Whether your goal is to run faster, weigh less, or hit harder, strength is the key. You see strength doesn’t just involve muscle size and capacity.
The stronger you get, the more your overall athleticism improves, which transforms the way your body functions while active or at rest. If you want to reach your fitness goals, then strength training is the way to go. Follow these ten tips to start feeling stronger and fitter than ever before.
1. Practice the Classics
The shoulder press, deadlift, squat, and bench press are notorious as the most classic strength-building techniques. Incorporate these classic exercises in all of your strength workouts to get the biggest benefits.
The row and chinup are also beneficial moves, but they need not be the focus of your program. Rather, these two should be assistance lifts that serve as a complement to the bench and shoulder press. Incorporating both will help you train your pressing and pulling muscles in balance.
2. Use the Right Equipment
Too many people get caught up in the newest fad equipment when the basics offer the greatest payoff. When it comes down to it, the barbell is most important, followed closely by the dumbbell.
Everything else is just extra. It may offer some benefits, but it’s not absolutely essential. For the most effective workout, begin with barbell exercises, including the four classics mentioned before.
Barbells allow you to lift the greatest amount of weight, and lifting heavy is the most essential step for increasing your strength. After you’ve completed your heaviest strength training exercises, you can proceed to dumbbell and bodyweight exercises.
3. Focus on Control
Instead of complicating your program with specific rep speeds or complicated rhythms, just keep it simple and focus on control. Don’t worry about counting anything besides the reps in your set.
Focus on lifting and lowering your weights with control, holding for a count of one at the top of the set. Worrying about a complicated rhythm can cause you to reduce tension on your muscles or lift varying weight. The only way to make sure you increase your strength is to consistently lift heavier loads.
4. Track Everything
Keeping track of lifts and reps will help you set goals for progress. Make sure you write down all of your exercises, reps, and sets. Then work to constantly increase those numbers.
5. Keep It Short
You don’t need to work out for hours on end to see progress. In fact, keeping your workouts short will actually help you take advantage of hormonal surges to get the most build from your work.
Keep it to around three or four lifts per workout. If you try to do many more than that, you’ll end up giving half-effort somewhere and lose the benefit of your workout. Focus on incorporating one main lift (one of the big four classics) and one or two assistance lifts.
Following those exercises, you can incorporate core or specialty work focused on your goals. Anything beyond that will only reduce your results.
6. Count to Five
For the most benefit, you should cycle through different rep ranges. Sets of five seem to be the “magic number,” though, offering the best combination for building muscle and gaining strength.
Particularly if you are working through one of the big four moves, you’ll often find that your form begins to suffer much beyond five anyway.
7. Gradually Add Weight
People often hit a plateau and stop gaining when they have been going too heavy for too long. Leave your ego behind and follow this strategy instead.
Do your heaviest lifts with 10 percent less weight than the heaviest you can lift for the given rep and workout. Then with each session, increase your weight gradually.
Do not add more than 10 pounds with each workout, though, and stick with the same lifts.
8. Don’t Forget Cardio
If you want to be lean and healthy, cardio is a must; however, you need to do it right. Long-distance running or cycling actually causes too great of a breakdown of muscle tissue.
Instead focus on doing cardio in short, quick bursts to get stronger and leaner. Running hills is one of the best strategies. Select a moderately steep hill and sprint up it.
Then walk balk down. Once you feel ready, go again. Your first go round, only do half as many sprints as you think you can, and then add two sprints with each workout.
9. Keep Things Balanced
You don’t want to be lopsided, so it’s important to keep everything balanced. Anything that you do on one side, be sure to do it on the other.
You don’t have to do it in the exact same workout, but you should make it in the same week. And keep your exercises in a ratio of two-to-one between your pulling and pushing movements.
10. Watch Your Form
While you probably know how to do the big four, there are probably a few tweaks you can make to get more out of each one of them. In your squat make sure to push your hips all the way back and squat low.
Keep your stance narrow in your deadlift, and keep your back straight. For your bench press, make sure you pull your body off the bench as you move forward and arch your lower back as your butt comes back down.
In your shoulder press, flare your lats to be able to use the greatest amount of weight.
These strategies will not only allow you to lift heavier, they’ll also help you build the most strength. Whatever you do, don’t over complicate it, and stick to the basics.