I recently received a book distributed by a respected publisher about how to use elastic bands to develop strength and power; it was endorsed by one of the most respected and accomplished college strength coaches in the country. Seriously? And then there’s those giant Swiss balls (now available with stubby legs to improve stability!), slide boards, weighed maracas (as seen on TV!), iron kettlebells, rubber kettlebells, water-filled plastic kettlebells...ENOUGH! Honestly, where do we get these people?
In the last three decades, I have learned the secrets to getting brutally strong. Actually, they are not really secrets, but the strength training community has been so distracted in recent years by all this Cirque du Soleil nonsense that I can get away with referring to them as mysterious. In fact, after this article hits the net, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start appearing in self-proclaimed internet experts’ blogs as their own ideas. Oh, and these ideas I will share with you are simple, very simple...but not necessarily easy.
To get you on the strength training Road Less Traveled, I’ve come up with a top 10 list of the best ideas for getting strong. Again, brutally strong. And I’ve included a few links to articles that discuss many of these ideas in greater detail. Here ya go!
1. Barbell work. I have to scratch my head when I go to weightrooms that don’t have barbells. Absurd pec decs? Check. Relatively useless lat pulldown stations? Check. Worthless leg extension machines? Check. Barbells? Sorry – didn’t seem important.
The core of a serious strength training program requires barbells and large weight plates, not bowling balls with handles. And on extensor movements such as deadlifts, presses and squats, adding chains and bands make these barbell exercises even better by more closely matching the strength curves of those exercises. . Check out this article to learn more:
2. Using thick-handled dumbbells. I know I sound like a broken record, but my message about the value of thick-handled dumbbell work is just not getting out to enough trainees. Thick-handled dumbbells not only strengthen your grip, they also enhance the muscle building stimulus of any exercise. I’ve been using them as my sole source of dumbbell work for my athletes since 1982, and there’s no looking back.
3. Goal setting.
Winston Churchill once said, "He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” If you’re serious about getting strong, you need to set specific goals and write them down. For example, “I want to move up a weight class (7 kg) by December 31, 2010,” is a specific and measurable goal. By comparison, “I want to be the biggest and strongest I can be” is worthless, as it is not specific and not measurable. If there is no deadline, you will procrastinate. Here’s more on this important subject: The Six Steps of Effective Goal Setting
4. Working hard on the basics. Although trick plays are the ones that make the highlights reel, football is a game that lives and dies with good blocking and tackling. Likewise, success in strength building relies on the basics of striving to use progressively heavier weights through hard work.
5. Focusing on proper form.
The amount of weight you lift is one factor in the strength training response, but having proper form ensures that you are producing the appropriate strength training stimulus and are doing so safely. Look to this article for more on the importance of proper form: Proper Form: Can You Handle It?
6. Performing no more than two “most bang for your buck” exercises per workout. If you go through the motions on an exercise, no matter how great the exercise, you’re not going to get much out of it. And to be able to put the most effort into your workouts, you need to train hard and heavy by focusing on only two key exercises per workout. I’ve also found that this strategy works best if you alternate agonists with antagonists, such as pairing weighted chin-ups with overhead dumbbell presses.
7. Doug Hepburn’s teachings: One of the pioneers of strength training was Canadian strongman Doug Hepburn. His methodology can be described as applying Item 4 on this list, working hard on the basics: Five Things I Learned From Doug Hepburn
8. More hard work. Bulgarian weightlifters were not known for having the best technique, but they were amazingly successful because they worked harder and heavier than anyone. Whereas lifters from other countries were training five times a week, the Bulgarians were training five times a day. And they were going heavy every workout. Likewise, you need to take every workout seriously, with a sense of urgency about achieving success.
9. Unloading every third workout. Cutting back the number of sets by 40 to 60 percent is crucial to make gains. What I’ve found in designing workout programs for serious athletes is that it’s not the intensity but more often the volume of a workout that causes overtraining. That’s why you want to focus on getting strong, but just not training as long. After all, why train your body to be weak?
10. Even more hard work. I know I’m repeating myself, but I need to impress upon you the value of hard work. Using the methodology of training described in item 7 applied with hard work is the real secret to getting strong, not gimmicks.
...haven't got a thick bar? No problem. Here is a great alternative: Fat Gripz
Copyright ©2010 Charles Poliquin