12 Apr 15 Ways To Get Stronger Now.

DeadliftYou want to get stronger, right?

If you’re die hard fitness enthusiast or athlete, I’m sure you do.

Here’s a short 15 point checklist to make sure you’re doing the right things.

1.)  Lift heavy stuff.  Should be obvious, but lift and move heavy things.  You can’t get stronger without training heavier.  Barbells, kettlebells, sandbags, rocks, sleds, anything that offers progressive load increases and challenges you.  Keep in mind though, there’s nothing like barbells for maximal strength gains.

2.)  Use visualization.  Mental imagery is a proven, effective, and underutilized technique to improve strength and performance.  Just ask any successful athlete on the importance of using visualization to improve their performance.  Want to deadlift more weight?  Before you do the set, visualize yourself successfully performing the pull.  I can’t tell you how much of a difference this actually makes, when you use it.

3.)  Don’t ignore flexibility and mobility.  Because we tend to lose our muscle flexibility and joint mobility, it’s very important that we do things to maintain and improve this to optimize our training and prevent injury. Work on joint mobility drills and fundamental movement patterns to improve your training.  We want to move better and more stronger.

4.)  Breathe.  Proper breathing is absolutely essential for strength and power training.  This will be one of the most valuable techniques you ever learn, if you learn it properly.  Learning power breathing with kettlebells is a must.  And, learning how to use the Valsalva maneuver for heavy barbells is critical for performance.  Proper breathing makes you stronger and your lifts will be much safer.

5.)  Improve your grip strength.  Learning how to use your grip strength will enhance your total body strength.  Early in my training career, I never realized how important grip strength was to improve overall strength, but there’s a huge correlation with grip strength and other muscle groups.  A great tool to use to radically improve grip strength is Fat Gripz for barbells.  These great devices increase the width of the bar for a stronger grip.  This is a fast, effective way to enhance your grip strength.

6.)  Use tension principles.  Pavel has taught us the proper use of muscular tension to get stronger.  The easy example of proper use of tension is with the kettlebell military press.  When you press a kettlebell, you are using tension principles by tensing your entire body during the press motion to elevate the kettlebell overhead.  You will find that this gives you much more power to press the bell. Tension equals strength, but it’s also important to recognize the proper balance of tension and relaxation.  Muscular tension is an extremely important principle to use in strength training for many reasons, beyond the scope of this article.

7.)  Always improve your skills.  NEVER stop working on your technique and improving your skills if you really want to be stronger.  You can do what you want, but remember that strength (serious strength) is a skill.  Always work to improve the skill.

8.)  Follow a proper program for strength.  On your journey towards better strength, make sure you’ve got a proper program to get you there.  There are many great strength training programs available such as the great 5/3/1 program, Easy Strength, and the “Shock and Awe” Protocol. Avoid random training and exercise distraction with new programs and “shiny new toys.”  Instead, pick one program and stick to it for the duration.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.  A cliche’ yes, but it’s also the truth.

9.)  Implement compound, multi-joint lifts (and ditch the isolation exercises).  This leads into the next point, but make sure you do lots of compound, multi-joint lifts in your strength program.  Squat and squat variations, deadlift, press, snatch, clean, jerk, clean and jerk, etc.  The big lifts offer the biggest benefits.  If you must do isolation exercises, make them “accessory” or secondary exercises and not the primary focus.  Big movement equal big strength.

10.)  Make sure you squat and deadlift.  The truth is you must squat and deadlift if your goals include increasing maximal strength.  There’s really no better exercises on the planet to get you “superhuman” strong.  Learning the proper way to perform these lifts is key, so make sure you spend time with a great strength coach who can show you how to maximize these lifts safely.  These 2 lifts are fundamental movements and a critical part to massive strength gains.

11.)  Keep reps in the range of 3-5.  In general, keep reps in the range of 3 to 5.  This is widely accepted as the appropriate rep range to increase strength.  As compared to 8-12 reps, which is typical for muscle growth (hypertrophy). This is the general consensus, although there are certainly exceptions and some variation.

12.)  Don’t exclude bodyweight training.  Bodyweight training to improve maximal strength?  Yes, absolutely, if done properly.  You can definitely get really, really strong with bodyweight training and applications.  For outstanding examples, programs, and progressions, check out either of the classic books, Naked Warrior or Convict Conditioning.  Bodyweight training is definitely a major part of the strength equation.

13.)  Don’t train to failure.  Always leave a little in the bank, so to speak. Training all out to failure can be extremely taxing on your nervous system. Strength requires practice, proper technique, sufficient recruitment of muscle fibers, and neuromuscular efficiency, among other things.  Train hard, but not to failure.  This is a key point in unlocking strength gains.  It goes back to the point of strength being a skill.

14.)  Be clear on what you want.  To get stronger, know where you are and where you want to be.  In simple terms, if you currently deadlift 400, then what is the number you want to shoot for?  450?  500? What’s your point A to point B? If you don’t know that, how will you get there?  Be clear on the goals you want and by when.  It’s very simple, but often not done.

15.)  Train smart.  How can I say this?  I’ll just be blunt, don’t do dumb stuff. Seriously. Avoiding injury is always the top objective, so train safe and train smart. Use proper technique, know when to call it quits, and don’t try to do more than you should, especially in a high pressure environment.  For the final time, train smart for your own good.

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