Strength training articles for beginners, powerlifters, and athletes! Learn how to get stronger and build muscle for powerlifting, bodybuilding, weight lifting, and all strength sports! It’s time to get stronger!
As we quickly approach fall season for many high school and Collegiate athletes across the country, strength gain and muscle hypertrophy are common goals for many athletes. What are some ways that we can promote strength gain as gym-goers and athletes? Let’s take a look…
Before we can discuss muscle hypertrophy and strength, we need to first take a look at the physiological response our muscles have to exercise. When a load is placed upon a muscle belly, the muscle tissue is broken down and thus needs time to recover. During this recovery process, your muscles adapt by growing bigger and stronger; through muscle hypertrophy.
So it goes without saying that one of the most important ways to increase muscle size and strength is to linearly increase the load upon the muscle in the form of increased poundage.
Ample rest and recovery time between bouts of exercise is also very important for strength and muscle gain. Have you ever heard the saying that you grow and become stronger outside of the gym? Therein does lie the truth. Much of the adaptation that is being made is happening on those rest and recovery days outside of the gym.
Now that we have discussed load and weight-bearing activity as well as rest and recovery, we now have to consider proper nutrition. Protein is responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle tissue. As a strength athlete or gym-goer looking to promote strength gain, it is very important to get at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Ideally spacing these meals at 2-3 hour intervals throughout the day is best.
According to personal trainer Eric Leader, post-workout protein and carbohydrates are essential. It is said that the 30 minutes after a bout of exercise is typically called “the anabolic window” and is an excellent time to take in additional protein.
Finally, consistency over time may be the most important factor to increase muscle size and strength. As long as you exercise consistently over time, you will experience results. The name of the game is to stay vigilant and to stay in it for the long haul.
It’s incredibly useful feedback that can save you injuries and a lot of frustration.
#5 – Keeps Energy In The Tank
Usually, most people are going to be performing more than a single heavy compound lift during a workout.
So pacing yourself is really important. And pyramid training does that for you. Each set increases the workload but decreases the reps.
So your total volume is moderate rather than insanely high. This then allows you to repeat the same process on other lifts and exercises.
Conclusion on Pyramid Sets in Training
Pyramid sets have many benefits, including psychological ones, not just strength and muscular based ones. Implementing them into your training from time to time is a great idea and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Utilizing a Proper Warm-Up System for Strength Training
Resistance bands offer a better way to warm up dynamically alongside various non-resistance band movements. A mixture of both is the best way to activate your muscles prior to lifting and increase your joint range of motion (ROM) temporarily to perform better. There are a variety of ways to warm-up prior to training, such as foam rolling, and adding resistance bands could make several beneficial changes.
A proper warm-up is recommended to improve your performance regardless of what your training focus is. The intent behind a warm-up is to physically and mentally preparing your body for the workout through increased heart rate, range of motion, and muscle activation.
Muscle stiffness and soreness often reduce flexibility, which can affect the way you execute exercises, especially when the resistance is higher. For example, tight hamstrings and glutes can make it difficult to execute squats efficiently.
This is accomplished through mobility work and a dynamic warm-up. Injury prevention may be a factor for the warm-up with some, but the overall purpose is doing better during your training. Studies are very mixed when it comes to preventing any injuries.
Your warm-up prior to training doesn’t need to take a long duration. The point is to choose areas for foam rolling purposes to improve mobility for the focus of the day. Then dynamic stretches for flexibility and priming muscles through activation exercises.
Increasing Heart Rate
This is a quick 5-minute portion for your warm-up to increase your body temperature and blood circulation. Flexibility occurs better chances to improve and relieve muscle tightness after they have been warmed up.
During this phase, you can do a brisk jog, cycle, rowing, and other various cardio activities. This is an important phase for your warm-up and is often overlooked. But it is not an intense set of sprints or anything. Simply brief cardio to increase your heart rate and get the blood pumping.
Sustained pressure from foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other various myofascial release tools help with mobility. This is not to be confused with actual mobility work, which is taking a limb through its entire range of motion.
Instead, you are working on the tight muscles to relieve this stiffness in order to allow joints the ability to move freely in their ROM. The main ones for lifts are shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, and ankles.
If mobility is still difficult after muscle release techniques, then you may want to consider adding some actual mobility exercises that are necessary for the areas that need focus.
