If you have the goal of increasing strength, there are certain things that you need to master.
After a decade of coaching and working with elite athletes and pro bodybuilders, I’ve learned some of the most important commandments for increasing strength.
If your main goal is shifting weight from A to B or if you simply want to increase strength for daily life or sport, this blog post is going to give you 6 key tactics to apply.
Commandment #1: Use Compound Movements
Most people will know that the use of free weight compound movements is key for growing overall strength.
Compound movements are exercises which recruit multiple joints and large amounts of muscle. The squat, deadlift, bench press, for example, recruit muscle from all over the body in addition to multiple joints.
For this reason these types of workouts are optimal for building strength. You’re relying on large amounts of muscle and joint coordination to effectively move a heavy weight. Over time, this can lead to the adaptation of getting stronger (1).
To effectively get stronger, I suggest placing a primary focus on compound movements during your training.
Commandment #2: Train According To Your Goal
Research indicates that if taken close to failure, just about any weight or rep range of exercise can produce a muscle building effect. However, when it comes to strength, this simply isn’t the case (2).
Strength, or the ability to move heavy weight relative to body mass, is largely dependent on how the muscle acts under heavy load, rather than the size of the muscle itself.
While strength is certainly related to muscle size, that’s not the whole picture. Strength is also more about how quickly and how frequently your muscle can contract; in order to improve those aspects, you’ll need to train for it.
Training in lower weight and higher rep ranges contracts the muscle differently to training with lower reps and higher weight. Thus, in order to improve how the muscle contracts for strength, you’ll need to contract the muscle in a similar manner.
To specifically target strength-based goals, I suggest placing an emphasis on training in lower rep ranges with higher amounts of weight, for example, the popular 5 sets of 5 rep protocol.
Commandment #3: Structure Your Workouts
Structuring your workouts appropriately is essential if your primary goal is to increase strength.
As mentioned prior, you want to focus on large muscle group, compound movements for strength. As it turns out, these exercises are often the most demanding; physically and mentally.
Since these exercises are our priority, ensuring that they are completed at the beginning of a workout is essential.
While some people may suggest using a “pre-fatigue” technique, this isn’t optimal for increasing strength. During compound movements, we want to have maximum ability to produce the greatest effect. In terms of strength, having a fatigued muscle just means you’re training at a lower intensity, inhibiting strength improvement.
Focus on incorporating your most important and most demanding exercises first, and then move on to accessories.
Here’s how an example strength focused workout may look if you still want to focus on some muscle mass or fat loss aspects:
Exercise 1: Compound Strength Lift 1
Exercise 2: Compound Strength Lift 2
Exercise 3: Bodybuilding / Fat Loss Lift 1
Exercise 4: Bodybuilding / Fat Loss Lift 2
Commandment #4: Perfect Your Form
Having perfect form is not only key for avoiding injury, it is also essential for producing maximal amounts of strength.
As mentioned, compound movements, which produce the most strength, recruit large amounts of muscle groups and multiple joints. Because of this, these movements can be very complex, requiring large amounts of coordination and efficiency.
For this reason, if you don’t have perfect form, you could actually be inhibiting a maximum amount of strength gain.
With strength, one of your primary goals is to increase the efficiency of each exercise. Doing so will allow your body to produce the biggest amount of strength, since it’s not being inhibited by a lack of ability to do the movement.
To effectively and efficiently increase strength, ensure that you are using the best form possible for your body and movement ability.
Head over to our YouTube Channel for 100+ exercises and step-by-step guides from myself on the Rudy Mawer YouTube Channel
Commandment #5: Use Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is the concept that in order to increase muscle size, ability and strength, you need to consistently increase stress from exercise by increased weight, reps, sets or a combination of the three.
Increasing strength is no different. In order to effectively increase strength, in addition to perfecting your form, you need to ensure that you are presenting your body with the appropriate stimulus to increase it.
Since strength is often limited by your ability to move a specific weight, you’ll want to make sure that you are consistently increasing reps and sets, and eventually weight.
Think of building strength in terms of adapting to stress. The stress you’re placing on the body will come in the form of the weight you are using, the reps you are applying for that weight, and the number of sets.
If you consistently provide the body with the same stress, you’ll adapt and no longer have a reason to continue getting stronger. Thus, you need to present new stress to the body consistently to continue progressing.
I suggest keeping a training journal to view previous performance and ensure that you are consistently progressing and providing the body with new stimuli for growth.
Commandment #6: Also Train To Build Muscle
Lastly, you should also place an emphasis on building muscle.
Strength is all about how frequently and how quickly your muscle can contract. When you think about making a movement, a signal is sent from your brain to your muscle, which causes a contraction.
However, the overall ability of the muscle is also related to how much muscle is actually contracting.
On account of this, it makes sense that strength can also be correlated with the size of the muscle, since theoretically, more muscle could mean a greater potential for strength.
While strength is largely due to how the muscle is functioning, it can be related to the amount of muscle as well.
I suggest that, in addition to training specifically for strength, train in all other rep ranges to ensure you are also increasing muscle mass.
6 Commandments For Increasing Strength
As you can see, although building strength is quite complex, it can still be fairly simple to master.
Ensuring that you train appropriately for increasing strength while perfecting your form is essential. Further, don’t expect to increase strength if you are training the same all of the time.
Ensure that you are practicing progressive overload, while also training to build muscle, as both are imperative for consistently improving strength.
- Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar Jr, R. G., Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1032-1040.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., & Peterson, M. (2016). Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. Journal of sports science & medicine, 15(4), 715.