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10 Lessons For Building Strength

10 Lessons For Building Strength

I’m always finding myself getting irritated when people talk about strength with an uninformed or improper perception on what all is involved with acquiring it. It seems to me that folks tend to not have a grasp on what strength development is, what all it can involve, and why they should be striving for in order to acquire it. Of course, I’m painting with a broad brush here, but I think you get where I’m coming from.

Building Strength

So the process of building strength can come in many forms. To understand this you’ve also got to understand that there are many forms of strength and that each individual may be more susceptible at acquiring different characteristics of strength compared to the next guy or girl.

Because of this I thought I’d come up with a nice little top 10 list here for everyone to be aware of when pursuing strength to optimize your attempts at acquiring it. Some may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how much of the general population doesn’t do the “obvious.” Read on and learn my young Jedi.

1. Train For Strength: I know, I know…this is an obvious statement, but the truth that a lot of folks I see training in the general public don’t really train with a challenging amount of weight. For some reason everybody is stuck on the ‘ole 3 sets of 10 model. That’s a hypertrophy range. Size and strength are 2 different things which brings me to lesson #2.

2. Understanding The Relationship Between Volume And Intensity: Many people don’t understand the relationship between volume and intensity. Like I addressed in #1 the 3 sets of 10 model is fine, but it’s designed to build strength/endurance. That rep range will add more muscular size to your body than pure raw strength.

Understand that in order to be able to hit 10 reps per set you need to be using a lighter load. Train heavier with higher volume to acquire strength. You can train 30 reps of endurance with a light weight and the 3 sets of 10 would be an example of doing just that, or you can train 30 reps of a heavy load by doing 10 sets of 3 reps! Trust me, doing 30 reps like this is a completely different ballgame.

3. Acquire Strength From Using Multiple Methods: Everybody loves the good old bench, squat, and deadlift…and I do too. However these aren’t the only means to acquire strength. Understand that bodyweight training, the use of unconventional tools, and fine tuning your athleticism will also contribute to your gains if properly programmed.

4. Rest Longer: Lately I’ve been reading more about how longer rests between more intense sets are beneficial in making greater strength gains. Once again this may sound obvious, but I’ve literally been experimenting with this personally to a larger degree with my heavier more primary lifts and the results are astounding.

The point is that the energy systems that we tap into for various lifts demand a higher level of stress from us and we’re burning those out by not allowing ourselves the necessary recovery between heavier more dominant sets. For example, with a heavy set of 5 on the deadlift I’m not even putting a clock on myself before lifting the next set. I take my time and go when I “feel” ready, but I don’t wait too long. I don’t want to wait to the point that I start getting cold.

5. Understand Heavy: If I had a dime for every person that said to me that “I don’t lift heavy anymore,” I would probably be retired. Why not?

Understand that what is “heavy” is relevant to the individual. I mean for crying out loud to a weak person their own bodyweight may be heavy to them when performing a push up, so heavy is relative…and it’s essential. The lesson…Lift heavy.

6. Consistency Trumps Everything: The thing about acquiring strength is that the body responds best to varying levels of consistent progressive stress over time; otherwise known as progressive overload. Understanding this you don’t have to bury yourself into the weight room floor with every single training session by punching out a 1000 reps up against a race with the clock.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to always…nor should you shoot for the ego centered ball buster training session where you end up with your body inside a puddle of sweat in the fetal position after every workout. There is a time and place for that, but it’s not for acquiring raw strength.

7. Use Varied Resistance With Your Lifts: The name of the game is force production and being able to readily produce force at a moment when you need it most can be absolutely crucial when acquiring strength.

One way to look at this is to think of one of your big major lifts. Let’s say we’re looking at the deadlift. If you’re going to generate enough force to pull that heavy bar off the floor then you want to be sure you are capable of generating a great deal of force through your legs and hips in an immediate fashion.

One form of varied resistance in order to acquire this is when we focus on the development of speed. When you combine performing deadlifts with greater speed (for instance, using lighter weight), or with including some plyometric…and loaded plyometric jumps into your program then you’re dialing in your nervous system to generate force in a rapid fashion. This will serve you well when you go to pull that weight off the floor by creating enough speed and force production to do so.

Other forms of varied resistance would also include doing more controlled eccentric movements, partial ROM lifting, bands, and chains. Each of these methods applied to a given lift of choice can be leveraged to achieve a different purpose in order to fill the gaps in your training.

8. Sleep More: Sleep is critical for recovery. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep when training heavy and if growing stronger is the goal. Sleep is great for increasing growth hormone production and overall health and alertness. Without it you’ll be groggy and weak…and so will your workouts.

9. Stretch More: Stretching is crucial. I know this may also seem like an obvious statement, yet so many people neglect this essential part in training. If they’re not outright neglecting it then many folks are certainly undermining the importance of it. Without a full ROM you are restricted, period. Stretch more.

10. Understanding Mental Toughness And Emotional Resiliency: This is without a doubt the biggest one. Why? It’s the biggest one because it drives everything else in your training. How can you get any better unless you are willing to push yourself? And pushing yourself requires mental toughness. Dealing with failures requires emotional resiliency. I found this video of a Navy SEAL explaining this here in much better detail.

And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed today’s post and please don’t be shy about dropping me a comment below. Stay strong and keep training smart.

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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