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5 Steps to Get Strong

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

We should all be strong!

Strength is relative and context will always be needed, but everyone should be a strong version of themselves. Strength means something different for everyone. For some, being strong is needed for their job. For others, people feel confident when they know they can walk up to a barbell and stack it with plates and effortlessly pick it up. Having sufficient amounts of strength also is a good predictor of longevity and a higher quality of life. If you are looking to build your strength in the gym, this 5-step guide can help show you the way!

Step 1

Step number 1 is to decide what I want to get strong in. Isolating one specific lift will make it easier for you to focus your attention on one this one goal.

Some exercises are better than others at showcasing how much weight you can move. For example, I have been lifting for 15 years now, and not once has someone asked, “Yo bro, how much do you chest fly.” People will usually ask you how much you squat, bench, or deadlift. These are probably what many of you want to get strong in.

Reasons why these lifts are great for showcasing strength is because they are compound movements that recruit a lot of muscle. In a squat you use your entire leg, unlike in a leg extension where you just use your quads.

My suggestion is to pick a strength lift that is a compound movement, one that recruits a lot of muscle, and one that you know you can do well. And yes, there are other options you can choose from based on your training experience and body. Being strong is not confined to just 3 exercises.

Step 2

Training for strength takes a lot out of you. Strength is primarily a neuromuscular adaptation and one that can really fry us and our nervous system. I would HIGHLY recommend planning out your training week ahead of time. If not, we can run the risk of not just poor performance, but also overtraining and increase our injury risk.

If you are trying to get a stronger squat and you squat two days in a row that will be counterproductive in the long run. Though you may hear stories of people that have done things like this, they likely couldn’t maintain that pace for a long time. Thus, we want to make sure we space things out by providing at least 48-72 hours in between our heavy strength days. For example:

Monday: heavy squat and legs

Tuesday: upper body

Wednesday: squat and legs Thursday: upper body

Friday: off

Saturday: heavy squat and upper body

This weekly split can help provide enough exposure to the heavy loads of the squat, and for recovery to happen. Without proper recovery from heavy lifting, we are leaving strength on the table because we will never be strength training at 100% fresh.

Step 3

Now that we have the lift, and the weekly plan, we can talk programming. This is where the fun begins!

We want to start by getting comfortable with the form of the lift. When we have good form, we don’t waste energy, we use the right muscles, we also get familiar with pushing through fatigue. The last piece is huge to build some mental toughness. This also will prepare our bodies; muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones for the heavier weight that comes next.

A simple plan we can use here is 3-4 sets of 8 reps. These sets and reps will let us practice the exercise, while increasing the weight slightly each week. When we are trying to build strength, we want to progress ourselves by weight on the bar. Thus, our main progression will be adding weight.

To get started, select a weight that you can do 8 challenging reps with. Each time you do a set of 8, add 10-20 pounds. If you can’t do 8 reps with a weight, keep using that weight until you can do 8 reps.

A way this may look in practice using the bench press can be as follows.

Week 1: 185 x8, 195x8,205x8

Week 2: 215x8, 225x8, 235x6

Week 3: 235x6, 235x6, 235x6

Week 4: 235x8, 235x8, 235x8

Step 4

When building strength, intensity is what will drive the gains you are looking for. Intensity in this context is weight on the bar. So, after a few weeks of running sets of 8, we should be fairly confident in our skill and feel ready to make the jump to peak in our strength journey.

Now we can start to really push ourselves in how much weight we are lifting. Remember, when it comes to strength training one of the most crucial parts is dropping the reps while adding sets and weight to the bar. The method and application are pretty straight forward and it flat out works.

We follow the same logic as the 3x8 example, but now we bump up the weight.

Week 1: 5 sets of 255 for 5 reps Week 2: 4 sets of 265 for 5 reps, 1 set for 4 reps week 3: 5 sets of 265 for 5 reps week 4: 5 sets of 275 for 5 reps

This is a pretty fool proof method to build strength. One that has worked for tons of people that I work with. Strength shouldn’t be complicated. It should be simple, applicable for you, and give you results! Which I know this will!

Step 5

The last piece in building strength is our recovery. Strength is taxing on our nervous system. When we train for strength, we are pushing ourselves to be able to handle more stress week after week. This means we should be feeling fresh and ready to go each time we lift.

The first thing to mention relating to recovery is our rest time. For strength training, rest for 3-5 minutes. This will feel like a long time if you have never trained this way before. But trust me when I say you should take the full rest time. This will help replenish the energy after each set so that you are ready to make each set as good as possible.

Next is sleep. A lot of good things happen with good sleep. Growth hormone release, protein synthesis, glycogen synthesis, and giving ourselves a re-charge. Many studies indicate that performance is maximized with sleeping around 8 hours each night, and with each hour lost, your performance decrease and injury risk increases.

The last thing is nutrition. Now this will be specific to you, but make sure we are eating enough calories to support our strength training. Having enough calories coming in can keep muscle building high and provide us with the energy we need to lift heavy things. So, take a look at what you are eating, and how much. Focus on whole foods and monitor your energy levels. If you feel sluggish, maybe eat a little more and see what happens.

If you want to try a few months of strength training, go ahead and follow these steps, and get STRONG!

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