How to Increase Your Strength

There is a lot of things that go into becoming stronger. Just know that it will not happen over night and you will have to work really hard to increase your strength. Some of the things to consider when going about the journey of getting stronger are your workout routine and your diet.

Dieting to Get Stronger

A Lot of Protein is necessary for strength gains

To gain strength it is essential to have the proper nutrition. When you want to gain strength or even muscle for that matter you need to have a good amount of protein in your diet. This is because protein gives you the necessary amino acid needed to repair muscle. The amount of protein should be around .5-1.5 grams/pounds of body weight. Also it is necessary that you have a certain amount of Carbs and Fats in your diet. This is because to properly facilitate protein synthesis(repairing of muscle tissue) you need Carbs and Fats. If you are trying to cut weight for some strength competition it is necessary that you increase your protein per body weight intake as well. Some foods that are high in Protein and or Amino acids are Red Meats, Chicken, Fish, Nuts, Dairy and grains.

Quick Burning Carbs Immediately After a Workout

This is commonly overlooked when it comes to gaining strength. That is because there is a lot of news surrounding “healthy carbs”/slow burning carbs. Some examples being Brown rice, sweat potatoes, beans, legumes and whole grains. But when you are doing anaerobic exercise your glycogen levels get depleted. This is because your body converts glycogen to glucose for energy. Without a certain level of glycogen however protein synthesis will be inhibited. To prevent this time period in which protein synthesis is stunned I recommend eating fast burning carbs. For example try drinking a glass of chocolate milk or a hand full of gummy bears right after a workout. However I am not telling you to go overboard after a workout just one serving size of fast burning carbs will do the job.

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Creatine and it’s Effect on Strength.

For those who are serious about strength I recommend taking Creatine. First when taking Creatine it is important that you cycle the periods in which you take it. It’s important to note that there is some health risks associated with the long term use of Creatine . Though Creatine can be a great tool for building strength. Creatine helps your body create more ATP. ATP is what your body uses for energy. To tie this into the previous section on fast burning carbs ATP can be created through the breaking down of Gluclose. This is called Glycolisis(ATP can also be created through respiration but that isn’t relevant to the topic). When taking Creatine make sure to drink more water. This is because Creatine can draw water from your blood plasma to your muscles. But don’t let this dissuade you Creatine will most likely increase your strength by 10 to 20 percent.

Carb Loading Before a Workout

Carb Loading is the act of eating an access amount of carbs before a long workout. You should be Carb Loading during your longer workouts. The reason being is that if your workout goes past 90 minutes you may not have enough energy to perform your best towards the end of your workout. But like I previously said I would only implement this method for your higher volume longer workouts. There has been no evidence supporting inrceases in performance when Carb Loading for workouts that last less than 90 minutes. A good time to begin Carb Loading before your longer workouts is about 1 to 2 hours before the workout. Some foods that are good for Carb Loading include pasta, corn, potatoes, beans, and fruits.

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Pre-Workout

Pre-Workout is a great way to increase the amount of weights you can lift on the exercises you wish to improve. When incorporating pre-workout into your strength program it is important to note that it should not be taken every single day. If you take pre-workout everyday your results from it will become less and less. Instead you should schedule your pre-workout supplement for times when you are going to making personal records. This way the caffeine boost and effects you get from most pre-workouts won’t be dampened by over consumption. Another form of pre-workout that not many people will tell you about because there isn’t much monetary gain in it is coffee. Coffee may not work as good as some of the pre-workouts out there but if you don’t want to spend the money on purchaseing preworkouts coffee is definitely a descent alternative. Coffee not only gives you a caffine boost it also opens up your blood vessels. This will make you more loose and in addition to allowing you to lift heavier weight may help prevent injury.

Programming for Maximum Strength Gains.

Strength Periodization

When going about your journey of becoming strong you will eventually hit plateaue. To bust through these plateaus it is important you know what Periodazation programming is. There are 2 types of periodization methods that I will describe in greater deteil bellow. Periodization programming is programming your workouts so that there is variation among them for either one workout or for a certain number of weeks. Periodizeing for increasing strength might look like this.

Week 1 – 2 Workouts based around hypertrophy and building muscle.
Week 3 – 7   Workouts based around building strength and Muscle. Exercises become more geared to the specific exercises you want to get stronger in.
Week 8 – 9 Lifting heavy weights for low reps to specifically increase strength. Doing only the exercises you wish to get stronger in.
Week 10 Test your strength in whatever exercises you specialized for.

