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The health benefits of strength training (as with most forms of regular exercise) are frequently quoted as providing increased lifespan, better ageing, disease resistance etc. However, it is certainly not the case that elite athletes live the longest, and many seem to do harm to their overall health by pushing themselves as hard as they do. Logically there must be a point at which an individual is maximising the health benefits of their training, beyond which they no longer improve their overall health and may eventually start to damage it if they push significantly harder.

To put this specifically into the context of strength training, is there a good understanding of the level of strength, or the rate of gain, at which an individual can say they're doing as much as can benefit their health? Would this be a fixed level of strength which just has to be maintained, or a constant rate of gain which represents the optimal level of stress on the body? What is known about this at the moment?

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is there a good understanding of the level of strength, or the rate of gain, at which an individual can say they're doing as much as can benefit their health

I can only repeat what smart folks at barbellmedicine say at their seminars (can be found online).

Person who can squat 200 pounds not necessarily stronger or healthier than someone squatting 300lbs. What is more important is regular, intelligent training to get stronger. That being said, "getting as strong as humanely possible" might compromise other aspects of life. If you want to lift 1000+ pounds, you will probably have to gain bunch of extra weight, take drugs, workout for hours a day -- all this will increase risk of injury.

Another edge case: you are so consumed with working out that your relationships suffer, you forget about children and spouse, never like your results, trying to out-lift death -- develop depression, and commit suicide by overhead press.

But if you want to be able to lead productive and healthy life, strength training should be part of your lifestyle. You also cannot reach some strength level and stay there until you are dead, that will be counter-productive. You would want to keep getting stronger. First by 5 pounds a week, then by 5 pounds a month, later maybe just 5 pounds more a year. But this process will become new "you should walk more" or "drink water regularly" recommendation.

Some info from BM people:

  • While this doesn't provide a direct answer to the question, I like that point about family and so on. Most likely, way before your body starts to suffer, your social life and psyche will be affected which in some ways is worse. +1 – Raditz_35 Aug 21 '18 at 8:11
  • @Raditz_35 i am convinced there is no "direct answer", i.e. train that much and you be healthy. healthy is relative term, and strength is relative too :) – Oct18 is day of silence on SE Aug 21 '18 at 8:18
  • I agree. Certain substances, preassure, high stress levels, often issues after their careers contribute to many athletes dying young. If someone is training so much it hurts them, there are other issues contributing to a short life. Still, in a perfect world, you would include as a direct answer: "impossible to know". As i stated, i really liked the answer btw – Raditz_35 Aug 21 '18 at 8:24

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