5 TRAINING TIPS TO BUILD TRUE STRENGTH
Time to read 3 min
Time to read 3 min
You're done wanting to get "bigger" or "leaner", now you want to get STRONG.
Well, if you want to get stronger than a 6am long black from 7/11, you're going to be in for a bit of an change of scenery when it comes to your approach to hitting the gym.
If you've been training specifically for muscle hypertrophy, focusing on high repetition isolation movements, or have been working towards a particular weight/body fat composition goal to slim down and lean out, training prodomenently in circuits and intervals, you're going to be working with some less than familiar approaches and some new training styles.
However, strength training is also fantastic for fat loss AND muscle hypertrophy, so while your primary goal may have shifted, don't expect to be seeing a new reflection looking back in the mirror by tomorrow morning.
No idea where to start? Here's some ideas to get you going:
While super-setting back to back isolation bicep exercises may be your signature Saturday night pre-pre-drinks ritual, it may produce some sweet results at the club, but it ain't doing jack for your strength.
While all exercises, approaches and volumes of reps have their place, if you're looking to primarily increase your strength, you need to shift your training goal away from chasing the biggest "pump" possible, and move towards how much volume of weight you can move. And are you going to get a pump on in the process? Damn straight you are!
Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press. The holy grail of strength exercises
These bad boys form the foundation of most strength routines, and for good reason. Forget only doing squats and deadlifts on your once-in-a-blue-moon leg day, these primal movements are now at the core of your training routine.
Aside from allowing you to shift some serious weight, these exercises truly define the term "compound movements", as while they may focus on your legs, back and chest, they also fire a whole suite of supporting muscles in the process, making them effective, efficient and crucial for increasing your strength.
With that said, that doesn't mean that these three exercises are the be-all and end-all of your training. Push presses, bent over rows, pull ups and leg press are other noteworthy additions to any strength routine, and it's important to perform regular accessory work to bring up any lagging body parts too!
You've just finished your first full body strength session, you feel like you could take on Wolverine, and you're already planning to double the weight and go for gold next session? Welcome to the fast-track to injury city.
Rather than trying to match your workout buddy or throw on an extra plate to impress your gym crush, focus on a sustainable approach to gradually increasing training volume over time. This means that over 5 sets, you might perform an extra couple of reps than the previous session, or you might throw an extra 1.25kg plate (yes, the baby weights have their place too) on each side and try to match your previous number of reps.
It might sound like a small increment, but with consistency comes sustainability, meaning you'll be able to continue at this pace without injury, and those little increments add up quicker than you think!
You might have the biggest bench press in the gym, or be able to pull more off the ground than anyone you know, but does that truely make you the "strongest"?
Just because you can lift more weight in these specific movements doesn't necessarily translate into real world applications, so this is where you can begin to incorporate functional and bodyweight movements to paint a fuller picture.
Lunges, Farmer Carries, Pull Ups, Dips, Box Jumps, Tire Flips and many, many more functional movements offer added challenges to test your strength in different contexts, which will soon bring to attention any weaker muscle groups that might be holding you back. Mobility and flexibility are key too, and you'll quickly find if you limit your approach to training, you'll be limiting your movement too. Invest some time and effort in these exercises and don't be surprised when your core lifts improve as a result!
Protein, carbs and fats are important, but don't focus so strongly on macros that you forget about your micros! Intense and regular training can be incredibly taxing on the body, and if you're deficient in key vitamins or minerals, don't be surprised if your results start stalling.
A high quality multi-vitamin is a vital component of any athlete's nutrition, and don't neglect your EFA (essential fatty acids), magnesium, iron or greens either. You can't be strong without being healthy, so if your recovery is lagging and your training is taking it's toll, evaluate your diet and rule out any deficiencies, you'll thank yourself later!