This type of stretching is active movement instead of static holds. You will be able to get your muscles warmed up and activated better through this method. Static stretching is okay to do at the start within short holds but holds over 10-15 seconds may possibly signal your muscles to relax as opposed to activating.
Effective bodyweight dynamic stretches can be single-leg raises, pendulum swings, arm circles, and even the cat-cow warm up. Exercises such as these assist with the muscle warm-up phase and offer activation also, but better activation for stabilizer muscles occur when resistance bands are used.
The muscle activation phase is often executed wrong when the resistance bands come out. Due to their elasticity, many often do quick movements and allow the band to slingshot back into position. Short, quick movements with little control would be more dynamic stretch opposed to muscle activation.
Controlling your movements with resistance bands and fighting against the pull help the stabilizer muscles to activate. You can understand this need for activation by understanding how prime movers work.
Prime movers are essentially your larger muscle groups working to move the weight during an exercise such as the quads and glutes for back squats. The muscles supporting these prime movers with proper movement patterns and control are the stabilizer muscles. These muscle groups supporting the prime for squats would be hamstrings and calves, amongst others.
Together they create the force necessary to move weight effectively. However, during warm-up some smaller stabilizers may not be activated, such as the gluteus medius, which affects external hip rotation.
This could be one reason for knee caving since the knees cannot be kept in alignment during the squat. The following resistance band exercises help activate the gluteus medius and strengthen it as well.
Resistance Band Exercises for Muscle Activation:
Lay on your side and loop a hip circle or resistance band around your legs, near your knees. Keep both knees bent about 90 degrees, then simply raise and lower your top leg, while keeping your lower leg pressed into the floor. Make sure to work both sides equally.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Lay on your side and loop a hip circle or resistance band around your legs, anywhere between your ankles and knees. Then simply raise and lower your top leg. Make sure to work both sides equally.
Stand with both feet inside a hip circle or resistance band, and pull it up anywhere between knee and mid-thigh height. Then walk around both forwards and backward, taking big steps and maintaining constant tension on the band.
Stand with both feet inside a hip circle or resistance band, to where there is light tension. Squat down and walk laterally (side to side) while maintaining constant tension on the band.
The hip circle bands work best for these exercises since they maintain their circular shape and easily slid up and down where needed. Victorem Gear has some quality products in sets to choose from. You can go here to check them out.
Warm-up phases seem like they would take an hour. But in reality, they should only take 20 minutes if you are moving through the phases and not allowing distractions to occur, i.e. conversations, phone use, etc.
Each phase has its own purpose and importance to the workout that follows. And some do choose to skip them after figuring out what works best for them. You should do the same and develop your own style of warming up after you get into the rhythm of using this concept.
The biggest thing is to not rush the movements while muscles are still “cold” leading to injury. Going straight into the activation phase with expectations to lift immediately may result in muscle strain or other injuries. Have patience and do everything correctly.
It takes only a few minutes to learn the proper foam rolling technique to relax your tight tendons and soft-tissues. So, let’s get started now on how to use a foam roller properly to increase joint mobility and decrease muscle pain and stress!
So, you can use it to aid in the mobility of tight tissues or just as a recovery technique.
Foam rolling has become very popular in recent years, but it has been around for decades. As it is an effective tool that helps to mobilize your joints by relaxing the soft tissues and muscles around them if done properly. But, the most important thing you need to know about foam rolling is that it is NOT a fix-all solution.
Foam rolling simply prepares your body to improve joint and muscle flexibility by relaxing any chronically tight tissues around them.
If a muscle is tight, or overactive, it will fight against any stretching you do for it. So, the foam roller can be used to help relax your muscle tissues in order to prepare them for other stretches.
Simply roll the foam roller up and down your muscles in a controlled manner to massage the muscle. This is a great way for beginners to start, as it is the least intense.
For a more effective self-myofascial release technique, attempt to crush your tissues lightly by rotating on them horizontally using controlled pressure. So, instead of rolling the roller up and down your muscles, keep the roller in place and roll your body side-to-side (perpendicular) along the same area. This will reach down deeper into the tissues.
Then move slightly up the muscle and do the same thing.
To properly break apart adhesions in your soft tissues, stop at points where you feel the most pain and relax the muscle into the roller.
