Hello my dear readers,
Today’s article is all about training to increase your maximal strength (i.e., the strength of the connections amongst your motor neurons). This information comes from the personal training development center (ptdc.com). The reference is at the end of this article. Enjoy!
So, why should I do strength training?
Glad you asked. Plenty of people have their reasons for increasing strength. Perhaps you’re a new parent who, after letting himself go in his late twenties, wants to play with the kids and pick them up without breaking your back. Or take for example the old lady who wants to carry in the groceries without having to trouble anyone for help. Or you’re a young kid who wants to stand up for himself but is now too weak to keep up with the big kids. Are you a busy mom who is either single or whose husband works long hours and you have to take care of the kids all day? Good thing you have strong back and leg muscles to handle all the demands of the household and children! Maybe you’re driven athlete looking to perform at your best? Thank God you’ve got a strong body that allows you to kick, throw, and hit harder than the competition.
The list is endless. Plenty of people. Plenty of reasons.
So, now that you know some of the real-life benefits of strength training, here’s 10 ways to get stronger.
1. The intensity of load must be high.
This is strength training, after all. So the goal is to (safely) move as much weight as possible. You will lift with a slow tempo. You can’t move heavy weight really fast when training for strength.
2. Shoot for rest intervals between 3-5 minutes between sets.
This will allow for adequate recovery of the main energy pathway used in strength training. Also, without proper rest in between sets, you risk compromising proper form on the lifts due to the demands of the weight. Never forsake form for weight.
3. Resist the urge to add too much variety.
Measure your progress on only a few lifts and save the variety for assistance movements. Your primary focus should be on 5 lifts: squat, deadlift, military press, pull-up, and bench press.
4. More sets, less reps.
When using heavy weight, it is very challenging to perform more than 6 solid reps of an exercise. Therefore, you need to increase the training volume by increasing the total number of sets. A good place to start is 5 sets of 5 reps with 2 minutes rest between exercises. As you increase the weight and decrease the reps, then increase the rest period (e.g., 7 sets of 3 reps with 4 minutes between sets).
5. Allow proper rest between sets.
Strength training is very demanding on the central nervous system (CNS) which can take up to 5 times longer to recover than the skeletal-muscular system. My recommendation for rest periods is to gauge how you feel between sets. When you feel ready to handle the lift, go for it. Now is not the time to get distracted by that really hot chick at the squat rack. Instead, it’s the time to mentally prepare yourself to crush that weight. Focus. (But when you’re done with your sets, give her a smile).
6. Compound, multi-joint movements are your bread and butter.
As I mentioned earlier, exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press and pull-ups should be your main focus. These are much more valuable than doing single-joint moves like a biceps curl or calf raise in this phase. They demand more muscle activation and energy to complete. Thus, they build stronger muscles that burn serious fat. Added bonus: they allow your muscles to fire together with such synchronicity that even the Trans-Siberian Orchestra would be jealous. This also prevents injury (holla!).
7. Don’t be afraid to ‘steal’ from the best.
There are many strength programs out there. I’ve personally used the 5×5 method (via Elliot Hulse), and I’m currently playing around with Alwyn Cosgrove’s program (progressions of lowering the reps and increasing the sets, so 3×8, 5×5, 6×3, 6×1, and so on). Pretty gritty stuff to be sure.
8. This is a great opportunity to break out some of the best toys in the gym.
Bands, chains, boards and full speed devices can all be incorporated to great effect. They’re fun and can relieve you of the boredom of just using the barbell or dumbbell.
9. Don’t ignore core (especially obliques and lower back).
Being weak in those areas is often the limiting factor in the major lifts. I recommend adding core exercises after you perform the major lifts. These include laying leg raises, hanging leg raises, russian twists, and partial turkish get ups. Use whatever set/rep scheme you want.
10. If you were ever to use a lifting belt or knee wraps, do so during near-maximal or maximal attempts.
We’re talking about using a weight that you can only lift once without wrecking yourself. Personally, I’m a fan of using nothing but my own body. Who knows, maybe I could lift more if I used a belt. But I don’t care much for it because I’d rather teach myself how to activate my inner core muscles that act as my natural belt. Either way, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Ice cube was on to something with that one.
I hope you found this article helpful! Let me know if you have any other health and fitness questions. I’d love to answer them!
Like what you’re reading? Join the conversation!
Subscribe to the newsletter for more content! You can also add me on Facebook (Adrian Shier) and twitter (@Adrianshier). Say hi.