Strength training to get stronger - 4 tips from the pros
When we work out in the gym, we do so with different goals and targets in mind.
Some of us want to burn fat, some of us want to get fitter and healthier, whilst others want to bulk up and build muscle.
Nowadays, however, more and more people are training for functional purposes rather than simply for aesthetic purposes. In basic terms, this means that people are working out so that their bodies can become more functional in day to day life, rather than so they can simply look good.
Strength training such as Powerlifting or Strongman training, for example, is now more popular than ever, with more and more people choosing to hit the weights so that they become fitter and stronger.
Whereas before, the main reason why people chose to lift weights was so that they could look better, these days they're doing so to become bigger, fitter, and stronger in the process.
Increasing your strength can benefit you in so many ways, yet it's certainly not just a case of curling a set of dumbbells and benching a heavy barbell a couple of times a week.
To truly improve your overall strength levels, you need to know what you're doing, you need to be consistent, and you need to be willing to put in the hard work.
If you're serious about getting stronger, here are 4 strength training tips from the pros that will have you lifting heavier weights in no time at all.
Eat! - If you compare the physique of a competitive bodybuilder with that of a powerlifter, you'll notice right away that there are some very stark contrasts between the two body types.
The bodybuilder obviously trains to look his absolute best, because that's what his sport is all about. During the contest season he will be lean, vascular, muscular, toned, and extremely defined with very low body fat percentages.
The powerlifter on the other hand, will generally be muscular, but carrying a lot of mass and size, generally with a much higher body fat percentage.
To help you get your best numbers during your lifts, you need to eat, and eat well! If you're serious about improving your strength, you will need to be consuming a lot of calories, well above normal maintenance levels, so if the thought of losing your six pack fills you with feelings of dread and despair, perhaps you should stick to bodybuilding instead.
Don't use this as an excuse to eat junk, however, as your diet should still be made up of plenty of quality proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats along with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
As your training is so intense and physically taxing however, you will need to be consuming far more calories than average, but don't worry, you can still maintain a great physique if you watch your diet, track your macros, and include cardio sessions regularly as well.
Reverse pyramiding - When it comes to strength training, one of the most effective things you can do is a technique known as reverse pyramiding, in which you will perform the heaviest lifts per exercise, at the start of each exercise rather than at the end.
When most people train heavy, they'll begin with a lighter set, go heavier, go heavier again, and then usually end up with an even heavier set.
The idea behind reverse pyramiding, however, is to begin with the heaviest set first, when your energy levels are at their highest, after you've warmed up of course, which we'll cover shortly.
So basically, once warmed up, you'll perform the heaviest set first, then will go lighter, then lighter, then lighter, and so on, and this is what we call pyramid workout.
More sets, less reps - Another very effective strength training strategy is to perform more working sets, but with less reps.
Say for example, that you were a 100 metre sprinter, you wouldn't spend your training sessions performing slow and steady endurance training, jogging slowly for several miles per day.
Instead, you'd focus your training on, well, short and explosive sprints. Well, the same goes for strength training.
The idea is to lift as much weight as possible, generally for a one rep max. The reps are much lower because the weight is so heavy.
So, rather than say, 4 sets of 10 reps, you'd instead go with something like 10 sets of 4 reps.
This form of strength training activates more fast twitch muscle fibres allowing you to generate more force and explosive power which will equate to much more impressive one rep max.
Always warm up - When strength training, you're going to be pushing some serious weight that seriously tests your body and pushes you to your limits.
Naturally before you begin any workout, especially if you're starting off your working set with the heaviest weight possible, which you will be doing if you're reverse pyramiding, you will need to make sure that you are fully stretched and warmed up.
Stretch all of your muscles with a basic warm up and stretching exercises, and before you begin lifting heavy, perform 2 - 4 warm up sets with a much lighter weight to help get your blood flowing and to help stretch your muscles.
This will help reduce lactic acid build up and will reduce the likelihood of muscle pulls, rips, or tears.