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.
Of course, we all workout to get stronger. Yet, few people truly understand how to build strength properly. Then, even fewer people know how to continue building strength over time. This is because the stronger you get, the harder it becomes. That is unless you know what you are doing. This article will go over the 3 best ways to build strength for years to come!
Getting stronger is simple, it just takes a lot of hard work.
First, building strength is very basic and, over time, can be boring. As most people are looking for a new innovative way of how to workout, because it is more exciting than the simple formula that has been around for decades. The thing is, the ways to build strength have been the same since the start of time.
Now, to clarify, what we mean by building strength is your body’s ability to do more work (training volume), or lift more weight (training intensity), than before. By increasing your work capacity, or the amount of total work you can withstand, you are stronger than before. This is the same as the ability to lift a heavier weight.
These are the 3 best ways to continuously Build Strength:
First, by improving your technique you will train your body to move more efficiently. And as a result, improving your leverages will ultimately increase your strength potential; also known as, the ability for your body to get stronger.
Improving your technique includes improving your positioning throughout the lift; so that your body moves through the strongest positions. A simple way to picture this is by imagining lifting a weight off the ground. Such as during a deadlift.
During the deadlift, if you have an improper or inefficient technique, such as standing back away from the weight a foot or so, you will be out of position during the entire lift. Then you will not be able to lift as much weight, because your body will not be in the strongest position with the greatest amount of leverage. This improper positioning is often seen through back rounding and shoulder shrugging. And, of course, this would also increase your risk of injury.
However, by simply improving your technique by lifting the load closer to your center of balance you will improve your efficiency and be able to lift more weight. It is as simple as that!
What many people fail to realize during any exercise is that how you set up for the lift is equally as important as actually performing the lift. This is because if you set up improperly, the lift has no chance at being technically efficient, as you are already out of position. So, by simply setting up properly, your body has a better chance of using the proper movement pattern throughout the entire exercise.
Research says that it takes 300-500 repetitions to learn a new movement pattern and 3,000-5,000 repetitions to correct an improper movement pattern.
And, along with improving your set up, you can further improve your technique by improving your movement, or motor pattern. To do this you have to repetitively practice the same movement pattern over and over again. This will increase your body’s neurological signal to each muscle and further your movement efficiency.
It has been found that it takes 300-500 repetitions to learn a new movement pattern. But it takes 3,000-5,000 repetitions to correct an improper movement pattern. That may sound intimidating but, if you break it down, it is not as difficult as it seems.
To improve a movement, such as a squat, you can do as few as 10 repetitions a day for 30 days to start seeing a change.
With that in mind, it is best to learn how to move properly from the start of training by getting assistance from a trained professional. Or by training yourself with the right knowledge, as we provide here.
Just remember, technique improvement is a never-ending task that will always be changing as your body grows over time. But, as your positioning, neurological efficiency, and overall technique improve, your strength will increase dramatically!
Next, another way to increase your strength is by simply getting bigger. By gaining size and increasing your body mass you will be able to withstand heavier loads as they are lighter relative to your body weight.
By simply getting bigger, by building more muscle or increasing body fat, you will improve your mechanical leverages and allow for greater support. Of course, increasing your muscle size and density will allow for stronger contractions. But, as your muscles grow, they will also have a better angle of pull.
This is because as a muscle grows it slightly changes the angle the muscle fibers lay in and pull from, which allows for more efficient contractions. Plus, as your muscles grow, they will increase the number of myofibrils (“pulling chains”) within each muscle fiber. This will create more connections for your muscle to pull with, leading to a stronger contraction. But do not confuse this with increasing your number of muscle fibers.
You Cannot Build More Muscle Fibers
You are born with a certain number of muscle fibers within each cell, which cannot change. So the only way to grow muscle is through increased density or size. Both of these forms of growth increase the number of actin-myosin connections (the cells that go through the action of contracting each fiber) within each myofibril. And therefore the ability to create tension within a muscle.
The definition of muscular strength is the ability to create tension within a muscle. Any stress placed upon a muscle, which it initiates growth, will increase the muscle’s ability to create tension; through the addition of more myofibrils or actin-myosin connections.
However, body fat can also allow for greater strength gains. Though the addition of body fat does not directly improve the contractibility of a muscle it does also aid in improving the angle of pull; by adding mass and increases the energy storage within each muscle.
So if you do nothing else towards building strength, getting bigger alone will make you stronger.
