Welcome back to this week’s blog where we cover a topic that I am super passionate about and that is getting stronger. Why am I so passionate about it? Because it has never come easy to me. Even since the start of my fitness journey I have always looked at other people in the gym and wondered how they were getting so much stronger and I wasn’t. Now that I am 10 years older and I have gained a lot more information on the topic, I am getting stronger. And since I can get stronger, you most definitely can too. You just need to know how to.
In this blog we’ll cover the 5 steps most people will need to improve their strength consistently. If you don’t know how to write your own progression program, ask someone who can. But absolutely make sure that these 5 steps are being used.
Figure out your max lifts
This is the base that will set up the next couple steps. You want to figure out your max lifts to work off for the next program that you’re doing. Figure out what it is that you want to improve and test that. If you want to get better at raw strength, test your 1 rep max. If you want to test more of your weightlifting capacity, test a 5RM, 10RM or even a 20RM.
We’re not talking about testing a 5RM on a biceps curl by the way. We’re only really testing these 100% max out lifts on our compound movements, like squats, deadlift, presses etc.
Lift based on percentages
It’s vital to know your max lifts because that means you can calculate your percentages. Any number of reps ( up to 10 reps ) is linked to a percentage of your max lift. Let’s say you want to do 5 sets of 5, those 5 reps are linked to 80-85% of your 1 rep max. This means your body SHOULD get the best stimulus using that rep range and percentage. I will add a chart below that will show you the number of reps linked to their percentages.
Follow an overload progression
Let’s take the example of doing our 5 sets of 5 at 80%. I did 5 sets of 5 at 80% of my back squat twice last week. This week I have two options to follow through with to make sure it’s a progressive overload. The first option would be to up the weight. Last week we used 80%, this week let’s use 82% and do that twice and the week after that we’ll try 85%. The second option would be to add reps. Last week we did 5 reps, let’s do 7 this week and let’s do 9 the following week. If you can’t make those percentage or rep jumps from week to week, you know you have started either too heavy or your body is not progressing as fast (for whatever reason).
Vary your training up enough to avoid plateaus
Variance is the easiest way to avoid plateaus but it’s also the easiest way to go overboard with. The 2 progression examples I gave you above is enough variance on a week-to-week basis. Yes, overtime this won’t cut it anymore but that’s why you have certain cycles that you follow. A cycle generally shouldn’t last more than 12 weeks at a time. Personally, I like a 6–8-week cycle.
Besides the examples I have given you there are more ways to vary your training. Things like adding different resistance to your weights with bands and chains is a good way to do so. You could use different implements to do the same movement. Rather than doing a front squat with the bar, do front squats with dumbbells or kettlebells instead.
This is the cycle that I was talking about earlier. Nobody benefits greatly from just doing a 1,2 or even 3-week cycle and calling it quits. You need to stay patient and true to the cycle that you’re on. 4 weeks in you might feel like your body is not progressing at all, but maybe that’s the point of your program. It might not set you up for success now but it will set you up after the full cycle is done.
This is why most people don’t see results. As soon as we don’t see immediate progress, we are looking for the next thing that will hopefully get us there. Rather than looking for something else, sometimes you need to stick it out and keep working hard on the program that has been made for you.
If the person that programs for you is no good at their job, that is a different story of course ;).
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