These strategies might sound unconventional, but they can help you break out of a rut and get seriously jacked.
Lee Boyce, C.P.T. for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 5
When Your Only Goal Is Strength
Most guys will say that weightlifting techniques are fairly simple: For size, go for high-volume rep counts; for strength, go with low reps and heavy weights; for cutting, go with high reps and shorter rest periods.
It's not that easy, of course—and if it were, every gym-goer would have the physique of Adonis. Strength training can often frustrate intermediate and advanced lifters, because following "basic rules" will only get you so far. Too much of the same thing will only lead to a plateau in your performance.
Where do you go from there? Use these four strategies to see major progress in your strength-building game.
If you're seriously focused on your performance and are looking to increase your strength, then you're going to accomplish that a lot faster if you don't worry about gaining some body weight in the form of extra muscle. It's simple physics—your body will produce more force when it has more muscle mass. You don't have to become a Sumo wrestler, but gaining about 10 pounds of body weight can create a notable difference in your force output and strength in big lifts. Once you get more muscle and improve your strength, it will be easy to shred any added body fat.
The squat is the most all-inclusive of the "Big 3" moves. It transfers strength to other movements and produces a beneficial hormonal response for testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) levels. Therefore, increasing the amount of times you squat weekly will be a huge factor in how strong you get. Take a page out of the Bulgarian method books and ramp up your low-rep squat sets up to a daily max. Do this at the end of your other workouts—the ones that don’t involve squats. You'll be training heavy without enough volume, which will make you sore. By doing this, your nervous system will be stimulated, allowing your body to feel close to your max load several times each week. Remember, this is an advanced training tool; if you’re a beginner, it’s not for you. Use your discernment for what feels like a comfortable daily max—based on your physiology and how you're feeling, it should change daily.
If you’re just sleepwalking your way through a few light sets to get the blood flowing before your heavy workout sets, you're selling yourself short.
When you're trying to lift a lot of weight, your success doesn't just depend on how you're feeling that day—it's your warmup that count. As you work your way up to your weight sets, make sure you steadily increase the weight you do each set. You don’t have to do sets of 10 every time. Remember, you’re training for strength, so do three to five reps with your lighter warmup sets, and two to three reps with your heavier warmup sets. Don't worry about getting too tired—your body will handle it.
Here’s a simple warmup idea using a work-set weight of 315 pounds as an example.
Example Warm Up Set 1: 135lbs – as many reps as needed Set 2: 185lbs – 5 reps Set 3: 225lbs – 3 reps Set 4: 255lbs – 3 reps Set 5: 275lbs – 3 reps Set 6: 295lbs – 2 reps Work Set 1: 315lbs – 3-5 rep max
Rest as long as you feel necessary. Again: You’re not lifting your max weight for max reps, so your muscles won’t get fatigued. In the example above, 315 pounds would be this lifter’s five-rep max. That means he should be able to lift 275 pounds for about 10 reps—so three reps should be no problem.
If you’re in a strength-training phase, then you’re likely training the big lifts—squat, overhead press, deadlift, and bench.
When you're planning out each day's workout, make sure you focus on one of those lifts—not two or three.
Trying to do a three-rep max in the bench press followed by PR attempts in the deadlift is both inefficient and guaranteed to lead to frustration down the road. If you attempt to hit those huge lifts all in one day will over-tax your central nervous sytem, so you won't get stronger—leaving you with no improved PRs over time.
Remember: This is a strength-focused workout routine. You're better off building each workout around one big strength movement, then adding in some smaller assistance exercises. If you choose to complete other big lifts, keep the rep range out of a strength-training zone.