I don’t know any guy who wouldn’t like to get stronger and have more power.
For athletes, it’s essential.
This strength and conditioning stuff can get confusing at times but I’ll try to make it simpler for you with 11 (random) ways to build strength and power.
So here we go!
1. Hit The Compound Movements
“Get the F*CK off the elliptical and go squat!”
That’s what I told my buddy after telling me that last week he spent 45 minutes on the elliptical with his girlfriend to help get in shape.
Stop wasting time on the little things that don’t matter.
If you want to do your curls, pushdowns, other isolation exercise or get on some cardio machine, go ahead but just know that you’re probably missing about 80-90% of your potential results.
Not to say that isolation exercises are useless.
They are very useful but the truth is you won’t get anywhere with your physique or athletic goals without most of your program focusing in on compound movements.
These are exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, pushup, chin up, romanian deadlift, bearwalk, lunge, and everything else in between.
At least 80% of your program should be comprised of exercises like these.
Compound exercises work multiple muscles at one time and allow for heavy loads to be placed upon those muscles.
It’s possible to bench 400 pounds but if you trying putting 400 pounds on a chest fly, good luck.
These heavier loads make it possible to get real strong, big, and explosive. Not to mention, make you the biggest bad ass at your local gym.
I better not see your ass on the elliptical again…
2. Strengthen The Core
Strength is all about tension.
The more tension, the stronger you will be. Hence the reason why squeezing a bar as hard as you can will help you use more weight.
A strong core will bring more stability and strength. The more your core can handle, the more weight you’ll be able to move.
Ideally, the core should be your strongest area of your body but for most including myself, it is the weak link, the limiting factor in our movements.
Heavy compound movements will do an awesome job in working your core but research and in the trenches work, lead by Dr. Stuart McGill, has shown that it’s not enough.
You MUST include direct core work.
Although the topic needs a book on it’s own, I would suggest that most people need to step back and work on core stability and remove all flexion work for a good 4-8 weeks.
Do things such as planks, supermans, and bird-dogs.
From there, progressively add motion to the lower body and then only the upper body.
For example things like hanging knee raises and later in the program, add in something like medicine ball slams.
In regards to flexion based exercises like situps, I would stay away from those for 4-8 weeks and them add them slowly into the training program.
For regular people, they generally won’t need more than 20% of their core work to be flexion based.
For martial artists, I would stay at 20% and maybe up to 50% late in the program depending on what they need.
3. Train Explosively
Chad Waterbury has said over and over again on T-Nation that motor neuron recruitment is the fundamental cause for strength.
The more motor neurons you can recruit, the stronger you will be.
So how can you recruit as much neurons as possible?
By training explosively!
You do this by exploding on each rep.
If you squat, go down controlled and then explode up, trying to move the bar as fast as possible. Don’t worry if the bar doesn’t actually move fast, it’s the intention that counts.
That force you apply will increase motor neuron recruitment and overtime will lead you to getting stronger.
Another thing I want to add is the Dynamic Effort Method, popularized by Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell.
The Dynamic Effort Method involves using submaximal loads (Usually 50-70% 1 rep max) for low reps (1-5) and exploding up on the concentric phase.
Everything is the same but in this case, bar speed matters.
Power and acceleration is the emphasis here.
Although it’s not the ideal way to train athletes other than powerlifters, it still works extremely well.
4. Give Yourself Enough Rest
Strength and power are largely neurological.
Unlike when your trying to build muscle, where the muscular system takes the brunt of the force, your nervous system needs much more rest.
The muscular system only needs 30-90 seconds of rest, maybe even up to 2 minutes.
When it comes to the nervous system, you’re going to need anywhere from 2-5 minutes.
Basically, the force needed to do something, the more rest you will need.
You’re going to need more rest after a set using 90% of your 1 rep max than after a set using 70% of your 1 rep max, unless you’re using the dynamic effort method and even then you’ll most probably need more rest anyways.
2-5 Minutes of rest between sets, remember that.
5. Don’t Train Till Failure
Typical bodybuilder (and runner) mentality.
Just because you’re “repping it out” doesn’t mean you’re going to get the Arnold like results you’ve always wanted.
If you want to get stronger, you’re going to have to forget about things like this.
Sometimes going to failure is acceptable, but more often than not, it isn’t.
Getting stronger has to do with your central nervous system, not the muscles. If you’re always maxing out, you will plateau faster than you can say “whoops”.
Make it a point to leave 1-2 reps in the tank on every set of every exercise. That will help make sure you’re not killing yourself yet keep getting you stronger.
6. Back Off Every Once In A While
If you’re like me, you’ll be hurting not going all out every session.
But when it comes to performance goals like strength and power, planning your rest is probably just as if not more important than the training session itself.
The last tip was on the micro-cycle level (in the actual workout).
This tip has to do with the meso-cycle (Weekly/Monthl) to the macro-cycle level (yearly).
A program of mine will usually contain 4 week blocks. In this case, I would recommend that you start week 1 “soft” and progressively go harder every week from there. At week 5, which is now the new 4 week block, you would go back down in intensity and volume and repeat.
You can think of it as a 1 week down, 3 week hard cycle. You will use week 1 as a “restoration” week by using less weights and less overall reps.
On week 5, you would use less weights and less reps again, but this time compared to your week 3 of the last cycle.
