see a transformation not only in your body, but also your mind and spirit.”
Of all the types of strength a man can develop, you need spiritual strength most. That means remaining clean from the world, building good habits, mastering your passions, resisting negative pressures, standing for what’s right, becoming dependable, and consistently making the little decisions that build character.
We need strong faith, strong character, strong will. We need to build the bold, masculine qualities to succeed as leaders.
With God’s help, we and our sons will grow to inspire others to agree, in admiration, with the proverb: that the glory of young men truly is their strength.