|By Big Jeff Pearce|
Let’s get real, no one who spends any time in the gym wants to be weak; or as Mr. Schwarzenegger would say in a heavy Austrian accent, “a girly man”. Because of that, I have decided to pen an article that outlines my top 10 tips for getting stronger. Here they are:
10. Make sure your diet, supplementation, training and rest protocols are calculated and consistent.
This is by far the most fundamental element to any training program. As an athlete, it is your first priority to ensure that your diet, training, supplementation and rest protocols are calculated and consistent.
What does that mean? I’ll break down the basic points of which many of you probably already know.
DIET: Your macronutrient intake, meal timing and types of food all need to be worked out ahead of time. Have a plan that will give you the building blocks (food) to build that new strength. As a consequence, that means that you should have your food cooked, weighed out and ready to go for the next day, consistently.
SUPPLEMENTATION: Calculate a supplementation protocol that compliments your diet and fills in holes. Remember the basics like a good multi-vitamin, protein powder, joint supplement and creatine monohydrate. Make sure you have everything you need for the day, everyday. The key is consistency.
TRAINING: Again, be meticulous in your preparation and have a plan for the week of what body parts you are going to hit on what days and what exercises you are going to execute. Week in and week out, be consistent and don’t miss workouts.
REST: This is often overlooked, but you should be planning your rest protocol just like your diet. Set a bed time for yourself and stick to it. Staying up at night playing Modern Warfare 3 is not going to help you get stronger. In fact, the lack of sleep will likely contribute to diminishing strength levels in the gym. Don’t be afraid to use sleep supplements like Melatonin or 5-HTP. Some bodybuilders and strength athletes have sleep apnea and it robs them of good nights sleep, every night – it can also shorten your life by 20 years. Get checked out at a sleep clinic and you might get yourself a fancy new CPAP.
9. Don’t be scared, homie.
Don’t be scared, homie. You need to believe in yourself and that you can get stronger. Eventually, if you want to get stronger, you need to get under the weight and give it a shot. That being said, you should keep your ego in check; don’t go throwing on 500 pounds on the bench if you have only ever benched 225 pounds. Be patient and sensible in your approach and over a matter of weeks, keep pushing your limits and increasing the weight. Listen to your body and know your limits, don’t fall victim to ego lifting.
8. Set weekly increment increases that lead to you accomplishing your main strength goal at the end.
As I referred to in #9, you should progressively increase your poundage on a lift over a matter of weeks. It doesn’t have to be 45 pounds every week; it can be as little as 2.5 pounds, just make some progress. Figure out your 1 rep max, what weight increment works best for you and set a goal 10 weeks from now. Every week, accomplish your weight increases. There’s no reason you can’t lift just 2.5 lbs more every week and in 10 weeks you will have added 25 pounds to your 1 rep max.
7. Record your lifts and hold yourself accountable.
Get a log book and record your lifts. Hold yourself accountable to your plan and track your progress. Keep it simple.
6. Use music strategically.
Everyone has that one song that fires them up for a lift. Use it like a mental supplement to jack you up for your lift. As you rest just before your weekly increase, don’t listen to music – just visualize yourself completing the lift. Then, just as you are going to execute the lift, pump up the volume, play your song and crush that lift.
5. Use various techniques to augment your training and don’t accept plateaus.
There are a number of different plateau busting techniques you can use to smash through your so-called “plateau”. The fact of the matter is that they happen to everyone; the key to beating them is not accepting defeat and finding a way to work around it. Here are is list of techniques that you can look up and use to your benefit:
- Drop Sets, Super Sets and Giant Sets
- 100 Rep Endurance Sets
- Rest-Pause Sets
- Floor Presses
- Power Rack Lock-outs
- Assisted Lifts
- Explosive Reps
- Super Slow Reps
- Strength Bands
- Weight Lifting Chains
- Box Squats
4. Get a spotter or training partner you can trust.
A good training partner or spotter is there to make sure that you can try those new 1 rep max’s safely.
Not having a good spotter is just dangerous, so they are a necessity in order for you to increase your strength. You need someone that you are familiar with and that can handle the weight you are using. If you need to, call in several people – you can never be too safe. Remember, when you are using your spotter, you need to verbalize to them what it is that you want from them. Tell them whether you want a lift, your rep goal, when they should help, if their hands should be on the bar etc. They are there to help you; by verbalizing the lift to them, you know that they will help you and not get in the way.
3. Don’t ignore the non-mirror muscles.
I don’t know about you, but when I look in the mirror, I can’t see my rotator cuff. But, just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Without a healthy rotator cuff, I can kiss benching and even squatting goodbye (because of hand position on the bar). Don’t ignore those muscles you can’t see because without them, you could be in a world of hurt. Here are some of them:
- Rotator Cuff
- Hip Abductors & Adductors
- Spinal Erectors
- Obliques (Yeah, you can see those if you’re lucky)
- Tibialis Anterior & Peroneals
Take it upon yourself to look up some exercises you can do for them.
2. Use appropriate rep ranges.
A common error some experienced lifters make is to always work within one rep range, like 8-12 reps and then just go for a 1 rep max. To increase your strength, you need to work in rep ranges that correlate closer to about 90% of your 1 rep max, such as 1-3 reps. You can compliment this with working in the 3-6 rep range. Clearly, this is a tip that an experienced lifter would use – if you’re just starting out and reading this, focus on getting your form down more than strength.
1. Make sure you give yourself some time off.
The number one, most important piece of advice that I can offer up is to periodically take time off from lifting heavy. Every once in a while, give yourself a break – either take a week off or go for high reps with light weight. Your tendons and joints can only take so much pounding and abuse before they give out. We’re not all relentless cybernetic killing machines from the future sent back to kill John Connor; as puny humans, we need rest.
Big Jeffrey Pearce, is a physical culture writer, editor, personal trainer, and a lifetime natural bodybuilder from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been bodybuilding and strength training since he was 16 years old and remains a dedicated gym rat to this day. Big Jeff is one of the strongest athletes you will ever meet, routinely bench pressing 500lbs and tossing up 150lb dumbbells for reps in a typical workout. An honors graduate from the University of Toronto, Jeff’s brains also match his brawn. Jeff has a passion for writing and has been in featured in Muscular Development. He is currently an editor and writer for RxMuscle.com. Jeff also coaches high school kids on the benefits of strength training and nutrition. We are proud to have Jeff on board as part of the Strong Athlete family and look forward to more great feature articles in the near future.