Strength comes in many forms. It means something different to all of us. No matter what it means to you, there are still some basic requirements necessary to maximize potential. Taking the body and mind to the next level of strength can be one of, if not the most beneficial thing one can do in a lifetime across all aspects; physically, professionally, socially, and spiritually. Below I've itemized the four "keys" to continuous strength. Practice them all to ensure a lifetime of progress. Let's get to work!
“I cannot help to feel sorry for any man or woman to not feel what is like to find the physical strength capacity and capabilities of their own body.” - Ricky Line
Variation is an easy way to keep strength continuous, especially as the training age and overall training volume increases on specific lifts. The first beneficial variation is changing your training focus a couple times a year. Unless you are a dedicated strength athlete (powerlifter, Olympic lifter) then there really isn’t a need to continuously bombard the body with traditional barbell bench press, back squat and deadlift as heavy as possible.
If you are a 1-5 rep per set person, then moving to a mid- to high- rep focus or circuit style training for a couple training blocks can really elicit some strength potential. Same goes for the opposite, if you are an 8-10 rep on everything person, spend a block or two moving some heavy doubles or triples and see what kind of weight you can move. This will help to gauge your training percentages in your lifts and give a clearer picture on what needs to be worked on.
Power is often neglected in traditional gym goers’ programs. Exchanging “pump work” for speed and power work, moving the weight faster, landing more efficiently and jump/throw training is a huge gap in most programs that if emphasized, can assist in personal bests in many lifts and performance.
The other simple variation change are the implements used in training, or none at all. Ask and answer these questions:
- Do you primarily stick to barbells and dumbbells? Try a block with machine based and bands for a block to see what kind of strength gains are available. Kettlebells are great alternative and additive to traditional barbell training and should be a staple in strength training programs.
- When is the last time body weight exercises were the focus? A couple months of body weight only (weighted vests, chains, bands for resistance if needed) can yield amazing stabilization strength with carryover to traditional forms of strength training. Utilizing Medicine Balls, bands, plyo boxes and sleds to produce more power.
*check out my YouTube for some ideas to change up your routine
2. Progressive Overload This is the cornerstone of any strength training program. The principle of progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress on the the body tissues (muscles/tendons, bones, etc.), and the body will continuously and slowly adapt to the stresses and become stronger and more efficient. The roadblock that many have is by only focusing on certain movements and lacking variety/variation (see above), and there comes a point of diminishing returns due to weak points, underdeveloped supporting tissue or lack of progressive motor patterns.
Combining variation AND progressive overload on each of those variations is where the magic happens. Always look for a way to overload, and no, that doesn’t always mean more weight on the bar. Here are some other ways to push overload: - More TUT (time under tension) – make sets longer with more reps, slower tempos - Work Capacity – This can be done by pushing to get more work done in a shorter time, by decreasing break times between sets or using superset, “dropset” protocols (mechanical and traditional) or contrast training. This can also be achieved by infrequent, unscheduled “challenge” workouts that test overall efficacy and how far the body can go. - Increasing training frequency (think doing 4 total body days or 2 upper/2 lower focused instead of body part training) - Overall Training volume – Add a couple reps or even a set at the end of working sets or dedicate some specific weak point training at the beginning or the end of the workout for 5-10 min, this slowly adds up!
This may be the differential for most. This is not something that comes naturally, it has to be earned. The mind is the most powerful tool in strength training. To get to those new strength levels, utilizing the power of the mind is essential. There is going to be some discomfort. There is going to be some doubt. Respect for the weights and the “grind” are present. Lastly, maybe even some fear. Now, take all of that energy, all of that thought, and put it TOWARDS the task at hand. If steps 1 and 2 have been practiced, then the body is ready for the challenge, ready for the new level, ready to attack.
Lock it in, focus in on the task at hand, and do what has been practiced! How did that feel? Did the rep hold? Did the sprint go okay?
Now those feelings from before are gone and the body is starting to get accustomed to the new-found strength. Tolerance has now been raised. With that comes confidence. Confidence is one of the top rewards of strength training. This will not only carry over in the gym, but will directly influence other tough life decisions faced. Rinse, and repeat each time those new levels are needed, accessing more and more, deeper and deeper into the mind. Do this, and you will be blown away at the strength inside and out achieved. That is the power of the mind.
4. Patience Strength, like many things in life, takes TIME to create. In today’s world of social media, it’s easy to get lost in all of the feats of strength performed around the world. What is not shown however, are the countless reps, time, sessions spent on building the foundational strength (by practicing the steps above) to get to a point to achieve those impressive feats.
“Rome was not built in a Day” - John Heywood
Set a goal, build the plan, and put in the work. If a program is started, FINISH it, avoid the “program hopping”. Ignore the mind playing tricks by throwing signs to change the goal every other week. Set the goal, progressive overload to reach the goal and reassess to the next one. This takes time and make the time you spend in the gym geared TOWARDS something and away from randomized chaos. Trust me,10 years later you will thank yourself.