Strength is the ability to generate and resist force. As our society becomes more sedentary, the need for strength may seem unnecessary. However, just because you rarely have to lift heavy objects does not mean that strength training has no benefit to you. Increasing muscle mass and strength can protect you from injury, improve performance, and allow you to move confidently through your daily environment. As a matter of fact, possessing a greater strength reserve (the difference in absolute strength and the strength required to complete a skill) raises your ability to perform tasks effectively (Bompa and Carrera 22).

Here are some tips for effectively improving your strength:

  1. Train the movement, not the muscle. Instead of a “back and biceps” day, focus on training movement. The fundamental movements to strengthen are the Squat, Hinge, Push (horizontal and vertical), Pull (horizontal and vertical), and Carry. If you train the movement, the appropriate muscles will develop and grow accordingly.
  2. Incorporate Double Progression. Building strength takes time, and it can be easy to hit a plateau. Instead of focusing solely on how much weight you lift for an exercise, give yourself a repetition range goal. If you can squat 100 lbs 5 times, don’t move up in weight until you can squat 100 lbs 7 times. This gives you multiple goals to strive for, and multiple ways to identify progress.

  3. Recover. Your muscles are broken down in the gym. They are rebuilt outside the gym. Giving your muscles time to recover from workout sessions can be the key to sustainably gaining strength. Begin by strength training 2-3 times per week, and give yourself 24-48 hours between lifting sessions to allow your muscles to rebuild. Make sure your nutrition is adequate to fuel muscle growth, and aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.

  4. Quality, not Quantity. Performing 5 reps at 100 lbs with full range of motion, full body tension, and control during the eccentric phase will achieve much better results than 10 spastic, fast, and bouncy reps at 150 lbs. Hold yourself to a high standard of form. If your form broke down, you rushed through the rep, or you did not feel confident, don’t count the rep! This will keep you from overreaching, plateauing, and risking injury.

Reference

  1. Bompa, Tudor, and Carrera, Michael. Periodization Training for Sports. Human Kinetics, 2005.

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