Stay on that spot for at least 30 seconds at a time and breathe deep to let your muscles relax. Then slowly continue rolling over the entire muscle.
If no tightness or pain is felt in a certain area, then either use a firmer tool or move on. You will only feel pain where there is tightness. The same as a massage.
It is best for beginners to start with a soft roller, then upgrade to a firm roller. Preferably a solid PVC pipe or something similar.
I know that sounds like it hurts, and it does…at first. But it is the only thing that is truly going to work.
This is because, if the roller is less dense than your tissues, then it will break down and limit the amount of tissue release you can obtain.
Your tight tissues can only be fully released with dense objects that can break apart the adhesions. And anything made of foam just isn’t enough.
However, this also will increase the intensity of the message so you won’t need to use it as frequently. It’s the same as when you do high-intensity workouts, you need more time to recover.
What NOT To Get
When choosing your foam roller, make sure that you get one that does NOT have a bunch of spikes on it or “pressure points”. Though it may feel good, it is not nearly as useful as just getting a firmer object, like a PVC Pipe or Lacross Ball.
Remember, we want to smash over the muscle massaging everything, not just pinpoint it. That is what hand massages are for. And the fancy-looking rollers just don’t do as well.
Are you always tired, sore and lacking progress in the gym? If so, then you are likely not overtraining, but rather under-recovering! Because the biggest difference between overtraining and progress is how well you recover from your workouts. So here are the best post-workout muscle recovery tips for athletes and lifters that love to push it to the limit!
“It doesn’t matter what you can do in the gym, if you can’t recover from it.”
First, if you fail to recover properly after your workouts, then over time this can lead to overuse injuries, like tendonitis. These types of injuries can hold you back from progress in the gym and on the field. So, if you have an overuse injury, make sure you know how to recover from injuries properly.
Recovery is the most important part of every workout plan. Without proper recovery, all you are doing is breaking your body down. Recovery is where you build it back up.
So, to continuously get stronger and make progress, you need to not only work hard but recover hard too. And that all begins with knowing how to recover properly from your workouts.
Even with the best workout program, you will make little to no progress if you don’t recover properly. So, no workout is complete until you have recovered from it.
“No workout is complete until you have recovered from it.”
First, proper workout recovery starts as soon as the workout is complete. And the first step is finishing your workout with some mobility work. As in stretching and/or foam rolling for at least 10 minutes to help keep your muscle and joints healthy, while preventing injury. Remember, a healthy muscle is both strong and flexible, so don’t skip out on this part.
Next, and most important, is sleep. Without proper sleep, your body cannot function properly. Let alone rebuild and grow after a hard workout.
Your body grows, and recovers, when you’re asleep, not when you are awake. You can refill your depleted fat and glycogen stores (muscle fuel) while you’re awake, but you can only grow and repair your muscles while you are asleep.
And how much sleep you need depends on many factors. Everyone is different and requires a different amount of sleep to recover from everyday life or the additional stress of exercise. However, we can set some general standards that fit most individuals in given categories and you can adjust from there.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Kids and Teens: Most kids and teens require between 8-10 hours of sleep while growing. They have the largest range of sleep time because everyone grows at a different rate. You can assume those that grow faster or do the most activity need more sleep than those that are less active and slow to grow.
Adults: The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep just to perform normally without additional activity or exercise. Women require a little less sleep than men, which may be due to men generally being larger in size.
If you workout: Those that workout regularly will need an additional 30-60 minutes of sleep after every training day, depending upon the overall intensity or work volume.
Athletes: Athletes require 9-10 hours of sleep for full recovery due to their large workloads and intense training which places a lot of stress on their bodies.
These are general guidelines for sleep which can be adjusted depending upon how you feel. If you are still tired you (may need to go to sleep earlier, to get more quality sleep, or you) may need to increase your sleep time by 30 minutes.
Overall, sleep is the most important aspect of recovery as that is when your body rebuilds itself.
Next, nutrition is also a vital part of proper workout recovery. You need to eat enough food and get enough calories for your body to rebuild what it has lost during your workout. If you don’t, then you cannot recover fully, even with proper sleep.
For most people, eating a normal and balanced diet is enough to recover from a few weekly workouts. However, if you are an athlete or do any form of intense training, then you may need more nutrients for proper recovery. This may be as simple as an additional meal on workout days or larger meal portions throughout the day.
