5 Tips for MORE Strength Gains
1. Use Your Reps Intelligently
Every gym bro knows that 8 to 12 reps are for size, and 1-6 reps are for strength. What they don’t know is the intelligent use of the ‘strength’ rep range.
First of all, increasing load and working in the low rep range recruits your fast twitch type II muscle fibers early in the set. These muscle fibers are high threshold fibers, and they’re responsible for greater performance increases in strength and speed.
Most lifters, when training for strength & performance, immediately drop their reps to singles in order to peak their strength. Though it feels awesome to lift loads in the 90%+ range on the regular basis, and regular performance increases boost the confidence; it is not sustainable.
Not only the injury risk shoots up exponentially, the exclusive use of singles doesn’t work for strength improvements after first couple weeks. The reason being that actual strength gains are acquired by improving in the 3 to 6 rep range; singles & doubles only help you to realize that strength.
In a periodized powerlifting program only the final mesocycle (lasting 2 to 4 weeks) is kept for heavy singles in order to peak for the competition. The rest of the strength training is done with a varied rep range.
Learn more about periodization.
2. Focus on Your Money Lifts
Strength is a skill, and mastering a skill requires specificity and practice. You need to prioritize your specific lifts for which you want to demonstrate strength.
If you’re a powerlifter then your money lifts are Squat, Deadlift, & Bench Press. If you’re a weightlifter, you need to focus on Snatch, and Clean & Jerk. If you’re a recreational lifter who wants to increase his shoulder and quadriceps strength then your money lifts could be Military Press and Front Squat.
All of your programming needs to revolve around the performance of your Money Lifts. The secondary exercises you choose for weak point training, the quantity, and type of assistance work, everything is designed to better your main lifts.
3. Consume Sufficient Calories
Even though it’s a no-brainer, most people make the mistake of not eating enough food during strength phases. Some argue that since they’re doing less total work, extra calories aren’t required to fuel the workouts. Others just try to build strength and get leaner at the same time.
The problem, however, is that if you don’t ingest enough calories, your body won’t have the sufficient nutrients and energy required to facilitate recovery, growth, and strength gains.
If you lift heavy and are in a caloric surplus, not only will you have a plenty of energy to power through tough workouts, but also you’ll better adapt to a greater workload each week.
4. Log Your Training
If you’re serious about your strength program, you need to follow a regimented plan. It mandates that you log at least each of your main strength session in a workout log to keep a handy record. You can use either a notebook or any software like excel for this.
The purpose of a training log is not just to enter the number of set/reps, exercises, and weight lifted for easy trackability and goal setting. It’s much more sophisticated than that.
Hardcore lifters follow periodized programs which detail the entire list of workouts for a specific mesocycle. A log book enables you to get prepared for the future workouts by providing you a visual reminder of the upcoming workload.
And, of course, it’s immensely satisfying to skim through your previous log records and watch your growth as a lifter.
5. Use Intensification Methods
A judicious use of intensification methods and techniques helps you to hammer weak points and master the technique work effectively. When you reach beyond a certain strength level or skill mastery, you need to incorporate intensification methods for strength adaptations to occur.
Some intensification techniques are more suited than others for specific purposes. Use of correct method can supercharge your training and give you greater results faster.
But you ought to be careful to not overdo them as many of such techniques are very CNS intensive and can leave you drained for your next few workouts thus derailing your progress. Learning and practicing these methods under the guidance of a good coach is recommended.
Read the linked article for more information on intensification methods.