Who needs a Personal Trainer? Part 4: Strength Training


 

I hope Santa was good to everyone this year.  My gift for you is coming in the form of  part 4 of the Who needs a Personal Trainer series. This week we are talking about lifting heavy objects and putting them down or Strength Training if you prefer.

In doing research for this post, I Googled “strength training” just to see what comes up. I got everything from powerlifting to bodyweight exercises. While the search was correct, all those exercises all increase strength to a degree. For the purpose of this post I’m focusing on lifting heavy weights for a few reps. Powerlifting is not in my wheelhouse and bodyweight exercises are talked about in the GPP post coming up in a few weeks.

I’m not going to get deep in the weeds of the biology of it, but to increase strength there are a few things that are happening in your body. First, you create more motor-neuron connections, which helps activate more muscle. Do you remember when you first started lifting weights and your rapid strength increase?   You can thank the muscle-neuron connections for that. As a side note, this is your “muscle memory”.   You know the reason you never forget how to ride a bike. The next thing that happens is an increase of rate coding. Rate coding is a fancier way of saying “how fast your muscles are able to contract”. The final thing that happens is your muscles themselves get bigger to lift the heavier weights.

Like hypertrophy, to really increase strength, progressive overload is required. It makes sense, to lift more weight you have to actually lift more weight. I’ll give you a second cause I know I just blew you mind.

In the hypertrophy post, I talked about the 3 ways to achieve constant overload. They were weight, volume and frequency. To induce hypertrophy you want to increase volume and weight. But to increase strength, we increase weight and frequency. Training the same body part twice a week is how we can increase frequency. We can increase frequency because the volume is low which helps prevent overuse injuries. If you guys follow Cory Gregory, this is how he can squat heavy everyday.

Enough of my babbling, let’s get to the actionable stuff…

How do I get stronger?

To gain strength, you want to lift in the rep range of 3-6 for 3-5 sets. I always aim for more sets and the lower end of the reps.   The goal here is to not go to failure. Contrary to hypertrophy you always want to leave something in the tank when training for strength. Not so much that you didn’t lift anything but not so much that you drop the weight on rep 2 of your second set.

How much weight should I be lifting?

This is where you feel Alpha. Find a weight that is 90-93% of your 1RM. Here is the link to find you 1RM.

Multijoint or single joint exercises?

To get strong, the goal is to lift the most weight possible. With that in mind, go for multijoint exercises almost exclusively.   Lying leg curls have their place, but the amount of weight lifted is minimal when you compare the weight of a deadlift. Save the single joint exercises for endurance and hypertrophy. Stick to bench press bent over rows, pull ups, barbell shoulder press, squats, deadlifts and their variations. All exercises are free weights too. Machines are good but the small stability muscles don’t get the work like they do using free weights.

How to breakup the workout.

Since we are increasing frequency, use a 2 days split of upper and lower.   So Monday and Thursday do chest, back and shoulders and then Tuesday and Friday do legs. Take Wednesday and the weekend to do cardio and abs. I told you we would increase frequency. With the amount of rest you can recover and feel fresh everyday your hitting the iron. Lifting heavy is taxing on the body, but if you are getting adequate rest and not doing a lot of volume you can hit the same body parts multiple times a week.

Rest is the best.

Rest is crucial to strength training. If you want to kill it everyday then you need to let your body heal during the workout and after the workout. During the workout, rest 2-3 minutes between sets. You aren’t going for endurance, mind your rest periods. After the workout, get quality sleep or you are going to be sluggish and your strength will suffer. The first thing to go when your tired is your strength.

Tempo

I started incorporating a 2-0-2 tempo when lifting recently and my bench, for example, has gone up 20 lbs in 2 weeks. This means take 2 sec to lower the weight, quickly change direction (don’t bounce it) and take 2 sec to lift the weight. The reason is time under tension, especially on the eccentric or lowering phase. Focus on controlling the lowering phase of the movement and your strength will go through the roof.

Sample workout

For this week’s workout I’m going to give you what I’m currently doing for my Monday/ Thursday workouts. Like I’ve always said, simplicity is key. You don’t need to do anything crazy just lift heavy.

Monday

T-Bar row 5×5

Incline bench 5×5

Seated shoulder press 5×5

Thursday

Weighted Pull ups 5×5

Flat Bench 5×5

Shrugs1 5×5

1I know shrugs are not really a multijoint exercise but like I said lift heavy weights. Holding a barbell with 275 lbs. requires core strength, grip strength and balance. Although only a single joint (shoulder) is moving, I’ll give it a pass because of the weight lifted.

My workouts are short and sweet. They don’t need to be complex. Stick to the core movements and lift some heavy weights.

Stay tuned for next week when we talk about Peaking and tying this whole mess together.

If you missed any of the previous posts in the Who needs a Personal Trainer? Series here are the links:

Part 1 Periodization: Never Plateau Again!

Part 2 Endurance: I don’t want to be bulky, I just want to be toned.

Part 3 Hypertrophy: The Gainz post