Ever see that guy in the gym that throws around 225 on bench press and just wonder to yourself, “how does someone get that strong?” Some people just have great genetics with shorter, more compact muscle fibers that enable them to push heavier weights without a plan. Others may have longer, thinner frames that make strength more of a feat than those that have a more compact build. Follow these 5 guidelines to blow your strength gains through the roof and enable yourself to move some serious poundage in the gym.
Keep Reps in 4-7 Range
Keeping an eye on your rep range is crucial for making strength gains because you have to know what you’re training for. Generally speaking, 4-7 reps is strength focused, 8-12 reps are centered on hypertrophy (building size), and 12+ reps are focused more on muscular endurance. So keeping your reps under 8 is generally where you want to be to build strength. Many popular programs for strength involve a “5×5” approach where you pick your main compound lift (squats for example) and perform 5 sets with the mindset of reaching failure at around 5 reps on each set. This is great to couple with some auxiliary lifts to help work with hypertrophy and strength all in one workout. You can choose to avoid the hypertrophy all together and just work reps in the 4-7 ranges as well.
Stick to Compound Lifts
All too often, gym goers will jump on the preacher curl machine or the pec deck machine in hopes of getting stronger, bigger muscles. When used correctly you can add size utilizing these lifts, but strength is found when compound lifts are performed. This is because you’re bringing in multiple muscle groups with one group being the primary mover. Take the bench press for example- the chest is the primary muscle mover but to assist in moving large amount of weight, the triceps, shoulders and core all come in to play throughout the movement. Being able to overload the muscle with heavier weight on these compound lifts is what helps create strength and also aids in adding to size. Skip the hundred sets of curls and pushdowns you had scheduled and build some serious strength with the “power 5” strength lifts: bench press, squat, deadlift, push press and barbell row.
Increase Rest Periods
Rest periods is a topic that has sparked a lot of interest as of lately with determining what rest works best for your particular fitness goal. For those interested in burning fat and losing weight overall, keeping your rest periods to an absolute minimum is key to torching that unwanted body fat. When hypertrophy is your main goal, a rest period between 30-90 seconds is the consensus on keeping maximum muscle building your priority. When strength is the main focus, rest periods should be higher than you think. A typical rest period after a set of squats when failing in the rep range of 4-6 should be around 2-3 minutes. This is to help the body fully recover after a set of such damage that you put on the body and to help build back up the oxygen levels in order to smoke your next set with the same sense of urgency and attack.
Eat Like a Pig
Eating will always play a major role in how your body looks, but did you also know that it plays just as much a role in how it performs? Just like an athlete primes his body before a big game, eating to gain strength has to be just as important as banging out a set of heavy squats. In fact, eating like an athlete is basically the approach you’ll take when it comes to nutrition by eating high amounts of carbohydrates followed by ample amounts of lean proteins and good fats. Keeping the carb intake on the high end will ensure you’ll be providing yourself with ample energy output each and every lifting session.
It’s pretty simple when you look at it- to get stronger you have to move heavy weights. You can’t get stronger than you are right now without out trying to lift heavier weight than you did the last time you stepped into the gym. Find a lifting partner that understands that failing in the gym will actually enable you to succeed in bringing up strength gains and will help you achieve this goal by spotting you correctly and forcing you to move more weight than you could be yourself. So don’t think for a second you’re going to just wake up one day benching 225 like you see that guy in the gym doing- it takes time and a plan to perform this feat and if you’ll stick to your goals you’ll be on your way to making some serious strength gains if you can just be patient.