4 easy steps to improve general strength
Improving your strength is something that appeals to everyone from Olympic weight lifters to bodybuilders to gym goers who want to max out their lifts and also for people who just want day to day tasks to be easier and gain some defined muscles. The complexity and variety of training systems and programmes can be daunting. But there are some basic principles that apply to being successful with weight lifting for any purpose,
- Progressive overload
- Execute perfect form
Progressive overload is at the core of getting stronger or gaining some muscle. Essentially it can boil down to a few things.
- You could progress weight lifted every week. This is the most straightforward form of progress. Lifts heavier every week, get stronger, gain some muscle. Although you must be able to do so with good form.
- Increase your reps. A rep is a repetition; you could do 10 repetitions of the exercise one week and the following week aim to do 11.
- Improve at the technique and execution of the exercise. This is often overlooked. Pay attention every week, has your form improved, can you feel the right muscles, whilst doing the exercise. If your doing a triceps exercise, make sure you can feel it in your triceps before moving on.
Execute perfect form
This is by far the most important factor to get stronger. Whatever exercise you do, put the most effort into learning good technique.
Don’t lift to heavy too soon.
You may pick up bad loading patterns. Which could lead to injury and or slow down your actual progress and stop you from getting as strong as you could do.
A good example is bench presses or chest pressing. Often I see people break at the wrist when pushing the weight up. This can hurt the wrist and also the force of the lift loses its efficiency. Therefore with a loss of possible strength gains.
Recovery is umbrella term and applies to sleep, recovery in between workouts and also recovery between sets in your workout.
Firstly let’s look at sleep, this is a massive topic and well studied. There are lots of different ideas on what makes a good night sleep. Some people manage to survive on 5-6 hours. Some people need 9-10 hours.
A sensible recommendation would be 7-8 hours for most people. As long as you feel well rested this will give you the best chance of feeling energised and will result in you being able to push harder in your exercise sessions.
Secondly - rest in-between sessions, to get the most out of your training session and reduce the risk of injury, leave around 72 hours between training sessions on body parts. So if you wanted to train your lower body, twice in a week, leave 72 hours In-between lower body sessions. As you become more conditioned it may be possible to lower this time period.
Finally - recovery between sets, (sets are groups of repetitions, you could do 3 sets of 10 reps of shoulder press for example).
Best way of doing this is to rest until you feel recovered and ready to go again. Don’t feel you have to rush and risk compromising technique and strength. Usually you wouldn’t need longer than 3 minutes of rest between sets, 1-2 mins is normal.
This is a huge subject. You may be trying to lose weight. You may be eating to gain muscle. You may just be eating to stay alive or generally just being a foodie.
The exact advice I would give someone would be very different on the whole.
But there’s one factor that I could recommend to help you in any case.
Protein intake - I would recommend increasing your protein intake, studies at the moment recommend between 1.6 grams of protein per KG of body weight and 2.2 grams of protein per KG of body weight.
Using the lower amount is perfect for most people, like me. With the upper amount perfect for body builders and strength athletes.
For a 70kg person - 11 stone - an ideal amount would be 112g of protein a day.
Protein is great at limiting hunger and can make you feel fuller for longer.
Also when trying to lose weight, your muscle tends to favour breaking down. A higher protein intake can limit this.
What does 112g of protein look like...
Two chicken breasts, one steak and 4 scrambled eggs.
If you’re limiting your meat intake, you can also pick protein up from other sources as well. Porridge, nuts, chickpeas, beans, legumes, tofu, milk, soymilk.
There are so many sources to choose from that you can balance your protein intake out in a variety of ways.
If you factor in the 4 tips from above you should see an improvement in strength and should see a difference in your body, over time.
The biggest take home I could offer is the best results come with consistency.
Make sure you enjoy your form of training and the exercises you choose and this becomes a lot easier.
If you need any help with the above please feel free to pop in for a chat.