Being strong can solve a lot of problems.
Here are five super tips for getting strong and lean fast:
1: Training for strength builds the fast-twitch, powerful muscles that matter for everything from athletics to coordination to body composition.
Compared to increasing strength of the fast Type II muscle fibers, there is no benefit to having a high percentage of slow-twitch Type I fibers. Everyday folks don’t need ’em, power athletes certainly won’t benefit from slow-twitch fibers, and even endurance athletes don’t benefit from greater Type I fiber makeup.
How To Do It: Train for strength by lifting above the 85 percent of the 1RM threshold and doing sets of 5 reps or less. You will hit the powerful Type II fibers with near maximal loads as well as all the lesser Type I fibers in a cascade fashion due to the size principle of muscle fiber recruitment.
2: The more strength you have, the greater potential you have from subsequent training.
Studies show that “strong” men who can squat at least 2 time their bodyweight experience much greater improvements in speed and power development than “weak” men who are not as strong at baseline.
Stronger trainees are able to increase jump height and sprint speed from training substantially more than weaker ones because a higher strength threshold allows for a better functioning central nervous system.
How To Do It: Don’t cut corners. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or average Joe wanting to be lean and cut, commit to developing a high degree of maximal strength before getting fancy.
Even though maximal strength is a “slow” training method, it will allow you to better tolerate high forces at high velocities when you do perform power training.
3: Focus on central nervous system stimulation and recovery. Heavy lifting taxes the central nervous system (CNS) and pounds the connective tissue. You’ll get more out of yourself by priming the CNS with a long warm-up (6-8 warm-up sets).
The immediate post-workout period is a key recovery time for your nervous system that can be maximized with nutrition and stress-reducing therapy to clear stress hormones.
The benefit of accelerated recovery is that you can train a higher frequency: Among pro Norwegian powerlifters, the strongest lifters typically train squat, bench press and deadlift 5 to 6 times a week, with regular twice-a-day training.
How To Do It: Real-world recovery often includes doing some moderate to high stress activity that doesn’t allow your nervous system to recuperate optimally. Make recovery a priority: Eat the highest quality diet possible, get adequate sleep, and use mind-body techniques like meditation to reduce stress hormones.
4: Train the assistance lifts for strength rather than endurance. A common mistake that keeps people from seeing the strength gains they’d expect is to always train the assistance lifts with light loads and high reps.
How To Do It: Train your structural balance exercises for strength just as you do with primary compound exercises.
5: Being strong is about continuing to make things harder, not easier, when training. This doesn’t mean you should dread your workouts.
Avoid mental stagnation by alternating volume and intensity with frequent but gradual increases in load.
How To Do It: Advanced techniques for forcing the body to get stronger include a long eccentric tempo. For example, do a 5-second eccentric squat followed by a 1-second concentric phase. Drop sets and forced reps are other techniques that can overload the body for continued adaptations.
Aagaard, P., Andersen J., et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Capacity and Muscle Fiber Composition in Young Top-Level Cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Andersen, J., and Aagaard, P. Effects of Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Types and Size: Consequences for Athletes Training for High-Intensity Sport. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports 2010. 20(Suppl 2), 32-38.
Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal Squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Ebben, W., et al. Magnitude and Rate of Mechanical Loading of a Variety of Exercise Modes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(1), 213-217.
Newton, Robert, et al. Combined Strength and Power Training For Optimal Performance Gains: A Biomechanical Approach. 2012. International Conference on Strength Training. Oslo: Norway.