My article about Five Things You Can Do Outside The Gym to Get Stronger got a great response, so I decided to hit up Reddit for some more inspiration… and I wasn’t disappointed! Shoutout to the Fitness subreddit for these great tips — three little things you can to get stronger right now. Be sure to check out the full thread here!
There’s a ton of great suggestions on that page, but I’ve picked out my top three to share and expand on here:
1. Practice Your Posture
This one you can do right now! Finding good posture is easy:
- Sit or stand up straight and look straight ahead.
- With your arms hanging straight down at your sides, turn your hands so that your palms face forward. This will lift your chest and rib cage, externally rotate and depress your scapula.
- Slightly squeeze your glutes and abs. This puts your spine in a neutral position (shoulders, rib cage, and hips all stacked on each other).
Bam – nearly perfect posture. The trick isn’t getting there – it’s staying there throughout your daily life. At first, that will seem like a chore, but over time, it becomes habit, and begins to simply feel natural.
But how is good posture going to make you stronger? Well, that’s not quite as straightforward, but basically, it comes down to this: you must keep the same core “good posture” position when performing heavy squats and deadlifts. Now, obviously, you won’t be standing up perfectly straight except at the top of these lifts. But you still need to keep your chest and rib cage high, your shoulders externally rotated, and your spine neutral. And, the more natural that position feels, the easier time you’ll have keeping it – even during very heavy lifts!
2. Do More Chins
Get one of those cheap chin-up bars and hang it in a doorway in your house or apartment. Every time you pass through that doorway, knock out a quick set of 5 chins. Yes, it’s that simple!
View this post on Instagram
I think #pullups and #chins are two of the hardest movements you can do in a #backworkout – just because #cheating is so easy. Ideally, you want to start the pull by driving your elbows down and back, not using your arms, and then really control the negative – but as you can probably see from how much I’m struggling, that’s #hardaf. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with just banging out reps, but my shoulders can’t take that kind of beating. #bodybuilding #ironrebel
This trick works because it’s a fantastic way to sneak in more volume for your training routine without impacting your recovery. Training volume is the base upon which you build strength, but if you’re spending hours and hours in the gym, doing set after intense set, you’re going to wear yourself out pretty quickly. In contrast, doing some quick and easy work very frequently tends to have less of an impact on recovery.
For more on the relationship between volume, intensity, and frequency, watch this video:
Now, while you won’t notice the results of this kind of “extra training” overnight, in a few months, you’ll find that your lats and biceps have gotten significantly stronger. You can do the same thing with pushups, but the “chin-up bar in the doorway method” works particularly well because it’s such an easy way to remind yourself to actually do the chins, but at the same time, not to overdo them. Again, you don’t want to constantly be cranking out chins, or you actually will start to burn recovery resources.
3. Drink a Glass of Water
Well, maybe several glasses. The benefits of drinking enough water throughout your day are well-documented:
- It’s vital for normal bodily functions.
- It helps you regulate your weight (we often confuse hunger and dehydration).
- It keeps your skin looking good.
All these are great, but they’re probably not going to make you stronger. On the other hand, some of the other benefits of water will:
- Water helps your body make use of the electrolytes the muscles need during demanding physical activity.
- It does the same for oxygen (via the blood).
- It can help reduce joint pain (cartilage is mainly comprised of water).
For these reasons, if you want to be your strongest, you absolutely must drink enough water. In fact, research shows that even a small amount of dehydration can decrease performance by as much as 30% (1).
How much is enough? Well, it varies, depending on your size, the temperature, how much physical activity you’re getting, and so on. While the “standard” recommendation is 64 ounces per day, for most strength athletes, one gallon per day is probably a better starting point. I drink about a gallon and a half a day myself.
I’m going to reiterate what I wrote in the conclusion to that “Five Things” article: these tips – keep good posture, exercise more, drink more water – are, in general, just healthy things to do. There’s a reason for that. One of the most important components of strength is balance. Whether it’s for injury prevention, optimal technique, or efficient recovery, if you don’t have a balanced body and a balanced lifestyle, you’re not going to perform at your best.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
1. RW, C. (2018). Dehydration: physiology, assessment, and performance effects. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 December 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24692140
Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page.