Hey guys I am excited to share with you an awesome guest blog about building strength from Matt Browne, the creator of 4th Coast Fitness http://www.4thcoastfitness.com/ – Matt has one of the top young training minds in the game, he holds certifications from ACE as a Personal Trainer and Advanced Health-Fitness Specialist in addition to being a Licensed P.E. Instructor, Matt has also appeared in Men’s Fitness Magazine. Maybe the most remarkable thing is that Matt is a Cancer Survivor, who transformed his body and his life through fitness –if you get a chance please visit his site!
5 Ways to Make Strength Gains in 2012
1. Check Your Ego at the Door: One of the best pieces of weight lifting advice I ever received came from my high school strength coach and lifelong mentor. “Focus on technique and the weight will come.” Far too often gym-goers neglect form and technique in an attempt to lift more weight. If you are one of the individuals PLEASE STOP. If you don’t, your career as a resistance training gym-member will end one of two ways, in injury or plateau. So how do you learn proper technique? You can learn how to perform exercises properly by utilizing a number of different resources. Perhaps you can ask the personal trainer at your gym. Just make sure that the individual has a quality certification and doesn’t use poor mechanics themselves. Do your homework on the trainer before you ask for their help. Trust me, bad personal trainers are everywhere. Secondly, you could use a number of online resources. Websites such as t-nation.com, ericcressey.com, and elitefts.com have a number of blogs, articles, and videos that discuss and demonstrate proper lifting techniques. These websites feature the best of the best in the strength and conditioning community.
2. Focus on the Perfect Rep: Stop shuffling through your ipod playlist and texting your girlfriend (or boyfriend). FOCUS. If you want to get stronger you have to be in-tune with your biomechanics (simply put, be aware of how your body is moving). When you break down your training program or any training program, the single most important component is the rep. Without the rep, there is no movement, no gains, and essentially no purpose to training. Here is a brief explanation of the perfect rep.
First and foremost you need to learn proper technique in order to perform a lift or exercise correctly. It is very important to make sure you stabilize the joints that require stabilization and to move through a full range of motion (ROM). Once you have dialed in your form and feel confident with the lift, shoot for maximum force production. Translation = BE EXPLOSIVE. I encourage the vast majority of my clients (those with healthy joints and no major injuries past or present) to lift for maximal force production. In other words, every single rep you perform should be performed for maximal effort in which you explode through the bar, dumbbell ,floor, etc. Even my clients who have suffered injuries but have completed a full rehabilitation process (and have been given the green light) lift with this idea in mind. I do want mention that there are exceptions to this rule. However, this is another blog all in itself.
Develop great technique. Be in control. Work through a full range of motion. Be explosive. GET STRONGER.
3. Follow a Program: This is a huge point of emphasis in today’s blog. Following a periodized program will allow you to continue to make strength gains. Even if your goals don’t revolve around gaining strength, it is vitally important to follow a detailed exercise program. Properly written programs allow you to push through plateaus and address several aspects of physiological development.
If you are resistance training for the first time you will most likely make strength gains rather easily. However, most of these gains are attributed to neural adaptation and improvement in motor recruitment patterns rather than muscular development. You will reach a point in time when strength gains do not come so easily. This is where a periodized program will allow you to continue to adapt and change. Detailed programs will provide you with the number of prescribed repetitions and the weight in which you should use. Many well-designed strength programs are based off of a maximal effort lifts such as your one-rep max or three-rep max. This allows for a systematic approach that considers physiological training adaptations that occur over the course of a training program.
Within this bullet point I also want to highlight the importance of tracking your performance. Carry a small notebook with you during all of your workouts. During or after your workout make sure to right down the exercises you performed, the number of sets and reps, as well as the weight that you used. Don’t be afraid to write down how you felt. Was it a good workout? Did you have joint pain? Write down anything that you believe is significant to that day’s workout. Not only does this allow you to set new goals based off of your current performance, but it also allows you to look back on your workouts to reveal both weaknesses and strengths within your training program.
4. Perform Assistance Work: Aside from performing the big lifts including presses, squats, and deadlift variations (which are the foundation of building true strength), you need to make sure to complete assistance work. Some of the assistance exercise that I perform on a regularly basis include lunges, dips, get-ups, plank variations, pull-ups, face-pulls, and dumbbell rows. These exercises add value to your training program in a number of ways. For one, they will help you develop muscular strength (hence the reason they made it onto today’s blog). Secondly, they can address muscular imbalances that you may have developed overtime. Bringing me to another point. Assistance work can be used to address aesthetic appeal. Perhaps you have a lagging body part that you would like to “look better in the mirror”. Dedicate a portion of your assistance work to address just that! Not to mention the fact that assistance exercises add variety to your workout, keeping things new and exciting.
5. Set Realistic Goals: If your 1 rep-max bench is 100 pounds today, you are not going to bench 300 pounds tomorrow. And that is okay! Remember what I discussed in the first bullet point? “Focus on technique and the weight will come.” When it comes to gaining strength it is important to set both short and long-term goals. Be aware that your gains will fluctuate over time. At times, it may seem like your strength gains come almost naturally, while other times you may feel permanently stuck. Strive to make small improvements. Track your workouts as discussed earlier in the blog. Over the course of a year you will be able to see substantial progress. This is where minimal short-term goals meet accomplished long-term goals!
Hope you enjoyed this blog from Matt, now get your ass to the gym and get better today!!!!
-Jeremy Scott -Prolab Sponsored Athlete –