Third, the most common way to increase strength is by consistently doing more work than before. This can be an increase in the total training volume or an increase in training intensity.
For example, if one week you do a certain number of repetitions with a particular weight. And then the next week you do more repetitions, you are building strength. Similarly, if one week you use a certain weight; and the next week you do the same exercise with a heavier weight you are, again, increasing your strength. These are the simplest formulas used by strength athletes to build strength.
Both of these progressive overload techniques are useful in building strength. And are commonly used together in a workout program. However, for both techniques to work, they must be done consistently over time to truly increase strength.
When building strength, your body will adapt to the stresses you place upon it. By continually increasing the stress placed upon your body, it will adapt by becoming stronger.
However, if you place too much stress upon your body without proper recovery your body will not be able to adapt fast enough. And you will see a breakdown in the form of injury or weaknesses of some kind.
Strength training is something where what you put in is what you get out. If you only put in a minimal amount of work you will get a minimal amount of results. If you train hard, stay consistent and always push for progress then you will continue to get stronger.
If you workout, then we know you want to get JACKED; aka Build Muscle, get Bigger and Gain Mass or Size. I mean, who doesn’t? The thing is, as with everything in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. This article will go over the best way of how to get big and strong! So then you can look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, The Hulk, or the new Bodybuilding Mr. Olympia sooner than you think!
Getting bigger is easy. All you have to do to get bigger is eat more calories than you use for energy. It is really that simple!
However, there is more to it than that. So, let’s break it down…
Basal Metabolic Rate
First, your body has what is known as a Resting or Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the base level amount of calories that your body uses just to survive or sustain normal function. So if you were to just lay in bed sleeping all day without movement, this is the number of calories you would burn. Assuming everything else is constant.
Now on top of your Basal Metabolic Rate, you use energy to go through daily activities and exercise. And any movement adds to your Basal Metabolic Rate and overall calorie expenditure. So, the more calories you expend, the higher your total calorie intake for the day needs to be in order to maintain constant body weight.
Basically, if you eat fewer calories than you use daily, you will begin to lose weight. If you eat more calories than you use for energy, you will grow.
Now, this is the simplest form of overall weight adjustment. However, it does not answer the question of how to get JACKED, or build muscle.
How To Get BIG
“To build muscle you need to eat more and exercise more.”
To get BIG and JACKED you need to increase your activity level while in a calorie surplus. More simply put, to build muscle you need to eat more and exercise more.
Now for specific growth, such as building more muscle in a certain area, you must stimulate that area through your activity. For example, if you want bigger arms you must train your arms in order to stimulate muscular growth while in a caloric surplus. If you want bigger legs, then you must simulate your legs to grow and eat more. Though it is a simple concept, the overall work is difficult.
“There must be a combination of optimal training intensity and work volume to stimulate growth.”
Now, to stimulate muscular growth you need to train with optimal intensity and volume. That means you must have enough intensity to place stress on your muscles for growth with enough total volume of work.
For example, if you want to build muscle in your legs you need to do activities with enough intensity to create stress for growth. Plus, do enough overall volume to create a significant muscular breakdown. An example of this optimal training can be sprints, plyometrics jumps or squats done for multiple sets and repetitions.
You simply cannot build more muscular size in your legs by doing low-intensity exercises, like walking or jogging. That even includes if the overall volume is numerous miles (assuming you can already walk and jog a reasonable amount). That form of aerobic exercise stimulates mitochondrial growth within the muscle cells so they have greater endurance, but is muscle wasting (increase muscle breakdown).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you cannot do only one set of high-intensity exercise, such as a sprint, maximal jump or heavy squat set, and stimulate growth. There must be a combination of optimal training intensity and work volume to significantly breakdown the muscle fibers and allow for growth.
Therefore, to accumulate the greatest amount of work volume while using optimal intensity, do multiple sets of moderate-high intensity exercise in order to stimulate growth.
Do The Least, To Get The Most
“The goal should be to do the least amount of work in order to obtain the greatest amount of results.”
However, every time you stimulate muscular growth, you increase your total work capacity and overall strength. This means that each time you stimulate growth you will need to do more total work each time thereafter.
So, the goal should be to do the least amount of work in order to obtain the greatest amount of results. Do the least to get the most. This is often difficult.
Many of us want major results NOW! So, we do the most amount of work we can handle and gain some quick results. Then, after doing this continuously, our body will adapt to the large workload and no longer need to grow.
