One of the most common things missing from most fitness programs is a focus on getting strong. Workout programs geared at aesthetics, fat loss, and endurance rarely promote the development of real strength.
This is a mistake: A high level of maximal strength is the most influential quality in performance. Not only that, being strong has a protective effect on the body: It strengthens connective tissue and bone, improves the brain—muscle connection, and increases how quickly you can improve your physique, either by losing fat or gaining muscle.
Most people think that all they need to do to get strong is go to the gym. They think that a defined muscle means they are strong. This is not the case. In order to be strong, you need to challenge your body with heavy weights.
When you overload your muscles with weights you’re unaccustomed to, your body will recruit more muscle fibers to perform the activity. Neurological circuits from the brain to the muscle are established and those fibers “come on line,” so that you are able to more easily tap into them in the future.
On the other hand, if you are just lifting light weights that your body is used to, you’ll never reach your physical potential. Lifting light weights means you never recruit the higher threshold muscle fibers, leaving a large part of your beautiful muscle dormant and untrained.
Hopefully, you’re on board with the idea that getting strong is a primary goal. To help you do that, here is a list of the best strength training tips you need to adopt today:
#1: Plan Your Workouts
Workouts should be designed in 3 to 4-week phases, alternating between strength and volume-focused training. For the first phase, lift moderately heavy weights in the 8- to 15-rep range. During this phase the focus is on increasing lean tissue. Next, go for intensification, in which your weights go up and your rep range goes down (2 to 8 reps). This phase allows you to stimulate new lean muscle tissue for strength.
#2: Favor Barbell Training Over Machines
A machine here or there may provide benefits, but barbell compound lifts are a staple for maximal strength development for athletes and everyday folks alike because they recruit more muscle and allow you to lift heavier loads.
#3: Do Eccentric Training
The eccentric phase of an exercise is the down motion when the muscle is lengthening. You are stronger eccentrically than you are concentrically, when the muscle is shortening. If you’re a novice, do eccentric-enhanced training by lengthening the time you spend on the down motion—try a 4-second lowering tempo. Advanced trainees can trigger rapid strength (and muscle) adaptations by using heavy eccentric loads to recruit muscle fibers not overloaded any other way.
#4: Ensure Structural Balance
In everyday life, we all have awkward movement patterns that lead to muscle imbalances and tight tissues. If these remain uncorrected, they will cause pain and dysfunction. Use unilateral training to make sure the right and left sides of the body are balanced.
#5: Separate Strength & Cardio Workouts
Steady state cardio is well known to impair strength adaptations. Therefore, it’s recommended that you always separate your strength and conditioning workouts, doing them on separate days. Additionally, interval training doesn’t have as much of a negative effect on strength as steady state cardio, making it your go-to form of conditioning.
#6: Use Recovery Nutrition
Certain nutrients will enhance the clearance of stress hormones such as cortisol, while promoting tissue repair. This can build strength of connective tissues and tendons, allowing you to handle greater loads down the road. Opt for a high-protein intake, and supplement with whey protein, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C in the post workout period.
#7: Use Drop Sets
Include drop sets in your protocol to produce a large quantity of motor unit fatigue. A style of drop sets that is especially effective is a high-intensity set followed immediately by the same exercise at a low-intensity with 50 percent of the 1RM. Such a protocol yields a greater hormone release and larger increase in muscle cross sectional area than a strength protocol alone.
#8: Try Advanced Training Methods: The 1-6 Method
If you reach a plateau in strength, try the 1-6 Method: Perform 1 rep at your 1RM, rest, and then perform 6 reps using as much weight as you can (6RM). Use a full recovery period lasting 3 to 5 minutes. A full explanation and training program is provided in this article.
#9: Try Forced Reps
Forced or assisted reps also enhance muscle mass by recruiting more motor units. It is suggested that you perform forced reps with a load that is heavier than normal for the given number of repetitions rather than doing extra reps: For example, for a program that includes 3 sets of 12 squats, identify the maximal load you can perform for 12 reps. Then increase that load and perform 12 reps, getting assistance when necessary. This has been shown to maximize hormone release and motor unit adaptation.
#10: Adopt A Mindset of Continuous Improvement
Being strong is about continuing to make things harder, not easier, when training.