Strength is the platform of nearly all physique and performance goals. When your strength improves you gain muscle faster, lose fat quicker and all daily tasks become a whole lot easier.
The following ‘5 strength building principles’ are paramount to help you to build strength effectively and should be an integral part of your training regime.
Use the big four exercises
The barbell squat, deadlift, bench and shoulder presses are the most effective strength building exercises.
The pull ups/chin ups and rows are also top exercises but they should be used as assistance lifts to complement the big ‘four’ because they keep the muscles balanced.
Fundamentally the big four recruit more muscle fibres during the whole range of the movement and this translates to you being able to lift a heavier weight. Lifting heavier weights does equate to rapid gains in body strength and it is a solid foundation of lean muscle mass.
With compound exercises you will burn more calories during and after the work outs. The mechanism behind this boost in your metabolism is again an increase in the number of muscle fibres that have been recruited. This is combined the extra energy that is required to power the muscles to lift the extra weight during these compound moves.
There is evident to suggest that by performing the ‘big 4’ triggers the after burn effect up to 24 hours post exercise. This is all goods news for stripping whilst increasing your strength at the same time.
Start you session with the barbell
The barbell is the godfather of all strength building equipment and the dumbbells/kettlebells are the under bosses.
Most of the other ‘fad’ equipment is a waste of time when trying to increase your strength and it not really essential. Bearing this in mind begin your gym session with the ‘big 4’ using the barbell because they allow you to add a heavier weight and this translates to bigger strength gains.
Once the barbell exercises have been performed then you can move onto using dumbell, kettlebell and bodyweight exercises.
Lifting heavy at 90% of your 1RM will vastly improve your strength by recruiting higher threshold motor units.
The muscle fibres connected to these motor units will be a catalyst for boosting your strength.
A key point to consider is that when lifting heavy whilst performing compound exercises will inevitably fatigue your muscles quickly. Even though you are lifting heavy the main aim of each lift is to pump out the weight as fast as possible.
This training method will ensure that you are recruiting more fast twitch type 2 muscle and this mechanism will further enhance your strength gains.
Don’t overdo it
Try to perform 3 or 4 main exercises per work out and keeping the training session relatively short will ensure that the anabolic hormones will be surging through your body.
In addition when you are performing too many exercises in a session they will not be executed with the same power and gusto. This means that too many exercises could be deemed as worthless in terms of strength gains.
Realistically all you really need is one main lift from the ‘big 4’ combined with 1 or 2 assisted lift and finish off with some core work or any specific large muscle group. Doing any more exercises will be counterproductive to your overall strength gains.
In terms of keeping it simple focus on counting a lower rep range (4-6) whilst lowering and raising the bar in an explosive manner.
A good strategy is to hold the lift for one second when the bar is at its highest point. Also ensure that the load is continuous increased so your strength gains are continuously enhanced and always keep within the 5 set range per work out.
The 5 set range does offer a good mix of muscle mass and strength gains. In addition after smashing through one of the ‘big 4’ main lifts you will discover that your ‘form’ does start deteriorate after the 5 set mark.
Try to keep a log or training diary to monitor your best lifts and the most weight used for each exercise, then use these figures can to assess your cumulative strength gains.
Balance your training
Whatever exercise that you perform one side of the body, you must then offer the same opportunity for development on the opposite side.
By following this simple rule you will be avoiding injuries, muscle imbalances and your body symmetry will remain aligned.
For example if you are performing squats a quad dominant exercise then ensure that you perform Romanian deadlifts for your hamstrings. Your chest exercises should be balanced with back exercises.
You don’t have to perform these exercises within the same session but you should be performing them within the same week. A simple rule of thumb is that you should be performing pulling and pushing exercises at a ratio of 2:1.