If you did not reach your goal, then what do you do next? You just did everything you could do to stimulate growth and you still did not reach your goal. So your only choice for progression is to do even more and more work until you burn out, or get injured.
A better strategy for this is to be patient with your goals and work hard, but be smart. That is one of the reasons that the Mathias Method starts with very few exercises in the lower levels and increases work overtime, in order to allow for continuous growth. We want you to reach your goals as efficiently as possible without negatively affecting your future goals.
Remember, strength training and body transformation are long term goals that need to consider everything at once. You may be able to reach one goal quickly. But if that denies you the ability to reach future goals you may want to take a different approach, in order to obtain them all and more!
The Best Way To Build Muscle
So, what is the best way to build muscle?
It is best to train with 65-85% intensity, for 5-15 repetitions, over 4-10 sets, to stimulate the most muscular growth. And for complete growth, it is best to use varying intensities and rep ranges within these given parameters. This will stress growth in multiple ways so that your muscle cells gain both size and density for overall better function.
For main compound lifts, which are known for building the greatest amount of muscle mass, you can use a lot more weight than other exercises. So use that to your advantage and do most of your heavy work (70-85%, 5-8 reps, 4-6 sets) with these lifts. Then do your lighter work with accessory exercises.
Of course, make sure to switch things up once in a while too.
What about training to failure and using intensity techniques to stimulate growth?
Though there are multiple intensity techniques that can be used to increase muscular breakdown, and stimulate growth, within a muscle, total work volume has a greater overall effect. With this in mind, it is still helpful to use intensity techniques such as taking sets to failure, overloading techniques, forced reps and drop sets.
However, they are best used sparingly. If used too soon in a training session or too frequently in a training cycle, their effect greatly decreases.
To use these intensity techniques most effectively, only use one variation, once per week for each muscle group. And only after all of your main work is done. This allows for the greatest amount of muscular growth within a specific area, without greatly affecting the overall training volume.
Be cautious though. Taking your muscles to failure too often can create too much damage and cause injury. And will decrease function as they become adept to failing at a certain point every time.
Benefits Of Being JACKED
Another great benefit to being JACKED and building muscle is the increased metabolic effect it has on your Basal Metabolic Rate.
What I mean is that muscle tissue is calorie expensive to your body as it needs to be maintained more than your fat stores. So, just by building more muscle you will increase your metabolism and need to eat more calories each day to maintain a constant or increased weight balance. This can be a very positive effect as it allows you to have greater control over your weight management.
Just think…if you only consume 2,000 calories each day to maintain weight, then a fluctuation of 500 calories (approximately 1 meal or 1 bowl of ice cream) can have a large effect on your health and energy. Those 500 calories are 25% of your overall caloric intake for the day. Whereas, if you have a larger muscle mass and consume 3,000 calories per day, having the same caloric fluctuation will have only a 17% effect on your energy balance.
This allows you to have greater energy reserves and extra meals, or cheat meals, will have less of an effect.
So if you like cheat meals, increase your muscular workload and eat more to build muscle.
“When attempting to build muscle, it is best to make small caloric jumps by adding only 200-500 more calories to your daily intake.”
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about nutrition, and what it takes to be JACKED.
When I say to “eat more” that is exactly what I mean. To gain more muscle and overall size you need to eat more food than you did before.
However, this should not be a major change because, the same as with doing too much work at the start of training, if you try to gain weight too quickly it will likely add to your fat stores rather than just adding muscle mass.
So, to get bigger and build muscle, it would be best to make small caloric jumps by adding only 200-500 calories to your daily intake. That is simply another snack or a small increase in portions throughout the day.
I recommend you start with the smallest caloric increase to see how your body responds before adding more calories. A more slow-moderate approach to adding size will help to build muscle more rather than add to fat stores. As most of the calories will be used to recover from your added workload.
Often times people that want to build muscle just add large amounts of protein supplements to their diets with the belief that more protein stimulates more muscular growth. This is not entirely true. Yes, protein is needed to build muscle. However, so are numerous other nutrients that make up muscle tissue.
If you only eat additional protein, you will only use the amount required for new growth. Which is not much above your normal daily needs. Plus, the extra protein will be used for energy or added to your fat stores.
Plus, protein is not an efficient energy source so this would not be optimal for performance.
It is best to consume 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight in a normal muscle building diet.
Overall, protein is the same as any other caloric nutrient when consuming too much. If you eat more than is used, it will be added to your fat stores. So to build muscle, maintain a balanced diet that does not lack any nutrient and eat more of it.
