25 Ways to Get Stronger Now
Putting on muscle isn't just about piling on more and more weight. Use these tips to workout smarter—not harder—for big results you can really see.
13.) Use lifting chalk. Magnesium carbonate (not the same stuff you used in school to write a sentence 100 times on the blackboard) keeps your hands dry for a superstrong grip. Like the weight belt, it can help you instantly up your max.
14.) Warm up with a heavier weight than your work set. Do your last warm-up set with a heavier weight than what you plan to use in your first work set. Do fewer reps than what you will do on the work set, too. Using the heavier weight in the warm-up will help you recruit extra muscle mass for the work set.
15.) Wear a weight belt. A lifting belt will help support your lower back on deadlifts, squats, and presses. You can increase your max by tens of pounds just by strapping one on.
16.) Try a hook grip. Grab the bar overhand as usual but wrap your thumbs around it first. Then wrap your fingers over your thumbs. Reinforcing the thumb with the strength of your other fingers gives you a much better grip. It's a great way to lift heavier without using straps, which don't let your grip muscles work hard.
17.) Push your belly out during a squat or deadlift. Take a deep breath from your diaphragm so that your stomach swells outward. (If your shoulders rise, you took the breath into your lungs.) If you're wearing a weight belt, push your gut into the belt so it feels very tight. Inflating your abdomen increases core stability. Do this on sets of five reps or fewer for an immediate strength increase of at least 10%.
18.) Go heavy. Before you curl, load the bar with 20% more weight than what you can lift for five reps. Cheat curl the bar to the top position and hold for two seconds, tensing every muscle. Take four seconds to lower the bar down. Rest one minute, then do your normal set of curls. The load you're about to lift will feel lighter.
19.) When bench-pressing, drive your heels into the floor. Actively trying to force your body backward on the bench helps turn the lift into a full-body exercise, and it'll feel easier.
20.) If the bar isn't coming up evenly during a lift (as in the bench or shoulder press), or one side begins to sink, squeeze the bar on the lagging side as hard as you can. You'll send a message to the nervous system, and it will increase strength on that side.
21.) Do two or three sets of the plank as a warm-up (get into pushup position and then rest your forearms on the floor). Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds each. You'll wake up your core, which will better support your lifts.
22.) Take a deep breath after you lift the bar out of the rack on a bench press. Now hold it for your first two reps if you can. By not exhaling too soon, you won't lose your tight position early in the set. This takes a little practice, so avoid it if you're a beginner.
23.) Keep your wrists straight during a pressing lift. The heavier the weight gets, the more you may have a tendency to let your wrists roll back, but don't. Keeping them straight is a more natural and stable position that will allow you to complete the lift more easily. If you can't keep them straight, work on your grip strength.
24.) Perform a "dynamic" warm-up instead of jogging on a treadmill or pedaling a bike. Do bodyweight lunges, throwing exercises, or jumps — any movement in which you move your joints through a full range of motion. It will better prepare you to lift than just breaking a sweat with light cardio because it warms your muscles and joints while also prepping the central nervous system to lift heavy.
25.) Squeeze the bar hard for three to five seconds. Let go and rest for three to five seconds, and then begin your set. Squeezing the bar (it also works on dumbbells) forces that tight feeling everywhere in your body and reminds you to stay tight during the lift.