Five Things You Can Do Outside The Gym to Get Stronger

Ben Pollack Get Stronger Steps

Full disclaimer: these aren’t my own ideas! There’s a great Reddit discussion here about all the little things you can do outside of training to improve your performance in the gym. I picked out my favorites, and explained how I implement them in my own routine effectively. But I encourage you to go through the whole discussion, and think about whether any of the tips there might be applicable to you and your own situation.

1. Get better sleep.

Yeah, by now everyone knows the importance of good sleep. Hopefully you’re also familiar with these tips about getting better sleep, too. Even if it’s not new, it’s worth restating the importance of good sleep. Depending on your lifestyle, you might have to make some sacrifices to make sure that you get a good eight hours of shuteye every night, but it’s worth it.

I actually try to get nine hours of sleep per night, and I find that my performance and my mood is significantly better when I can. And, if I can’t, I try to find time to take a quick power nap or two during the day. I know that’s not possible for everyone, but if you can make it work with your lifestyle, I highly recommend setting aside more time for sleep.

2. Drink more water.

This is almost as important as getting good sleep. First, even a small amount of dehydration can have a significant negative impact on physical performance, so it’s important to stay hydrated for that reason. Second, drinking plenty of water will help you to feel satiated, making it easier to stick to a diet and avoid eating a bunch of junk. Third, in my experience, drinking a lot of water all the time makes it much easier to cut water weight prior to a meet. It’s virtually free, it’s healthy, and you have literally no excuse for not drinking enough water.

I drink a minimum of one gallon of water per day. That’s water — I don’t count coffee, Crystal Light, protein shakes, or anything else (although of course I drink those things, too). I think that’s a good amount for most people, but depending on how big you are, how physically active you are, and much more.

3. Get outside.

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Literally, sunshine has a lot of benefits for health and mood, and getting a little time outside will likely help your training. You can compensate for a lack of sunlight by supplementing with Vitamin D (a good idea in any case), but there’s really no true substitute. Figuratively, if you’re cooped up inside doing the same routine day-in and day-out (like many of us are), it’s easy to grow mentally stale. Because routine is important for long-term lifting success, changing things up outside the gym can help you to stay engaged and enthusiastic inside it.

I won’t lie — I don’t spend as much time in the sun as I should. You can probably tell by how pale I am! But I do make sure to do something new every day, whether it’s read a new book, talk to a new person, or even just learn something new. I think that’s a really valuable skill for general life, but it definitely applies to lifting as well.

4. Stop overthinking.

By the same token, stop stressing about whether walking the dog, going for a gentle swim, or any other type of physical activity is going to negatively affect your lifting. While you’re at it, stop obsessing over every little detail of your training routine. I’m not saying that you need to take up ice hockey or rugby, but I am saying that the less you stress outside the gym, the better you’ll lift inside it.

5. Meditate.

And, last but not least, if you struggle with stress, there’s nothing like meditation. In fact, even if you’re not a high-stress person, you can probably benefit from a regular meditation practice, through improved focus, relationships, and sleep. Just like everything else on this list, you don’t need any equipment or support to meditate, so you’ve got no excuses. It doesn’t matter what style you use — mindfulness, visualization, reflection, whatever — but it does matter that you do it.

I meditate a minimum of 15 minutes per day, every day, and I shoot for 30-40 minutes. I’ve found it to be an incredible de-stressor, performance enhancer, and honestly, a really important part of my overall happiness.

Wrapping Up

In case you didn’t notice, all five of these tips are just generally healthy things to do. That’s no coincidence! Remember, one of the biggest “secrets” in powerlifting 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. If that doesn’t convince you, just think about how great you feel after a good training session, and use that as motivation to drink more, chill out, and get to bed!

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.

Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page and photo @kyle_wurzel.

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Ben Pollack :Ben Pollack is a professional powerlifter and doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. Ben has competed in powerlifting for five years, and holds the all-time world record raw total in the 198-pound class. He has won best overall lifter at the largest raw meets in the world, including the US Open, Boss of Bosses, and Reebok Record Breakers. He trains at Big Tex Gym in Austin, Texas. You can contact Ben through his website (phdeadlift.com).