How to get STRONG

So You Want to be Strong?
Before you answer this, you must determine what you define as strong. Your sport can have a significant impact on your definition. Powerlifters define strength as your ability to squat, deadlift and bench as much weight as possible. Olympic lifters define strength as how much you can snatch, and clean and jerk. Notice how bodybuilders place little stress on developing strength. Instead they are more concerned with muscle mass and symmetry and that is why they are much weaker than other weightlifters. Non-weightlifting sports, such as baseball, football, basketball etc…, may determine strength as the ability to pick weight off the floor, throw it overhead or carry it for distance. Referring back to one of my prior post, you need to have a goal with your training. So I will ask you again, what do you consider strong? Below I will discuss the three methods used to develop strength.

1. Max Effort- Max Effort training is the primary method used in any advanced athletes training program. Popularized by the Westside Barbell Club, this method is used for the development of the muscular system. It is the primary method used to increase absolute strength

· How to apply this method?

Each Max Effort training session starts with 1 Max Effort lift. For lower body days the athlete will perform a squat or deadlift variation and on upper body days the athlete will perform a bench press variation. The lifting protocol for maximal strength includes very low volume but extremely high intensity (in terms of 1RM). You will only perform 4-6 total reps above 90% of your 1RM. You will notice that this usually requires 1-2 working sets. Each other set before your working set prepares your reps above 90%. Also note that you do not want to burn out during Max Effort training so it is imperative to keep your volume low. I usually recommend that the athlete start with the bar and make 10% jumps each set. For this Example the lifters 1RM is 300 lbs and we will start with 135 on the bar.

Set 1 135 x 5

Set 2 185 x 5

Set 3 225 X 5 @75%

Set 4 255 X 3 @85%

Set 5 285 X 3 @95%

Set 6 285 X 3 @95%

In this example, the athlete performed 6 reps above 90% of 1RM. A big mistake a lot of guys make is burning out quickly. For example, instead of performing 5 reps for the first 4 sets they will train to complete failure or will only leave one or two in the tank. This is a huge mistake because the point of Max Effort training is to get stronger. By burning out early, you will not be able to hit your targeted weights and therefore you will not get stronger! Also note that athletes should “leave 1 in the tank” during there working sets. If you always train to failure you will not get stronger.

· How long should you rest between sets?

The rest period between warm up sets should be relatively quick. Once you reach your working sets, full recovery is recommended. This is typically 3-5 minutes, however more conditioned athletes may require less recovery time.

· How long should you use the same Max Effort lift for?

Depending on the lifters skill level, max effort lifts should be rotated every 1-3 weeks. The higher the skill level of the athlete, the more frequent these lifts should be rotated. Elite level athletes can rotate their lifts each week because they have already mastered each lift. Their bodies need the variation to improve their strength and muscular system. Less experienced athletes should choose only a few max effort lifts for the year. It is more important to get great at performing a few lifts than getting mediocre at training a bunch of lifts. For example, a less experienced athlete can use the bench press, floor press, incline close grip (there are many other variations to use; for the sake of this article we will use these 3 as an example). Each lift should be used for a 4 week cycle. The first 3 weeks the lifter will perform the bench press and work up to a 3-5 rep max. Each week the lifter can try to break new PR’s or simply progress from week to week. The fourth week should be a deload week. After the four weeks the lifter will then rotate the bench press to a floor press. They will then follow the same cycle for this movement. Weeks 9-12 the athlete will then use the close grip incline press as their max effort lift. Additionally, for weeks 13-16 the athlete will rotate back to the bench press and so on.

· So let’s summarize the major points

-Use the Max Effort method 2x a week. 1 movement on upper body days and 1 movement on lower body days

-Start with the bar and make 10% jumps till you reach your working reps. Once you reach these sets make smaller jumps until you perform 4-6 total reps above 90% of your 1RM

-Rotate the movements every 1-3 weeks.

-Do not perform your Max Effort lower body sessions the day before or after your Max effort upper body sessions.

2. Repetition method- For years the repetition method has been popularized by bodybuilders. This method is the absolute best for inducing muscle hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle mass. It is also used to increase strength endurance.

· How to apply this method?

