What is strength? Strength is relative. What might be strong to someone, might not be strong to someone else. In the terms of what we will be discussing today, we are referring to strength as it relates to weight lifting. Whether you are a kettlebell specialist, an Olympic weightlifter, or power lifter; the same basic rules apply.
by Paul Inga
1. BE PATIENT AND TRUST THE PROCESS
Building strength takes time. You can’t expect to walk into the gym as a novice lifter and pick up 300lbs right away. Every elite lifter had the same starting point: the bar. You need time to get used to the feeling of the barbell in relation to your body.
Your body needs to adapt to the movements you are teaching it. Be patient, it won’t happen overnight. The body needs time to create these new neuromuscular pathways. Physiologically, we follow the path of least resistance. The central nervous system, just like your musculoskeletal system, gets trained every time you have a training session in the gym. The stronger the connection between your CNS and neurons in your muscles become the easier it is to be activated. I.e., the mind-muscle connection.
2. QUALITY OF MOVEMENT OVER QUANTITY ON THE BAR
Focus on quality of movement vs the quantity of weight on the bar. I see time and time again young guys in the gym lifting way more than they should to impress their friends or others when their form is incorrect. If your form is breaking down during your warm up sets, you have no business adding weight to the bar. You might say “I see strong guys on YouTube rounding their backs during their deadlifts and they are fine.” Yes, you’re right. However, these are elite strength athletes who have spent thousands of hours under the bar to perfect their craft.
As a beginner, form should be your primary focus. If you’re lifting improperly at 200lbs, rather than adding weight, take a step back and analyze where your form is breaking down. It could simply be a core coordination issue that can be fixed just from properly bracing. It could be a harder fix where there is a weakness in one of the primary movers of the lift where specially targeted accessory work would be the solution.
I have been dedicated to lifting for eight years and competitively for the last three, and I can say personally that my lifts are still improving every day. Focus on proper mechanics that will benefit you in the long run set yourself up for long term success.
hips too low
Back too rounded
Paul Inga 584lb Deadlift at USPA Camp Pendleton Open
3. STICK TO THE BASICS: COMPOUND BARBELL MOVEMENTS
There’s a reason why squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows are still staple mass builders to this day…they work. Although big biceps look good aesthetically, if your goal is to get stronger then prioritize compound movements in your training program. Isolation movements don’t promote muscle growth in the same way heavy compound movements do. It is proven that compound movements recruit more muscle fibers that create a spike in testosterone levels and hormone release.
4. TAKE THE TIME TO PERFECT YOUR FORM
This last tip is the most important. When doing a movement there are certain muscles meant to be targeted and activated. If you aren’t feeling those muscles working, then there’s a reason. It could be from muscular imbalances; created by under active, weak muscles. When weak muscles are not able to perform properly, that leads to synergistic dominance: overactivity in the stabilizing muscles and secondary movers overcompensating for the weakness. Pain is usually associated with these imbalances. The best way to avoid injuries is by focusing on having the body move the way it was meant to: in perfect alignment.
Weight on the bar will slow down as you get closer to reaching your genetic strength potential. It is crucial to get the proper guidance and coaching on your fitness journey. Are you ready to take the next step and get serious with your fitness?