Building strength isn’t easy-but if you follow a program designed to make you stronger every workout, it is much easier. How do you know if you’re getting stronger?
HOW TO GET STRONG
One way is through relative strength. That is, how the weight you move compares to how much you weigh. For example, if you can Military Press your bodyweight, you have achieved an very respectable level of strength.
LINEAR PROGRESSION DEFINED
Another way is through linear progression. In linear progression, you increase the weight used in each movement in the same increments. When you are able to complete every rep of every set, you increase the weight. Eventually, every lifter will stop progressing at the same rate. This is normal, and called a plateau. At this point, the program needs tweaking so the plateau can be broken. A work-out planned through linear progression is a great roadmap to strength.
When you use a workload for a certain volume, your body adjusts to that demand. This holds true for most (read: not advanced) trainees. Therefore, it is essential to increase demand, because that is how homeostasis (the body’s preferred state-an equilibrium it fights to maintain) is broken.
YOU NEED TO TRAIN
Training is exercise with a purpose. As soon as I started training, and stopped merely exercising, my muscles began to develop in the way I had always hoped they would (but never had). Back in 2013, I had been cast to play the role of anti-hero Jud Fry in Oklahoma! In the script, Jud’s rival Curly alludes to Jud’s physique (muscles…like arn) before assailing his character. As a farmhand, Jud built his physique through daily manual labor. Since I was spending my days sitting in a desk attending class, I knew I had to get serious in the weight-room. After years of avoiding them, I committed to the squat and the deadlift.
Why follow a linear program, instead of just throwing on a little bit more weight than you did last time? Because if you want to get stronger, you’ve got to know where you’re going, and know where you’ve been. Just as counting calories is essential when first making a change to your body, having a plan and sticking to it is critical for making progress in the weight-room.
TRAINING IN PRACTICE
In those early days of training, my lifting form was garbage. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t hurt myself. Merely moving the weight was enough for me. Back then, accomplishing depth on a squat counted much more than the quality of the movement. Nowadays, I’m much stricter. Constantly, I drop weight to re-evaluate and refine form. Most often, form fixes have everything to do with breaking through plateaus.
When I was racing a friend to pulling 500lbs on the deadlift, I was absolutely stuck at 465. I did some reading, and discovered that my entire conception of the movement was wrong: I was pulling back instead of up. This is a common mistake. The deadlift is a hinge movement. You act as a lever, pulling the weight up in straight line. Previously, I had been pulling the bar back in a slight diagonal movement, which proved to be tremendously inefficient. In the span of two weeks, I had hit my mark of 500. Now, did I suddenly get stronger? If so, only marginally; rather, this quick form fix had made my movement more efficient.
I don’t chase one-rep max numbers anymore, but my working weights have gone up steadily. This comes from following linear programming. A few years ago I remember hitting 275 lbs for 10 reps on the squat; in the middle of a recent program, I hit 330 for 10. My body weight is still the same, but my body composition is much different. Strength is the foundation of a body for a natural trainer. When the natural trainee trains for strength and achieves low body-fat, the result turns heads.
To get strong, you have to follow a program. Have a plan to progressively overload your muscles, and they will get stronger. When they are stronger, they can handle more work, and then are primed to grow larger.
As a study following subjects for 80 years proved, being strong also makes it you less likely to die from external factors.
Form is more important than weight. Proper form also makes your movement more efficient, thereby improving your ability to move more weight in the first place.
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