As a strength coach I continually find that lifters love to overcomplicate the act of getting strong.
Consistency and knowing the body are two of the best things you can do to improve gym performance. Both of these don’t require skill, nor to they require some intrinsic factor. They simply require a little planning and thought behind your training goals, needs, and wants.
For a lot of lifters this is common sense, but for those who are finding themselves in a lifting rut. Check out the three fool proof ways to get stronger below. The best part? You can start today.
1. Find Your 1-RM
Problem: An issue a lot of lifters have is a lack of understanding of what their 1-RM is, or may be. Without this knowledge it makes programming training intensities pretty much irrelevant.
Example: Without knowledge of your max, what would you do if a program called for an 80% training intensity for 5 sets by 5 reps? This haphazard style of programming usually leads to two things: Not enough training stimulus or overuse.
The time spent finding your 1-RM will save you more time down the road. There are things like squat calculators that automatically find your training percentages, which are easy ways to program progressive overload without too much effort.
Suggestion: I’m not recommending every lifter find their true 1-RMs (this could be a safety issue). Although, I am recommending every lifter works to gain some understanding of what their 1-RMs might be.
The table below is from NSCA’s book, “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning,” this table is a great tool for finding an estimated 1-RM.
An estimated 1-RM is a great way to gain an idea of what your body could do.
For instance, I know my back squat 1-RM is around 455 – I can do 420 x 3 – taking the equation above I would do…
420 x 1.08 = 453.6
Problem: Going to the gym without a plan is like trying to find your keys in the dark. Yeah, you may find what you’re looking for, but you’d be more efficient with the proper tools, aka a program.
Example: Let’s say a goal you’ve set is to increase your deadlift and squat numbers. Yet, every time you’re in the gym you’re performing different sets with a weight you think you used last time. Chances are you’re getting stronger simply by lifting frequently, but why not speed up the process and avoid injury with a well-thought out plan?
Suggestion: Spend some time thinking about what your goals are and how fast you want to reach them. Next, do some research and learn about the different forms of periodization. With different time frames, training styles, and customization, there’s a periodization model that’s guaranteed to fit your lifestyle.
Within periodization models there are various cycles that break up a training duration: micro, meso, and macro cycles.
There are three common types of periodization and each will benefit athletes differently.
Who benefits most: Beginners who need a strong foundation, those with short seasons, and those working towards a peaking point.
Who benefits most: Advanced lifters who need constant change in stimuli and those with longer sport seasons.
Who benefits most: Advanced lifters with long seasons that require multiple peaks.
3. Record Your Numbers
Problem: Recording lift numbers is such a simple task, yet so many people neglect this crucial strength training tool. No two gym days are alike, which can leave lifters frustrated when they’re not crushing numbers they hit in their previous session.
Example: Think back to your last two heavy lifts, were they the same? Most likely, no. Some days weight feels heavier, but this is normal. When we record numbers regularly we can gain insight into our past, present, and future training sessions.
Suggestion: Personally, I record my lift numbers and I’ll typically write down how the weight felt in my compound movements (squats, deadlifts, presses). This gives me insight into what may have caused me to feel on or off that day. Meg Squats records how accomplished she feels after every gym day. Every experienced lifter tends to have a method when recording their numbers.
Far too often we forget how much influence our daily lives have on us in the gym. Stress, lack of sleep, and so many other factors can influence lifting numbers. The constant recognition of numbers and feelings can not only keep you on track with lifting, but allow you to tweak your habits outside of the gym.
So what are you waiting for? Start getting strong…TODAY.
Feature image courtesy of Lisa Haefner Photo.