Just eat a little more of everything and keep working hard. As soon as you stop growing, add slightly more calories to continue growth. Small incremental changes can create the greatest success, and building muscle is a great example of that.
Overall, building muscle to get JACKED is a simple task that takes a lot of hard work to accomplish. Just eat more and put a lot of hard work into your training.
Remember to be patient with your training and allow your body to recover properly between training sessions.
This is a 12-week advanced powerlifting program for peaking. The focus will be on peaking for your next powerlifting meet. That means more sets, fewer reps, and a lot of heavy weight. But, if you can get through it, this 12-week peaking program will make you brutally strong, guaranteed!
Powerlifting is a competitive strength sport that takes years of hard work and consistent dedication to become proficient at.
Lifters must constantly be working on their lifting technique and maintain that technique the best they can through the high-intensity workouts they endure. These workouts can often last hours depending on your strength level.
As you get stronger it takes more time to warm-up to your working weights and you have to constantly be adding more work through increasing the weight, sets and/or reps performed. Your workouts will often be 6-10 sets of few reps with the same weight to accumulate volume and strength over time. Numerous sets with few reps are the best way to gain maximal strength because you are practicing your setup and technique with intense weights, numerous times during a workout.
It’s All Focused on Meet Day!
Your set-up, how you perform each lift, along with everything else in this advanced 12-week powerlifting program, is focused upon obtaining the most strength for week 12. Week 12 is your competition or peak week and there should be no lifting done during the last 2-3 days leading up to your competition day. Do your training early in the week with little accessory work so that you are fully recovered before the meet.
This 12-week advanced powerlifting program will guide you through the exact work you need to do leading up to your next powerlifting competition.
Advanced Powerlifting Program Details
This is a 3-4 day per week advanced Powerlifting Program. You will have one main power lift for each of your 3 main workout days. These main lifts are the focus of your training and need to be done without variation. As in, don’t do box squats instead of squats. Do the lifts as written.
Workout 4 is an optional day for accessory lifts. For example, if you have a weak muscle group, then come in and train it. Use moderate intensity and volume. Do not overdo it. Save some for your main work.
Be sure to practice your lifts exactly how they are supposed to be performed in the competition. That means practicing holding deadlifts at the top and pausing bench presses as you get closer to the competition.
Also, on your main lifts, you can do an overload set to better prepare yourself for the competition. This is one set that is either an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) done with the same working weight or a daily max.
Only do this if your main work was not enough and you are feeling good!
For the daily max, work up to a weight that is difficult to do for that day, but you are still able to maintain reasonable technique. Your intensity set should never be done to failure because this teaches improper technique which will decrease your maximal strength potential.
This is a basic linear periodization program for weight training beginners.
Linear Periodization is a programming style that gradually increases intensity while decreasing volume over time.
This style of training has proven effective in all stages of training. This program is especially great for beginners, because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
In this program, there are 4 training days each week. Each training day focuses on one Main Lift.
The intensity of the main lift will increase each week, before cycling back to the start. Your training volume will do just the opposite, going from high to low.
You can mix your training and rest days any way you like, such as 2 on one-off, or 4 on 3 off. Just make sure you get in all your training each week.
Phase 1 4 x 10
Phase 2 4 x 8
Phase 3 5 x 6
Phase 4 5 x 5
To find your starting weight at the beginning of the program, you will need to take 1 week to find your 15 repetition max for each lift. After you find the heaviest weight you can do 15 clean reps with, begin your week 1 training with that weight.
You will stick with each volume phase for as long as you can until you can no longer do the work volume with your increasing intensity.
For example, if you can do your 4×10 with 100, 105 and 110 pounds during the first 3 weeks, but you fail on the 4th set of 115 pounds on the 4th week, then week 5 you will start doing Phase 2’s 4×8 with 120 pounds and so on until you have to move onto Phase 3 and 4.
After you can no longer do 5×5 with your increasing intensity, start over again with Phase 1 with your starting weight being the last weight you were able to complete all 4×10 with. From the example above, this would be 110 pounds.
Each week add 5 pounds to your upper body lift weights (bench press and military press) and 10 pounds to your lower body lift weights (squat and deadlift).
If that is too fast of a progression for you, then first make sure you are recovering well, and if needed, add less weight.
Keep track of your weights each week, because you will need to know them later on.
*You can switch out any accessory exercises if needed, but try to stick to the ones written as they are most effective.