You spent all of last winter and spring getting your body lean and ready for the summer. Then you rocked out the beach parties and summer clothing with your lean physique. Now, as summer draws to a close and the colder months approach, it may be time to shift the focus from being lean and shredded to packing on mass and increasing raw strength. Increasing muscular strength can have numerous positive effects to your performance in the gym and daily life. Some of these benefits include the ability to perform better at strength related sports tasks, improved capability for performing daily tasks like lifting and carrying, and a reduced risk of injury because stronger muscles can provide more stability.
Here are a few tips to help you on your way to getting STRONG!
Just as you needed a plan of attack to get lean and shredded the same can be said to increase strength. Sit down and write out a program or choose a program from a respected coach to help you along the way. Your nutrition will also need a plan, make sure to track your food intake and measure foods just as you did to get shredded.
Compound movements, or exercises that involve more than one joint, will involve more muscle fibers and help you pack on mass and gain strength. Isolation exercises are great as accessory movements but also make sure to hit the big lifts like the squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and rows.
To get strong you must lift heavy. Program in heavy strength work. Lifting heavy weights forces you to recruit more muscle fibers and places your body under greater stress. This causes an adaptation where the muscles grow stronger and thicker to compensate for these demands. The adaptations that our bodies make are related to the stresses that they are subjected to, so if someone wants to get stronger, they must expose their body to relatively heavier weights. This is why strength athletes like powerlifters dedicate much of their workout programs to sessions where they’re lifting at relatively heavy weights.
After you do your primary compound movements for the day, move into your accessory work to target your weaker areas (mass or strength). These accessory exercises are where the higher rep work comes into play and can help build your weaknesses, translating to gains in physique and strength.
When it comes to increasing strength, recovery is just as important as the work you put in with the iron. Heavy compound movements will stress your body differently than higher rep work with isolation exercises. Expect to feel a little beat up as you transition into your strength focused phase and plan accordingly. It is important to eat clean food but in a little higher quantity to ensure you can recover from the extra stressor. Sleep is also very important to help your nervous system recover from the heavy work (and it is important in any type of training). Finally, learn to incorporate more movement into your day to help recover from heavy squats, deadlifts, presses, etc. Walking, light sled work, biking, etc. can all help you feel better and actually recover quicker.
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