3 easy ways to get stronger

We could all use a bit more physical strength. Whether you’re an office worker and sit on a computer all day or your job involves more physical activity and carrying awkward objects, being stronger provides numerous benefits. Some of which are:

  • •    Strength in the gym carries out in life. From simple tasks like opening jars, carrying the kids, to more ego-boosting ones such as carrying bags of groceries or weird objects while moving house, being stronger makes them easier.
  • •    It strengthens your bones and helps defend against osteoporosis later in life.
  • •    It builds muscle mass and prevents you from losing it while losing weight or as you age.
  • •    Helps metabolise fat faster
  • •   The right strength gains can help protect your back and your joints.

Here are the easiest ways to get stronger:

1. Lift submaximal loads

It sounds counter-intuitive, but this is the most effective way to train over extended periods of time, not burn yourself out, and build tons of strength. You see, when most people approach getting stronger, they immediately start lifting up to their capacity. Triples, doubles, singles with as much weight as possible. And while this is a decent way to test strength, it’s not the optimal way to build it.

To build strength, you need to train with submaximal loads. This not only allows you to perform more repetitions of the movement and learn it better but also to build more training volume. To do that, train with weights in your 70-85% of 1 RM most of the time and only go for 90-95-100% once every 4-8 weeks to test your strength. For example, if your best bench press is 80kg’s, instead of hammering at 80kg’s every week, train between 50kg’s. (~70%) and 70kg’s. (~85%) for the majority of the time.

2. Learn the important bodyweight movements

Body weight movements give people a good indication of your fitness level. Getting stronger on these movements will also carry over to other parts of your training and in life. These movements are squats, lunges, planks, pull-ups/chin-ups, dips, and push-ups (with some variations).  Not only are these exercises excellent for muscle growth and strength gain, but they also keep your joints health when performed correctly.

Set aside some time during each workout to practice these movements and aim for progress.

3. Do isometric work

There are two main ways in which most people contract their muscles with training:

  • •    Concentrically, where the muscle shortens and creates tension, such as by bringing the dumbbell up during a bicep curl.
  • •    Eccentrically, where the muscle lengthens under load such as when lowering the dumbbell during a bicep curl.

However, there is a third way: isometrically contracting that often gets overlooked. This is when a muscle contracts with a given load and neither lengthens or shortens. Examples of this include holding a plank, pausing at the bottom of a squat or bench press, holding a heavy weight in your hands, and holding a weight above your head.

Spending time during each workout for isometric work will have a direct carryover to your overall strength. For example, doing loaded holds with heavy dumbbells or barbells will strengthen your forearms and grip which will make it much easier to perform other exercises like pull-ups and deadlift. You can do that at the end of your workouts.

Strengthening your core with isometric movements will have a direct carryover in every compound exercise that you perform. You can superset those with isolation exercises at the end of your workouts.

Increasing your strength off the bottom of the squat and bench press with pause training will increase your overall strength on these movements. You can dedicate a set or two of each workout for chest or legs.

Holding a heavy weight above your head isometrically will strengthen your entire body with emphasis on your back, shoulders, arms, and core muscles. You can do that on the days your do overhead pressing.

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