What Greater Purpose Will Your Strength Serve?

At StrongFirst, we like to say, “Strength has a greater purpose.” It’s in the finding of that purpose that we discover parts of ourselves we have either turned away from or never seen at all.

Striving to obtain a StrongFirst Certification, like so many did this last weekend in Boston, is on its own a form of strength. Heck, with the troubles the city of Boston went through the week before the Certification, a heavy measure of determination and single-mindedness was required just to get there. Pushing aside the constant news bursts from a few towns over and focusing on the task at hand may have required as much strength mentally as it did physically. I am so proud of our new brothers and sisters in strength.

What purpose will your certification serve?

The Purpose of a StrongFirst Certification

I received an email from a seventy-one-year-old man today asking for information on attending a StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Certification. He wrote:

I have been training… for a little over two years. My progress has, in my opinion, been dramatic. I believe that in the not-too-distant future I will be capable of successfully completing a Level I Certification. However, certification has no real meaning for me in that I’m seventy-one years old and have no desire to teach. I do, as a matter of principle for me, wish to have a successful completion of the certification requirements. I have been watching the streaming videos and would like to be part of that experience.

The part, “certification has no meaning for me,” followed by “I do, as a matter of principle…wish to have a successful completion of the…requirements” hit me like a hammer. How many of us would gladly walk away from an event with the simple satisfaction of knowing that we did everything we needed to do? How many of us seek the experience first and the accolades second? Do we strive for the paper that says we did well or for the knowledge inside that we gave it our all? Do we hone our craft or do we collect certificates?

Don’t get me wrong, certifications open doors. They have a practical application for everything from obtaining insurance to maintaining employment, and my company is proud to present them to men and women who meet the very rigorous standards we established. Still, I have to wonder what components of those certifications last—the paper or the principle?

What Greater Purpose Will Your Strength Serve?

Standing in my son’s office, I see the awards he received serving as a Marine. I watch the boys and girls who flock to his dojo and I wonder if those awards have any impact on how they perceive their sensei, Mr. Toomey. I prefer to believe it’s the strength of his instruction, his strength as a protector that draws them near and, in many ways, gives them strength. It also doesn’t hurt he’s a pretty skilled fighter.

What greater purpose will your strength serve? As an example to young people or as a means of showing others that life continues at 71 and doesn’t end at 65?

Before making the announcements of new Master SFG Instructors, I reminded the group that we are not our resumes. Our lives’ purpose is not found in the having, but in the doing. Having the strength to do what others won’t even attempt is one of strength’s greater purposes.

What purpose will your certification serve?

A Training Program for Greater Purpose

A conversation about strength wouldn’t be complete without some practical application, so here’s a great program designed by an operator-member of the StrongFirst community. Each day, men and women whose names we will never know give everything they have for all of us. They don’t do it for fame or money or thanks. They do it because they are called to it.


  • Weighted pull-ups, 5 sets of 5
. Alternate the pull-ups with strict clean and military kettlebell presses using double 24kg kettlebells.
  • Rock-bottom front squats with a one-second pause, using double 32kg kettlebells. Do 5 sets of 5.
  • Snatch with a 32kg kettlebell. Do 5 sets, hard but not to failure. Alternate the snatches with strict hanging leg raises completing 5 sets


  • One-arm clean and jerks with a 32kg kettlebell for 10 minutes.
  • Heavy abdominal work.
  • 100 pull-ups. Alternate with front squats. Do sets of 10 front squats with 2x24kg kettlebells.
  • Snatches or swings with a 24kg kettlebell. Alternate sets of 10-20 kettlebell swings or snatches with 100-yard jogs (not sprints! the jog is for recovery) for as long as you can handle it.
  • Cough up a hairball!


  • Start over.

After three weeks of this program, it’s important to reduce the reps by 50% and back off for a week.

Mark Toomey

12 thoughts on “What Greater Purpose Will Your Strength Serve?

  • Mark, Your response to my email and this article have served as my motivation for now nearly a year. Five weeks from today the capstone on my journey begins. Thank you for the encouragement and support. Jim

      • mr toomey your teach american kenpo created by late ed parker that is a great and deadly art !

  • 2 of the 5 definitions of “strength” on dictionary.com

    “mental power, force, or vigor.”

    “moral power, firmness, or courage.”

    certification to me was more then something cool to put on a resume. It was a right of passage to a group I look up to

  • Excellent post Mark. The experience I gained at the Houston certification is far more valuable than a piece of paper dictating such. In whatever capacity, I am proud to be a part of this community.

  • This is the old ‘Force Recon’ workout, that Pavel wrote a few years back; great stuff.

  • Awful lot of pullup volume, my elbows and shoulders would never handle this. For me in chin-ups, only 2 working sets with at least 87% 1RM weights is enough for constant progress(a little more weight in EVERY training session, which is once every 3 days, no deloading before I need it).

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