“When you build muscle, strength will follow.”
How do you get stronger? All those things you do to build muscle – like bench presses, deadlifts, and squats – eventually cause you to build up strength in the long run.
However, if you want to get the best results for your body, the statement above should be rephrased as follows: WITH INCREDIBLE STRENGTH, A GREAT PHYSIQUE WILL FOLLOW.
This means you should work on increasing the strength of your entire body, and not just limiting yourself to achieving that “burn” or those “big pumps”.
I have mentioned this before in previous articles. PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE OVERLOAD is the trick to gaining muscle effectively and fast and building strength at the same time. With every workout, you should slowly and steadily increase the weights that you are lifting. Exponentially, you also increase the tension in your muscles, promoting greater muscle growth.
Obviously, this early on, you are already aware of the fact that if you are to become stronger, then weightlifting is the key. But lifting weights is just one of four steps that you need to take into consideration.
Now, let’s take a look at the three steps that will enable you to get much stronger.
How do you get stronger? By choosing the right strength program for you.
If you are to build strength, the physical fitness program that you choose should fall in the exercise category known as COMPOUND EXERCISES.
Unlike Isolation Exercises wherein you focus on working out a single body part at a time, Compound Exercises involve building up multiple major muscle groups and joints in a single workout.
Let’s give you an example. If you want to see major improvements in your upper body physique and strength, you should do bench presses (a compound exercise) more instead of cable flies (an isolation exercise), which only build up your pecs.
Another factor that you should consider is the heavyweights that you will be lifting. But just how heavy is “heavy”? If you are to build strength, you should start within the range of 75 percent of your one-rep max or within the 10 to 12 rep range.
Now, strength programs are much shorter in duration compared to other physical fitness programs, but they are the best way for you to get a lot stronger.
One reason for the short duration is that, because of the heavier weights you are lifting, it is very easy for you to get exhausted. Just 30 minutes of heavy compound weightlifting will leave you very tired in comparison to an hour or two of isolation exercises.
The other reason is to avoid the bad effects of overtraining, which may find you losing more muscle (and strength) instead of building them.
Ideally, you should do heavy compound weightlifting workouts three to four times per week. Not only will this prevent burn out and overtraining, but you also allow your muscles sufficient time for recovery, repair, and rebuilding.
Here are some strength training programs you might want to consider :
- Starting Strength = This system is specially designed to achieve safe and efficient improvement in strength, health and overall athletic performance through the use of basic barbell exercises.
- 5/3/1 Program = Jim Wendler’s program involves doing one-rep max’s of squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and military presses safely, allowing the building of strength while reducing the risks of injuries during these exercises.
- Stronglifts 5×5 = This strength program involves doing five multijoint barbell lifts every week. These lifts include deadlifts, squats, bench presses, overhead presses, and bent-over rows. If you happen to be one of those tech-savvy types, this program comes with an app so that it will be easier for you to keep track of your fitness goals and achievements per week.
- Texas Method = More for intermediate and advanced lifters, the Texas Method allows for greater variety and adaptation in your workout routine, with some days allotted for major lifts, high-intensity exercises, and variety or light recovery.
- Bulgarian Method = With this system, you perform weightlifting techniques – like front, overhead or back squats, snatches, high pulls, and clean and jerk – two to three times a day for six days per week at a 95 percent or higher one-rep max. This training program may be difficult to do for individuals who have work or busy schedules.
- Westside Barbell = This training program involves four workouts per week, including bench presses and upper body exercises for one day and then lower body, squats, and deadlift exercises for another day.
For newbies, I recommend Starting Strength and the 5/3/1 Program because they emphasize proper form in performing the various lifts and exercises, so that you will be assured that you’ll get the desired results.
How do you get stronger? By eating the right amounts of calories and macronutrients.
Okay, we’ve discussed this topic quite a lot in previous articles. Eating the right amounts of calories and macros will enable you to gain muscle and build strength.
When we say the “right” amounts, it should be slightly higher than the amount of calories you are presently burning. This is because you need to maintain a “caloric surplus”, which is slightly more calories in order for you to achieve the following:
- Gain muscle
- Build strength
- Provide additional fuel for your workouts
- Promote more efficient functioning of your body’s physiological processes that are related to muscle building
Ideally, you should be eating 10 to 15 percent more calories than you are burning daily. This technique is known as “lean bulking”, and this has been tried and proven to help you gain and build muscle without gaining unwanted fat.
Moving on to your macros, this means that you should eat the right amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates daily.
Obviously, when it comes to muscle building, the most important is PROTEIN. Of course, you know that it is from protein that you get the building blocks of muscles. So, if you want to build muscle and get stronger, you need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
Next, you may not be keen on the idea of increasing your consumption of fat. BUT, fat is a necessity in a number of physiological processes that are related to muscle growth, including nutrient absorption, insulin sensitivity, satiety, and cell turnover.
Don’t worry though.
You only have to eat 0.3 grams per pound of fat-free mass daily. Just to clarify first, “fat-free mass” refers to your body parts that aren’t fat, such as bone, lean muscle, and water. This comprises 0.2 to 0.3 grams per pound of body weight per day or 15 to 20 percent of your daily caloric intake.
Many people will tell you to restrict your intake of carbs. However, it is carbs that give you the fuel for your workouts, so that you gain both muscle and strength faster. Ideally, you should eat around 2 to 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily or around 40 to 50 percent of your daily caloric intake.
How do you get stronger? By allowing for sufficient recovery from your workouts.
If you think you’re growing new muscles while you are lifting all those weights in the gym, YOU ARE WRONG.
Weightlifting and all those other training programs provide the stimulus for muscle growth. It is while you are resting and recovering that the actual muscle growth, gain, and rebuilding takes place.
But what does “recovery” mean? It involves Step 2 that we discussed above. That caloric surplus we mentioned earlier helps to prevent you from going into a state of calorie deficit.
Without enough calories, while you are resting, your body won’t be able to repair the muscles that have been damaged during your workout. You won’t be growing any new muscles either.
In most cases, you will even lose more muscles because your body will be burning muscle tissues to get the energy for repair. So, again, make sure that you eat the right amounts of calories as stated above.
An integral part of recovery is getting enough sleep. It is while you are asleep that muscle rebuilding and new muscle growth is taking place. Research has shown that sleep deprivation prevents muscle growth and causes muscle loss as well.
These bad effects get even worse if you have a calorie deficit. Aside from these, you also should expect poor athletic performance with sleep deprivation. It is only when you get enough sleep that you will not only be able to work out well, but you will also do your best in sports.
Take note of these tips to get enough sleep at night:
- Get regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol four to six hours before going to bed.
- Cut back on the computer, TV and artificial light an hour before bedtime.
- Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine. You can perform deep breathing exercises before going to bed.
- Make sure to keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.
Conclusion: How do you get stronger?
Now you know:
- Choose the right strength program for you
- Eat the right amounts of calories and macronutrients
- Allow for sufficient recovery from your workouts
Always observe these simple steps and you are sure to achieve your goal of becoming stronger and building that magnificent physique.