This method should be applied to all supplemental movements directly following your Max effort lift. With this type of training I recommend to generally leave 1 or 2 reps in the bank. While training to failure can be very effective in regards to putting on muscle mass it can inhibit your overall strength gains and your recovery. By leaving 1 or 2 reps in the tank you will not be compromising your Max Effort training.

It is important to remember that you should be using sub maximal weights, no more than 80% of your 1RM. The rep range is highly individualized and varies greatly from person to person. While common body building schemes (4 sets of 8-12, 5 sets of 10, 3 sets of 10-15 etc…) usually induce muscle growth, these sets and rep schemes are not written in stone. My recommendation is to experiment with different rep ranges to see what works best for you.

· How long should you rest between sets?

The rest periods should be fairly short. 1-3 minutes is usually enough time. The goal here is to train the muscle why it is fatigued. However, if your rest is too short you will see your reps drop way down. The idea is to find a medium between the two and keep the rest period short to the point where you could hit the target # of reps for each set. General physical preparation will play a major role in how long the athlete needs to rest. If the athletes GPP is high, shorter rest periods won’t be an issue

· So let’s summarize the major points

-Use the Repetition method to increase muscle mass

-Apply the method to all supplemental lifts following your Max Effort lift.

-Experiment with different rep ranges and sets to see what works best for you.

-Use submaximal loads and leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank.

Dynamic Effort- Dynamic Effort training is used to develop speed strength. Many different methods can be used to increase speed strength including: Olympic lifting, jump training, playing your sport and using non-maximal loads on the box squat and bench press. Olympic lifting is yet another way to increase speed strength. Most strength coaches either love or hate Olympic lifts. However, we will save this argument for another time. In regards to developing absolute strength on the squat, deadlift and bench press, Westside’s version of the Dynamic Method can drastically increase your max effort lifts. How is this possible? By training with non-maximal loads on the box squat and bench press the athlete will learn to accelerate the bar and become more explosive.

· How to apply this method?

Each Dynamic Effort training session starts with either the box squat or bench press. For lower body days the athlete will perform the box squat or speed pulls and on upper body days the athlete will perform the bench press. Elite athletes use chains and bands as accommodating resistance and to reverse the strength curve. Since this method is only relevant for a few elite athletes, we will not be covering it in this article.

-For each Dynamic Effort lift the athlete should use between 50%-60% of their 1RM.

-The protocol for the squat and deadlift calls for 8-12 sets of 2 reps.

-The protocol for the bench press calls for 8-12 sets of 3 reps.

-The set and intensity scheme is dependent on the skill level of the athlete.

*Please note that this method is for advanced athletes only*

As mentioned before, training the box squat and the bench press are not the only way to perform dynamic lifts. In fact, less advanced athletes will respond better to jump training. Since jump training is not as taxing on the body, it will help a great deal with recovery. It is a better option for beginners and intermediate athletes than the dynamic box squat and bench press because it allows the athlete to dedicate more time to muscle development and increasing strength. Additionally, it helps promote athleticism by increasing flexibility, mobility and explosiveness.

The method I discussed is otherwise known as the conjugate method. Unlike Western Periodization, which trains one ability at a time for 4-6 weeks, the conjugate method allows us to train multiple abilities simultaneously. This is the most effective method when it comes to sports performance because we maintain all abilities (absolute strength, speed strength, muscle mass) year round. As mentioned before strength does not come in one form. Only you can define what strength is. Is it absolute strength? Is it speed strength? Is it endurance strength? Is it a combination of the three or do you have another definition for strength? My mentor, Zach Even-Esh, has had a major impact on my definition of strength. Personally, if you could lift a lot of weight off the floor and throw it overhead, you have to be pretty dam strong! Remember that compound lifts are the key. While Powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and non-weightlifting athletes all have different indicators of strength, there is one common theme. Nobody cares how much you can curl or do on any crap machine. It is all about compound lifts! No one will ever deny that squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, cleaning, pressing and snatching are all compound movements that display how strong you really are.

Lift Strong,

Joe Meglio

Performance Enhancement Coach

www.MeglioFitness.com
www.MeglioNutrition.com
Joe@MeglioFitness.com

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