It’s great to be fit, it’s great to pack on muscle size and it’s great to lose fat. But sometimes you just want to be strong enough to move a crap-tonne of weights. I’ve written this guide to show you exactly how to do that. No more guessing, no more trial and error, just a simple process and some guidelines to get you growing stronger right now.
So first things first, you should know that gaining strength isn’t the same thing as gaining size. You can get much stronger without necessarily gaining much muscle mass. So if there are any ladies reading, that means you can get kick-ass strong without getting bulky.
Basically you’re going to be training your nervous system to respond to heavier weights by activating a greater amount of your muscle fibres. The way to do this is simple, stick to heavy weights with low reps.
Typically you’ll want to be working at above 80% of your 1 rep max, performing less than 5 reps per set. You won’t feel any burn, and you’ll actually be resting anywhere from 2-5 minutes between each set.
The majority of your workout time should be dedicated to big, compound lifts that use multiple muscles. So exercises like:
- Bench Press
- Barbell Rows
- Shoulder Presses
Isolation exercises like curls, pushdowns and such are optional, and if you’re going to include them they should be kept to the end of the workout.
Creating a good strength programme is both an art and a science. You’ve got to strike a balance between training and recovery whilst ensuring well balanced muscular development. Ideally you’d get a coach to assess you and write one out specific to you. But if you’re just getting started with strength you might not want to invest money in it yet. If that’s the case then my best advice to you is to find a good quality, tried and tested programme and stick with it for at least 12 weeks.
If you’re a beginner or early intermediate some examples would be:
- Stronglifts 5×5
- Mark Rippletoe’s Starting Strength
Whereas if you’re more of an intermediate level lifter (which in my book means AT LEAST a 1.25xBodyweight Squat) You could try out:
- Westside Barbell
- Wendler’s 5/3/1
- Or even Jonnie Candito’s 6 week programme.
Lastly, for all you advanced lifters out there, i.e. those of you looking to compete in Powerlifting, Olympic lifting or Strongman. I’m afraid there’s no single programme I can recommend. By this stage in your career as a lifter you should be looking for what works best for you and listening to your body.
For your body to grow stronger it needs energy, aka calories. You’ll want to make sure that you’re eating 300-500 more calories per day than your maintenance level (the amount you naturally tend to eat to maintain your size and strength) you won’t necessarily be getting bigger, but your body will use all those calories to get stronger.
You’re going to want lots of protein, a good amount of carbs and plenty of fats.
You’re also going to want a wide variety of vegetables to keep your various vitamin and mineral levels in top shape.
Growing Stronger isn’t just about food. You’ll also need to make sure you’re recovering the most you can in between your workouts. That means:
- Sleeping at least 8 hours per night
- Trying to de-stress
- Drinking plenty of water
- Stretching and foam rolling
So, to Grow Stronger You’ll Need To:
- Stick to Heavy Weights, typically more than 80% of your 1RM
- Use Less than 5 reps per set
- Find a good coach or stick to a recommended programme
- Eat lots of good quality food
- Rest and recover as well as possible
I’ve had the privilege of training with some great strength coaches, and I’ve trained alongside some amazingly strong competitive Powerlifters, Olympic lifters and Strongmen/Strongwomen. And what they all have in common is that they stick like glue to those five points.
If you can do the same, I guarantee that you’ll get stronger, and if you don’t, I’ll train you myself, personally, for free! Now how’s that for a promise.
Good Luck Growing Stronger,
And if you’ve got any comments or questions then feel free to get in touch, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find loads more strength and conditioning information on my website, www.characterstrength.co.uk
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