Some athletes train for size. Others train for strength. Although muscle size and strength are not mutually exclusive, it’s important to decide which one you want the most. This way, you’ll be able to create a workout routine and diet plan that supports your goals. Add some serious strength to your frame with these proven strategies:
1. Lift Heavy
The key to gaining muscle strength is to lift heavy. Your body gets stronger by recruiting more fibers in a particular muscle group. Heavy training helps recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, which have the most potential for increasing strength. Squats, presses, dips, deadlifts and other compound moves can maximize strength gains, especially when using heavy weights (at least 90 percent of your one rep max).
2. Perform Natural Strength Movements
Certain exercises are better than others for building strength. These include the barbell squat, vertical/horizontal pulling, and vertical/horizontal pushing. Basically, your workout should consist of pull-ups, military presses, bench presses, and bent over barbell rows. Once you master these primary movements, your strength will increase. Romanian deadlifts, Olympic lift variations, and power cleans can boost your strength gains too.
3. Increase Your Maximum Lifts
If you’re a newbie, stick to the basics. Start with a simple training program and be consistent. Stop missing workouts and making excuses. Focus on increasing your maximum lifts on the main strength exercises, such as deadlift or military press. If you’re able to do more than one rep, then it’s not your max at all. Lift heavier weights every time you hit the gym. Watch your form all the time. Don’t just throw as much weight on the bar as possible to improve other people. Bad form can affect your progress and lead to serious injuries. If possible, ask a friend to assist you.
4. Stay Focused
Focus on the muscle groups being worked and squeeze them hard. Use controlled eccentric movements to maximize your time under tension. If your form is less than perfect, try a different grip or pick a lighter weigh. Getting stronger requires mental focus and intense volume.
5. Eat for Strength
Eating for strength is different than eating for muscle growth or fat loss. A bodybuilder requires fewer carbs and calories to reach his goals compared to a powerlifter or a strongman. To get stronger, you have to load up on protein and carbs while increasing your calorie intake. Creatine, weight gainers, glutamine, and whey protein supplements should be a staple in your diet.
Eat slow digesting carbs before training and refuel your muscles with simple carbs and fast-digesting protein post workout. Add dextrose, honey, maltodextrin or other source of sugar to your protein shake after exercise. This will help your body recover faster and replenish muscle glycogen stores.
Make sure your diet includes white rice, sweet potatoes, beef, poultry, nuts, seeds and other nutrient-dense foods. Eat every two or three hours to reduce muscle loss and keep your metabolism high. Get your daily calories from quality foods, not cookies, chips, or fries. The trans fats in these products can limit muscle growth and increase catabolism.