Whether you’re an athlete, a strongman / powerlifting competitor, or just someone who wants to look and feel confident, it should be a goal of yours to get stronger.
For beginners, it’s a bit of a daunting task, but the gains come easy when you apply some basic strategies. For the intermediate athletes, we often get stuck on sticking points (don’t forget that they could easily be diet-related). And for advanced athletes, too often the basics discussed below are forgotten.
Five basic strength principles to remember
Let’s get started. And if you’re looking for specific training plans or supplement advice, that’s at the bottom.
Start with body weight
We have a saying that goes “Leave your pride at the door.”
Whether you’re a beginner, you’re getting back into it, or you’re an expert, there is nothing wrong with squatting just the bar. Nobody starts heavy – and even the strongest lifters need to get loosened up.
Before you can squat 500lbs, you need to squat 150lbs. Before you squat 150lbs, you need to squat your own bodyweight. It’s not complicated, so don’t put the cart before the horse because you have too much pride (or whatever the reason may be).
And if you’re not doing an exercise because you’re embarrassed, then you will never get stronger. And later on in your career, that exercise will haunt you to no end.
So even if you have to do it stupidly light at first… just do it.
Take care of your joints – always!
Meanwhile, if your joints are a mess, you’re not going to be able to lift heavy enough to get stronger either. Warming up with some slow cardio is always wise, followed by stretching. Very light lifts (as mentioned in the point above) are the next step before you’re ready to go heavy for strength.
Getting old? Get used to long workouts / setup…
But after a certain age or a certain strength level, joint issues will become a problem. When they come, the one thing you must realize is that there will no longer be such a thing as a “short workout”.
Reason being, you need to spend a lot of time pre-habbing and warming up. If you’re so hampered that you can no longer lift to the point of strength gains, it’s time to see a physical therapist or a certified ART therapist.
In the TV show Justified, Raylan Givens has a great quote when speaking to his father:
“You know what they say… gettin’ old ain’t for pussies.”
Train with stronger people and be coachable
For the intermediate and experienced guys, it’s often great to train alone or mentor someone new once in a while.
But for the days when you need to put a serious dent into your PRs, you need to work out with someone who pulls you up and makes you better. Someone who you trust to spot you and give you pointers to get that next plate up. Someone who motivates the hell out of you because you’re sick of being weaker than them.
You don’t need to train with them every day — they also like to train up — but if you can find a mentor who will tell you like it is, you’ll find yourself adding plates you never thought possible.
Shut up and Listen!
You also need to stop talking and listen to the experts. Just because they’re stronger than you doesn’t mean they’re always right or can always tell you how to get stronger yourself, but the proof is in the pudding, so don’t be afraid to videotape things and see where you’re both going wrong.
Address Your Weaknesses
In the business world, there’s a saying, “Focus on your strengths”.
This means that if you’re a great computer programmer but a bad public speaker, you should say “screw public speaking” and just be a rock star programmer. In the working world, well-balanced is only average.
But in the strength and conditioning world, that idea is WRONG.
Reason being, weaknesses in one area will devastate you in others. If you have weak shoulders, your bench and your push-strength is going to suffer. If your forearms are weak, your deadlift is going to stall out. Maybe your core or your flexibility is really the problem in your squat — not your actual legs.
When you start finding a sticking point, determine what’s really the problem and fix the weak links.
You might need to hang out on a plateau for a while and get that shoulder fixed up, but when it’s ready to go strong, you won’t believe the next level up your bench can make.
So start looking outside of the rack the next time you’re stuck.
Do the big lifts and their variations
Without a doubt, you should be hammering at the big compound lifts in order to get strong.
But stop doing the same things over and over. Sure, you’re squatting, but are you every doing front squats? Why not?
You’ve got deadlifts, but are you doing sumo deadlifts? When was the last time you did a close-grip bench press?
The variations will help you target microfibers that you aren’t always hitting, yet could be secretly holding you back. They’ll also keep things interesting as you become more experienced.
Gaining strength often comes in waves. There’s beginner gains, then plateaus that require more research and nutritional help, and after a certain level, it requires a lifetime of work to maintain it.
This post was brought to you by plateau-shattering Nitramine
The next time you’re on a plateau, take a look at your diet and supplements. You can grab a free sample of the Myokem Nitramine pre workout supplement here on this page, or see the best deals online below.
As a bonus, Nitramine has a hefty dosage of betaine, which has been linked to strength gains in trained athletes.
But if you’re not willing to put in the time, research, and hard work, the strength gains will remain elusive.
Looking for a strength-training program?
Obviously, this post wasn’t about specific programs. If you want some specific plans, here are a few:
The go-to starter, and one of the best and most useful strength and fitness books ever made. This book by Mark Rippetoe and Jason Kelly is an essential on the bookshelf.
5 sets of 5 reps. With this program, get ready to get strong.
The page has everything you need to know about the program, but we still recommend getting the Starting Strength book just incase.
As opposed to 5×5, Jim Wendler advocates gaining strength by going heavy – 5 reps, 3 reps, and 1 rep. The new second edition clears up any and all questions about what lifts and weights to use, so it’s all there for you now.