Now, many people believe that they need to take supplements in order to recover from any light to intense workout. This is not the case. Supplements can be helpful, but it is best to get your nutrients from food, rather than taking a bunch of supplements. Learn more >>
The Protein Myth
Myth:You need to get in at least 20-30g of protein within 30 minutes post-workout for proper recovery.
This is absolutely NOT TRUE and doesn’t even make sense. Remember, your body can only grow while you are asleep. And if you are taking protein immediately post-workout, it is going to be used as energy by the time you get to sleep. So, as long as you get enough protein, and other nutrients, throughout the day, you are set. Timing doesn’t matter that much. Also, it is always best to eat real food instead of taking supplements.
It is not only important that you get enough calories, but also the proper nutrients for your body to have the supplies needed for recovery. The main piece of this is protein. Though we do not need as much as many people believe.
Protein is the main building block for rebuilding and growing broken down tissue. Knowing this, those that break down tissue often, through exercise and other various activities, should consume slightly more protein than those that do not exercise regularly.
The average person needs 0.4-0.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight daily just to replace tissues lost during normal daily activity.
Those that exercise need more to replace and rebuild their tissues. Usually, that is 0.5-0.7g per pound of bodyweight daily. This may seem too low to what many people believe, but remember that this is just the bare minimum that you need for tissue replacement and recovery.
It is recommended that athletes and those that do strength training regularly, consume about 1g per pound of bodyweight daily. However, it is recommended that you do not exceed 1.5g per pound of bodyweight daily as this can place a lot of unnecessary stress on your body’s digestive system to metabolize it. Plus, protein makes for a bad energy source.
Realize, that your body can only build so much muscle mass per day. So, consuming excess protein will just add to your total calories for the day. Then it will either be used as a low energy source or stored as fat.
So, it is best to use carbohydrates (fast energy) and fats (slow long-lasting energy) as your fuel sources while using protein for its purpose of building.
Carbs and Fats
Carbs and fats are your body’s energy sources. However, they are both important for proper recovery.
Carbs help with hydration and give your body the energy it needs to both recover and perform. Fats help transport and store vital vitamins and minerals. Plus, they are a long-lasting energy source for endurance. So, you need a reasonable amount of each for the best results.
Active individuals should have 2-4g of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight daily. And at least 0.25-0.5g per pound of bodyweight of fats to fill out your total caloric intake needs.
Most of your carbohydrate intake should be 1-2 hours before, during and after your workout for the day.
Vitamins and Minerals
Though your macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) are important for recovery, it is also vital that you get enough vitamins and minerals. These can be obtained through a healthy diet consisting of many fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products. If you are lacking one of these categories of food, you need to find a way to include them more or replace the nutrients you are lacking through supplementation.
To help, you can take a daily multivitamin as a base amount of nutrients to give your body daily, but you should also be conscious of what you are eating and what nutrients you need more of.
Calcium + Magnesium
Sodium + Potassium
Calcium is important because you use it in every muscle contraction. Without calcium, your muscles, including your heart, would not be able to contract. Of course, it also helps increase bone density along with the added stresses of strength training.
Magnesium works with calcium, as a vital building block for our tissues and helps with muscular function.
Sodium and Potassium are two other vital electrolytes for workout recovery and performance. These electrolytes work together to regulate water in and out of cells and perform many other important functions within the body.
Part of getting enough nutrients for full recovery is hydrating. Without proper hydration, you are slowing down your recovery process and making it hard to absorb and transport the nutrients you need.
Also, you need to drink enough fluids to not only replace what you’ve lost but also excrete the waste. This is because every time you workout, you are breaking down tissue. And that tissue needs to be disposed of in some way. Most of it is excreted in your urine. Which is why it is so yellow post-workout.
If you only drink minimal amounts of fluid, then your body will use most of it to excrete the waste instead of rehydrating you.
To counter this, drink at least 0.7 times your bodyweight in ounces of water daily. And an additional 16 ounces for every 30 minutes you workout.
With proper sleep and nutrition, you can recover from all the stresses you place on your body and continue to progress in your training. Just make sure to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep every day, stay hydrated, eat enough calories, consume 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and get in all of your vitamins and minerals so that you can be recovered as much as possible before your next workout. This will ensure the best conditions for you to progress in your training.