. The periodized schedule created above is just so you get the concept. Most periodized programs will include the reps and exercises you should be performing. What weight you should be using or your RPE (rate of perceived exertions). Unlike doing the same workout over and over periodized programming will make sure that your body doesn’t get used to the same stimulus. Thus making you get stronger. Besides creating a workout program some other ways to periodize include increasing the weight on an exercise, increasing/decreasing the time between sets, doing more or less reps, increasing or decreasing the amount of sets you perform and doing different exercises. I cover the basics of how many reps and sets you should do per exercise for strength on my
Frequently Asked Questions Page . I recommend you check it out

Linear Periodization

Linear periodization is making a strength program in which your variables of training increase or decrease without inflection. What this will generally look like is your program will have a phase in which you do higher volume more reps and sets at a lighter weight at the beginning weeks of your workout program(usually called a hypertrophy phase). In the next weeks the overall volume decreases as you increase the intensity(commonly known as strength phase). You keep doing this until you reach a competition phase which is usually the shortest. In this phase you are doing close to your one rep maxes and the lowest volume of all of the phases. Then you perform your one rep max at home, at the gym or in competition. Also in linear strength periodization programs your lifts will get more and more specialized. So you may start your program doing less of your main lift and more accessories lifts but end the program doing only your main lift. When you are just starting out or an intermediate lifter I would recommend trying out linear programs.

Non-linear Periodization

In Non-linear Periodization there is inflection within your varibles of training. This means you may go through a exercise block in your program in which you are lifting at a low volume and high intensity. Then you go into a power block of your program at which you do low intensity and low volume but you lift the weight at greater speeds with shorter rest inbetween sets. This might be followed up by a hypertrophy block where the volume and intensity are raised in comparison to the power block. Like linear periodization when going into different blocks or phases of a workout program some of the exercises performed will change. Usually during Non-linear periodization however I find the workout phases tend to last a shorter amount of time. Most upper level and advanced strength athletes use some sort of non linear periodization program.

Incorporate Exercises That Highly Correlate

When following or creating a strength program it is important to mix in exercises that highly correlate to the lifts you want to get stronger in. The reason for doing this is that you will more efficiently increase your strength.This is because when you do an exercise over and over your body’s response to the exercise will get less. Also you will be exhausting the same neuro-muscular connections. But when you do an exercise that is really close to the exercise in which you wish to increase your strength you will be using some new neuro-muscular connections. This gives your nervous system a little bit of a break from the same exercise. While still giving you a boost in strength because you are getting stronger in an exercise that is very similar to your main exercise.

Hypothetical Example on Why This Works

A hypothetical example to illustrate my point is let’s say you want to increase your squat. So instead of just doing your regular squats every workout in which you try to progress the lift you switch things up every once and a while. Some exercises with a high correlation to the back squat that would be good replacements include front squats, low bar/high bar squats, yoke bar/safety squat bar squats and back squats with a wider stance than normal. If you’re a numbers guy this will drive the point home to you a little better. So the alternative exercise you decide to go with is front squats. Let us also say for example sake that front squats positively correlate to your regular squat with a coefficient of .80. In addition we make the assumption that your squat has been going up only 10 pounds every 2 months. But by switching to a front squat you can increase your front squat strength by 20 pounds in 2 months. Well “20 *.80= 16” in this example you can increase your regular squat 6 more pounds by doing a front squat rather than a back squat. This is only a hypothetical example the numbers and how long you implement the alternative exercise may vary. But the main point is that the correlation coefficient of the alternative exercise multiplied by the amount of strength gained in the alternative exercise should exceed the amount of strength you would gain from just doing your main exercise.

Westside Barbell Book of Methods

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Not Doing Reps to Failure

There is often controversy over whether or not you should go to failure. Through some research and experience I find that it is best to not go to failure when doing any exercise. Though you may only see minute strength increases from not going to failure and going to failure. I find that not going to failure helps you complete whatever program you set for yourself. It also allows you to recover faster since your nervous system is less taxed. That means you’ll be able to do more workouts. Another benefit of not going to complete rep exaustion is you are less likely to get injured. Here’s a quality article that shows the results of testing groups on reps to failure if you want to know more. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-015-0451-3

Lifting Heavier Weights With Less Reps

It has been shown that lifting heavier weights for less reps will increase strength better than doing less weight and more reps. In a study on the effects of workout intensity on lean muscle mass and strength it was shown that those who lifted heavier weights saw a greater increase their Bench Press strength. Their Bench max increased by about 7.9 percent greater than those who used a lower intensity. Though this may not be sustainable for too long make sure that there is a good portion of your workout program in which you lift heavier weights.Here is a link to the article as well.

