There are certain things that are clear indicators of a high level of physical strength—like being able to run a six-minute mile, bench press 275 lbs, or do 30 pull-ups without breaking a sweat.
But those indicators certainly aren’t the only indicators of physical strength, and there are plenty of things you may experience in your day-to-day life that hint that you’re healthy and strong—even if you never step foot in a gym. (Find out how working on your physical strength can make you mentally strong, too.)
Let’s take a look at four signs you may be overlooking that could indicate that you’re stronger than you think you are.
You’ve got a solid grip
Are you able to pop open a pickle jar without a second thought? Or are people constantly commenting on your firm handshake? If so, you likely fall under the “physically strong” umbrella. “Grip strength is one of the biggest indicators of total body strength,” says Simon Byrne, nutrition coach, fitness instructor, and owner of fitness resource Bodies by Byrne. As you age, lowered handgrip strength is associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, including muscle deterioration, higher risk of chronic conditions and/or disabilities, and decreased cardiovascular health.
So, if you currently don’t have any issues with your handgrip strength—and have a solid, strong grip—take it as a sign that you’re likely stronger (and healthier!) than you think you are.
“If you never [or rarely] struggle to open a jar, shaker bottle, or anything that requires a tight grip, then there’s a very good chance that you have a solid base level of strength,” says Byrne.
You recover quickly
As anyone who has woken up the day after a workout feeling sore and depleted, your body needs time between workouts to repair itself. But how much time it needs to repair can be a key indicator of physical strength.
Generally, the more you workout, the stronger you become, and the faster you’re able to recover between workouts. “If you are able to recover faster from your workout…then this means that you have stronger muscles,” says Reda Elmardi, certified strength and conditioning specialist, registered dietician, and owner of fitness website The Gym Goat.
Not sure if you’re ready to tackle another workout—or if you need another day to recover? Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score uses a variety of data points, including activity levels, sleep patterns, and heart rate variability, to determine whether your body is ready for a high-intensity workout—or if it would benefit more from prioritizing rest and recovery.
So, if you find that your body needs less and less downtime between workouts, consider it a clear sign that your body is getting stronger.
You can touch your toes
If you can touch your toes without much of a problem, that flexibility could be a sign of strength. “Most people think of strength as how much weight a person can lift, but another indication of muscle strength is flexibility,” says Byrne.
Now, to be clear, there isn’t a direct correlation between flexibility and strength (or, in other words, being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean you’re strong). It’s more that being flexible gives you a good baseline or foundation for also building strength.
“While being more flexible doesn’t necessarily make you stronger, not being flexible definitely leads to an individual being weaker,” says Byrne. “You can’t exercise through a full range of motion and you are also more injury prone with tight muscles.”
And while not all flexibility comes from yoga, people that do practice yoga for flexibility also often end up gaining strength—thanks to holding different poses and positions for various lengths of time, which helps to build muscle.
So, if you’re a flexible person—and can touch your toes without too much of a challenge—it could be a sign that you’re physically stronger than you think.
You have the energy to power through your day
There are a lot of things to get done every day, both big and small. For example, let’s say you work from home. On any given day, you might have to walk up and down the stairs multiple times, play with your kids during your lunch hour, spend a good chunk of the day working at your standing desk, and then run around your kitchen cooking dinner for yourself and your family.
And if you find that you can successfully navigate those things—and make it to the end of the day without feeling like you got hit by a truck? Consider yourself strong.
There’s a connection between physical strength and endurance. When you’re strong, you have the endurance (or stamina) to get through the day. So if you can get through all of the walking, lifting, standing, talking, and other physical activity we all have to navigate each day, and can do it without feeling exhausted or winded? It’s a sign of endurance and stamina—which, in turn, is a sign of physical strength.
Bottom line? If you have the energy to power through most of your days without feeling exhausted, chances are you’re stronger than you’re giving yourself credit for.
Want to get stronger? Try these tips
If all the aforementioned signs ring true for you, as mentioned, you’re likely stronger than you think. But, if after reading them, you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm…maybe I’m actually less strong than I thought,” not to worry! There are plenty of steps you can take to improve your strength, including:
Work fitness into your daily routine. If you want to get stronger, you need to work at it—and that means working fitness into your daily routine. Schedule regular workouts and also look for small, simple ways to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance outside of the gym (for example, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking five-minute stretch breaks at multiple points throughout the day).
Prioritize sleep. It’s hard to take steps to get stronger if you’re exhausted all of the time. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of high-quality sleep per night.
Eat more protein. What you eat can also play a major role in building strength—and that includes eating plenty of protein. “Protein is the building block of muscle mass; if your body doesn’t have enough protein, then it can’t build muscles,” says Elmardi. In order to up your protein intake, make it a priority to incorporate more protein-rich foods into your diet—like meat, fish, eggs, and nuts.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
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