Starting a strength-training program will cause neuromuscular adaptations initially, where the brain connects more efficiently to the muscle fibers. This will provide a quick increase in strength gains within the first few weeks. After that initial strength gain, certain factors become increasingly important to continue to improve.
Here are five tips to help you continue to meet new strength gains at the gym:
1. Work through a full range of motion. Limiting your range of motion will reduce potential strength gains, as the muscle will only increase strength through the range the muscle works. Full range makes the muscle stronger overall, helps build lean muscle easier, and will burn more calories. Don’t cheat yourself!
2. Form is everything when it comes to strength training. Without proper lifting technique, joints become at risk for injury. If the load put on the muscles is too high, the stress in the adjoining joint increases dramatically, putting ligaments that hold joints together at risk to be injured. While increasing weight is important, it is not as important as maintaining good form.
3. Once technique is perfected, it is essential to go through cycles of heavy lifting every 4-6 weeks. Lowering repetitions and working in a 4-5 repetition range will allow you to continue to build muscle and strength while avoiding plateaus. Changing the volume (how much weight and how many repetitions) is crucial to progressing in any strength program.
4. Lifting 15 repetitions and beyond is working on muscle endurance. This will not help increase strength or create lean muscle. Always strive to reach 12-15 repetitions and if you can the weight needs to be adjusted.
5. While changing up workouts periodically is important, sticking to “big lifts” is a must. These exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, and shoulder press. When completing these lifts, multiple joints are used, forcing many muscle groups to work together to complete the exercise. It is fine to include complementary exercises but the complex movements will provide the most strength gains.
Now go lift!