For example, if on week 3 you used 200 pounds for your squat, you would squat 200 pounds on week 5 and then grow from there.
Eric Cressey from Cressey Performance uses a High, Medium, Very High, Low cycle.
This fluctuation in intensity and volume also works extremely well. It’s also a good model to use if you hate starting a program “slowly”.
I don’t use this model but Cressey always delivers great stuff and has never failed me. I’ll be implementing this model in the future.
For more advanced guys who usually need more frequent rest, Christian Thibaudeau likes to use a 1 week down, 2 week hard cycle.
This is much like the model I first described, except it jumps from a down week to a high intensity week with no “medium” week in between.
I’ve never used this model either as I’ve grown accustomed to a regular 4 week cycle, but like Cressey, anything that “Thibs” makes is always top notch.
7. Fix Your Posture
You’re body is at it’s strongest when it has perfect posture.
Although that’s pretty much impossible, it’s something to always keep in mind. If you’re training an athlete in particular, don’t mess too much with their imbalances as these are adaptations that their sport demands. It’s what will make them good in their sports.
Only fix as much as needed to keep them healthy.
With that in mind, the most common postural problems in regular people have to do with:
-Thoracic spine mobility
So how can you hit these areas to fix them?
-Thoracic spine: Quadruped t-spine mobilizations
-Hips: Fire Hydrants and hip circles
-Ankles: Rocking ankle mobs
-Rounded shoulders: Lots of rows
-Weak core: Direct core work such as planks and hanging leg raises
-Weak glutes: More posterior chain work like deadlifts and step ups
Make it a priority to go after these postural problems for 4-8 weeks and then put them on maintenance.
8. Train Sub-Maximally 80-90% Of The Time
Just because it’s bench day doesn’t mean you absolutely, positively have to put as much weight on the bar as you can possibly handle.
Always doing so will lead to training till failure and maybe even over-training.
If you can bench 200 pounds for a 1 rep max, but you can increase your bench by using 170-180 pounds on the bar then why would you ever try and kill yourself with a heavier weight?
It makes no sense.
From time to time, it is important to figure out your new 1 rep max so you can calculate what weights you can use to keep getting stronger.
After all, that’s what training is for.
Those testing points are called indicators and the exercises are called indicator lifts. They indicate where you are with a certain exercise at a certain point.
There are multiple ways to figure out your 1 rep max but whichever way you go about it, always train below that number.
Whatever it is, find 90% of it (your 3 rep max) and go from there.
Stay in 3-5 the rep range and stay there 80-90% of the time assuming that you’re not looking for hypertophy and endurance which require higher rep ranges.
9. Pack On Some Muscle
At one point or another, you’re going to have to build some more muscle to get stronger. If you’re a fighter or another athlete that needs to stay in a certain weight range, be careful with this as you don’t want to gain too much weight.
At 6-8 reps, you will be in the “functional hypertrophy” range or in other words, get stronger and build more muscle at the same time.
At 10-15 reps, you will be at the non-functional hypertrophy range meaning you’ll get bigger (and probably gain more size in less time than with 6-8 reps), but you’re strength won’t increase nearly as much. Bigger muscles allow for a higher capacity to produce force, so this range does have it’s uses even if strength won’t increase as much simultaneously.
You’re best bet is to alternate the use of these rep ranges.
For most people, starting a training session with a heavy compound exercise followed by accessory exercises at 6-15 reps works wonders.
With concerns to a month by month basis, switch the focus every month from functional hypertrophy to non-functional hypertrophy and vice versa.
For example, every workout will contain accessory exercises using 6-15 reps but on weeks 1-4 most of them will be from 6-8 reps. On weeks 5-8, the focus will be on 9-15 reps. Then on weeks 9-12 it will go back down to 6-8 reps. Weeks 13-16 would contain exercises mostly in the range of 9-15 reps.
That way you won’t plateau.
10. Jump, Sprint, Throw
If you want to get strong and powerful, then you must start jumping, sprinting, and throwing.
These are the movements that will make you a beast on the field/ring.
These movements help develop insane power and for those that don’t know, it is what separates the wannabe’s from the pro’s.
They should done 2-4 times a week, depending on the amount of training sessions they are, and performed at the beginning of every workout with long enough rest periods to promote maximal power production.
Also, keep the number of reps low as that also affects fatigue levels.
The cool thing is that developing higher levels of rate of force development (i.e power), will also help you become stronger and becoming stronger will help you become more powerful.
See how that works?
11. “Strength Is A Skill”
If you want to get strong and powerful, you need to change your perception of exercise.
It is no longer a workout, it is a training session. It is practice.
Take away all the science and you’re left with knowing that if you repeat things over and over again, you will become better at them.
If you want to get better at basketball, what do you do? You got out and play more basketball. Do you play till you can’t move? No because then you won’t practice tomorrow and if you don’t practice tomorrow, you probably won’t go the next day and if you let that repeat itself, you’re never going to get better.
It’s about the consistency to get better and better as much as possible.
If you squat 4 times a week, you will have the potential to squat more than someone who squats 1-2 times a week, assuming the program is intelligently designed.
This means you will have to reduce the volume of your movements in each workout but the increase frequency will take care of the total volume.
Practice fresh and practice often. You’ll get stronger that way.
So there you have it, 11 random ways to get strong and powerful.
What do you guys think?
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