Overreaching to Gain Strength

Many people do not implement this concept of overreaching. Overreaching is going through a period in your workout program where the overall workload(sets*reps*weight) is to much for current body to handle. This will lead to a temporary loss in Strength. But the keyword is temporary. Then immediately following this period you have a back down period in which you let your body recover. This in turn will lead your body to adapt and when you go to increase your workload higher you will be stronger. To Many people will get discouraged when implementing this because they feel like if they get weaker at any period of time that they are over-training. However that is not true. If implemented and timed correctly you will gain strength faster using the overreaching method as opposed to not.

Greasing The Grove Workouts

One other workout technique to getting stronger is called greasing the grove. A greasing the grove workout consist of doing reps or weight on an exercise well bellow your maximum capability periodically. A good example would be say I want to become stronger in the bench press and scheduled a greasing the grove workout into my strength program. Let us also say that my max bench is like 300 pounds. For the workout I would do around 150 pounds for about 10 reps. Then I would do another 10 reps an hour or so later. I would keep doing 10 reps every hour for about 10 hours. The goal of a greasing the grove workout is to improve how efficient your nuero-muscular system is at doing an exercise. Since the reps are with such relatively light weight and are so spaced out you will not get fatigued. I know what your thinking “how can I do this workout when I work 8 hours a day”. If you plan on putting this workout into your strength program I would recommend scheduling it in on your one of or your only day off of work.

Dynamic Warm Ups

Doing some kind of dynamic warm up will increase your body temperature and blood flow. This in turn will make you stronger at the begging of your workout. That way your total number of reps you can do at a given weight will be greater than if you didn’t do an active warm up. So your total workload will be higher. Which will lead you to getting stronger. In addition dynamic warm ups help prevent injures. This is because your joints will be more loose after warming up.

Recovery for Strength Gains

Frequency of Training for Strength Workouts

When you train to increase your strength, exercise is usually more taxing on your body’s nervous system. Than if you where to lift lighter weights for more reps. This being said if you are doing a higher intensity portion of your workout program then it is essential to get more time to recover between workouts. Though as I mention in my Fitness Tips and Advice page the amount of recovery you will need will depend on your overall workload as well.

Lowering Your Overall Stress Levels

Lifting heavier weights per pound of muscle mass depends a lot on your nervous system. That is because to lift heavier weights with the same amount of muscle mass you will need more muscle activation. When you go to lift a weight your brain sends a neurological signals to your muscle making it contract. But when you are under a lot of mental stress you hinder your body’s nervous system. So when you are stressed out, outside of working out your body neurological response to lifting weight will be dampened. Meaning you wont get as many muscle fibers to contract. Since less muscle fibers are contracting you won’t be able to lift weights with your maximum potential. Thus making you weaker than you could be if you were to lower your stress levels. One of the best ways I could recommend lowering stress levels is Mindfulness Meditation.

Tips for Increaseing Strength While Doing a Exercise

1. Squeeze Bar Very Hard

Squeezing the bar really hard when doing exercises will lead to more muscle fibers being activated in your static chain. Which will in turn lead to you being able to lift heavier weights.

2. Be Explosive While Keeping Good Form

When you are explosive you use more fast twitch muscle fibers. These are the muscle fibers that allow you to lift heavy weight. It is also important to keep good form while lifting the weight fast so that you are being as efficient as possible. The better you are at lifting the weight from a to b or getting leverage the stronger you’ll be. This is why lifting fast during the concentric portion of exercises in combination with using good form will increase the amount of weight you are able to lift.

3. Getting Tight

This goes along with the part about squeezing the bar harder the more tight you can get your body while doing an exercise the better. When you get tight it will allow you to use even more muscle to lift more weight.

4. Follow all of these tips on every rep

When implementing all of these strength tips make sure you are not only doing them on your heavy lifts. You want to also use the tips given previously when doing your warm up sets to prime your body for lifting heavier weight.

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