Everyone wants to be strong. Not being intimidated by physical tasks that would terrify a mere mortal, knowing you could defend yourself or loved ones if necessary, being seen as a superhero by adoring children. Here are my key steps to follow to get stronger. I don’t claim these to be revolutionary, just extremely effective.
- Step 1. Build your program around exercises that require a lot of skill (technique) and can be loaded heavy.
- Step 2. Understand what good form is – and actually lift using it.
- Step 3. Follow progressive overload on some sort of relatively standard interval.
- Step 4. Be Consistent
- Step 5. Train hard
- Step 6. Work out with a partner
Step 1. Build your program around exercises that require a lot of skill (technique) and can be loaded heavy.
I wrote more detail about proper exercise selection for strength in this article, but the truth is if you want to get strong, you need to focus primarily on free weight barbell and dumbbell lifts. Some assistance exercises and bodyweight exercises are fine and certainly useful.
The key to any successful strength program is the core compound exercises, the ones you’d do if I said you could only perform two exercises in a training session. That’s where you should focus your efforts. Assistance exercises are just that – they help you improve the big stuff and keep you healthy. Don’t major in the minors.
Step 2. Understand what good form is – and actually lift using it.
You have to know how to squat, bench, and deadlift correctly. Notice I’m saying to use good form; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Form is rarely perfect when first learning a complex exercise, and even seasoned lifters exhibit some degree of form breakdown once a challenging weight is on the bar. Don’t make perfect the enemy of the good. Use the good (biomechanically safe and effective) form and you’ll be fine.
Step 3. Follow progressive overload on some sort of relatively standard interval.
Progressive overload is placing a load on the body that it isn’t accustomed to, forcing it to adapt so it’s better prepared to face that stimulus in the future. It’s a key fitness principle and must be followed to some degree in any good training program.
Beginners can introduce overload rapidly, like weekly or even daily, while intermediates will introduce overload weekly or biweekly in most instances. Advanced lifters and those nearest to their genetic potential often introduce overload more slowly, with biweekly or even monthly increases being the norm.
Step 4. Be Consistent
Strength takes time. Very few people walk around with the ability to bench 140kg or squat 200kg without any training. But if you’re willing to put in your time – not some 60-day challenge nonsense but three, five, even ten years of solid and consistent training – you’ll be strong at the end.
Maybe not as strong as you want to be, but a hell of a lot stronger than you are now, and a lot stronger than most normal people are.
Step 5. Train hard
This is what we love about training, right? It’s the hard work – and our ability to do it- that separates us from them.
You can watch a video and study some articles, download a great program, buy a fancy tight shirt and get some cool new gloves – but if you don’t get your ass under the bar and break a sweat, you aren’t going to make much progress.
Step 6. Work out with a partner
Having at least one and preferably more consistent, hard-working, positive training partners is awesome. I can honestly say that having great workout buddy has been one of the best experiences in my gym life, and I’ve been lucky enough to have several of them over years.
Being part of something a little bigger than you are a great thing. Find someone hardworking and stronger than you and let them mentor you. You can even find someone hard working with similar fitness levels and then see who can make the most progress.
Seeing somebody else sweat and suffer and accomplish things can stoke your fire and help keep you motivated when progress stalls. On the flip side, if the partner is more trouble than they’re worth, cut them loose. Trust your gut on this one, you’ll know what the right decision is.
Six simple steps to get stronger. These tips may not be new or revolutionary, but they work. Think of this as a recipe for strength. If you want to get strong, take these 6 ingredients, apply liberally and regularly, and see what happens.