Strength Training: Why You’re Not Getting Stronger

Posted by Andrea Lawson in Training

If getting stronger is your goal, then chances are good that you’re already off to a good start. If not, you can learn more about why strength is important HERE.

If you have ever strength trained in the past you know that some of the common problems that can interrupt your progress are:

  • Time constraints
  • Injury
  • Plateaus

 

Another issue that you may have run into in the past is the fact that there are so many different ways, practices, methods, theories, and opinions of how to improve strength.

The reality is that there is more than one right way to get strong. The catch? If you have a method with no system to implement it, then success will not be in your favour.

Like most people, I’m a fan knowing what you want, identifying what you need, and keeping things simple. To help you along your quest to get strong—and perhaps shed some light on why you have yet to see results—you need to do the following:

Step 1 – Figure out your goal(s)

  • Look like a Superhero
  • Cut your body fat down
  • Deadlift 500 pounds
  • Have a 30-inch vertical jump
  • Improve athletic performance

 

Step 2 – Evaluate where you’re at right now

  • Are you injured?
  • Do you have good technique?
  • Are you new to lifting weights?
  • Are you an experienced lifter that has plateaued?
  • Do you have a timeline?

 

Performance enhancement is all about bringing up weak links and respecting your body’s ability to adapt. The body functions in a systematic way. So as a result, we have to train it systematically to facilitate results.

To put it simply— Apply stressors to your body so that it has to adapt to overcome that stress.

 

Why you’re not be seeing results

Some common errors that you might be affecting the results of your training are—

  • You are not clear on your goal
  • You don’t have structure to your training
  • You don’t take the time to build up the intensity of your training in a systematic way

 

Another really common fault is what I like to call the, “I didn’t work hard enough” threat. The idea that you should feel completely exhausted after your workout in order to see results couldn’t be more false. So if that sounds like you, then you need to change your thinking now.

Stressing your body to promote an adaptation is different than hammering your body with stress. You also have to consider that working out is not the only stress you put on your body in a given day.

Our lives are full of stressors—

  • Work
  • School
  • Traffic
  • Relationships

 

These are all stressors that impact your systems ability to adapt. Think of training as an advanced form of stress management. All forms of stress will have an impact on your body. But the extent of that stress depends on things like, volume, intensity, training history, genetics, nutrition, sleep, and a host of other factors.

 

Where to begin

So what does this all mean, and where do you begin? The answer is simple— Figure out how to engage your core and glutes, (properly) and learn the big lifts.

If you only ever take one piece of advice from me, let this be it this.^^^

Mastering the technique of the movements listed below is the key to your success. All are compound movements, (e.g. activities that work several different muscle groups simultaneously) will have huge carry over to everything else that you do.

  • Squats
  • Front Squat
  • Bench press
  • Push ups
  • Deadlift
  • Pull ups
  • Overhead press

 

All of the above listed movements should be the foundation of your training. Meaning, all other work that you do is accessory to those key exercises.

Accessory work may be corrective for some people, while others may be using it to help improve a weakness that is limiting one or several of the movements above. Whatever you’re doing, make sure that everything you do at the gym has a purpose. You should be focusing your efforts on the things that are going to make you a better lifter, and in turn compliment your training, not distract you from it.

If you’re a novice lifter, don’t be afraid to start light. While if you are a more experienced lifter whose progress has stalled, (or perhaps has suffered an injury) make sure that you’re open to lightening your load in order to clean up your technique. Nothing will destroy a lifter faster, or for longer, than ego. Trust me.

 

How much should I train?

Following more of a full-body template, if you’re looking to improve your strength I generally recommend that you strength train 3x per week. Training for this amount of time is proven to be as effective as it is efficient.

Each day should start with a main movement, like a squat variation, deadlift variation, or a bench press/chin-up variation in the 3-6 rep range.

Consistency is crucial factor to successful strength training.

What I mean by this is that every rep should look and feel the same. Code for: be as picky with your technique and form on your first warm-up rep, as you are on a maximal rep.

Your program should be consistent each week. If you want to improve at something, you need to practice it. Regularly. Strength training is no different. So cut the “fluff” and focus on doing a few things well.

Once you know how to lift well, be prepared to lift heavy for low reps. Or lift a moderate amount of weight quickly.

To quote Eric Cressey

“Lifting really heavy weights (>90% of 1RM) for few reps can get you stronger. Lifting lighter weights (40-70% of 1RM) for few reps with great bar speed can also get you stronger. Being in the middle (70-90%) and doing more reps at a slower bar speed often winds up being like riding two horses with one saddle.”

To summarize: if your goal is to get stronger, then you must:

  • Take some time to build up your weak links. **For you this may involve seeking out some help to identify what your weak links are, and how to fix them
  • Learn how to use proper technique and follow proper progressions for maximal adaptation
  • Make sure all of your training has a particular purpose and each component is productive
  • Be consistent with your practice and follow a set program

 

Last but certainly not least, make sure that you enjoy the process. Strength is a lifetime pursuit. So those who progress smartly will progress steadily, and ultimately see lasting progressions.

If you have any questions about strength training, or perhaps need some help pin-pointing the “weak links” that have been hindering your success thus far. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at: andrea@balancemotion.com. Or come see me at the studio.

Here’s to your strength!

Andrea

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