You get big by focusing on getting stronger on these three main lifts: deadlift, squat and bench press (dips are also a good substitute for the bench press).
With the correct foundations set in place – diet, training and recovery – you can rest assured that strength gains will come over months and years of training.
But sometimes waiting months and even years for the strength gains to come just won’t cut it. Maybe it’s because you have a competition with your friends who can lift more, the reason you require immediate strength gains.
Well if that’s the case, I’ve compiled a list of 15 tips on how to get stronger, like right now. Apply these tips in your following workout and be sure to watch the envious faces of your friends as you smash your personal records.
Tip #1 – Warm-up by working-up
Do several warm-up sets before you go into your work set. This will get you warmed-up, your joints lubricated and your nervous system all fired up.
If for example you’re trying to deadlift 400 lbs then you’d start by doing 5 reps using 50% of the work weight. For the second warm-up set you’d do 3 reps with 70%, third set 2 reps with 80% and lastly for the last warm-up set, 1 rep using 90% of the work weight.
Take at least one minute and a half of rest between the warm-up sets and at least 2 minutes rest between the last warm-up set and the work set.
Tip #2 – Visualize your work sets
Use your rest periods wisely. If you’re having doubts in your mind whether you’ll be able to complete the next set, try closing your eyes and start to visualize, how you’re lifting the target weight as if it were light like a feather. Imagine that you’re lifting your weight for hundred reps as if it were nothing.
Make sure that during the visualization process you keep your fists tightly clenched. This will help you build focus and aggressiveness.
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Tip #3 – Increase your rest periods
In order to exert maximal force during a work set, you need to make sure that your body regenerates as much ATP as possible. ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate and it’s our bodies primary fuel source. Get at least 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between your sets, so your ATP levels can be adequately regenerated.
You can increase the rate of ATP regeneration in muscle tissue by supplementing with creatine.
Tip #4 – Train with someone stronger than you
That’s actually a no-brainer. By having a training partner stronger than you, you’ll be more motivated to give all you’ve got during your workout session. If you don’t have a training partner, you can invite the biggest guy in the gym to spot you.
Having someone you’re inspired or intimidated by near when lifting, will make you crank up the intensity.
Tip #5 – Load the bar with as little plates as possible
This means using the heaviest plates available, so the bar doesn’t look that loaded. Some people say that doing the contrary – loading the bar with many small plates – will do the trick, but in my experience loading the bar with many small plates, will just make the bar look heavier.
Tip #6 – Lift barefoot or wear shoes with a thin sole
The less material there is between your foot and the ground, the greater the amount of muscle you’ll be able to recruit during the work set. The best option would be to train barefoot, but if your gym doesn’t allow it, then use a shoe that has thin soles. An example of shoes with thin soles are Chuck Taylors.
Tip #7 – Activate your glutes
Gluteus maximus (buttock muscle) is the largest muscle in our bodies. It’s supposed to play a major role when deadlifting and squatting, but due to our sedentary lifestyles our buttocks are becoming increasingly weaker.
You want to make sure that you have your glutes ready to fire before doing heavy sets of deadlifts and squats, otherwise you’ll risk injury (to the hamstrings) and sub par lifting capacity.
The best way to activate your glutes is by doing glute bridges. Two sets of eight reps should be enough to activate them.
The proper way to do glute bridges is to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet close to your butt. Dig your heels into the floor and bridge up with your hips, focusing on the contraction in your glutes.
At first you’ll probably feel your lower back and hamstrings the most, but keep doing the glute bridges for a couple of days and you’ll soon notice the glutes coming more and more into play.
Glue activation is probably the most important tip of them all, not only because of the strength gains but also for the overall well being.
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Tip #8 – Use lifting chalk
Chalk or magnesium carbonate will help you keep your hands dry, immediately increasing your lifting ability. If you don’t like the mess of powdered chalk, you can buy liquid chalk.
Tip #9 – Wear a lifting belt
A lifting belt will help you support your back during heavy sets of deadlifts, squats and bench. It does so by increasing the abdominal pressure which in turn enables you to immediately increase your maxes by tens of pounds.
Use the lifting belt only on really heavy sets of deadlifts and squats. Don’t wear a lifting belt during the whole workout, it’s counter productive.
Tip #10 – Try the hook grip
If you find that during the deadlift your grip is failing you faster than your other muscles, consider adopting the hook grip.
The hook grip is done by first wrapping the thumbs around the bar and then wrapping the remaining fingers around your thumbs. This gripping technique greatly increases your grip strength.
It takes a while to get accustomed to this kind of grip technique but you’ll get it eventually.
Tip #11 – If the hook grip isn’t enough, use a mixed grip
A mixed grip for the deadlift has you grabbing the bar with one palm facing you and the other palm facing away. Your strongest hand should have the palms facing away from you. Use the mixed grip only on the heaviest work sets. For warm-ups use a regular, double overhand grip.
Tip #12 – Push your belly out during a squat or deadlift
Take a deep breath with your diaphragm, rounding your belly outwards. If you feel your shoulders rise when you breath in then you’re breathing in with your lungs. Pushing your belly out into the lifting belt will greatly increase the abdominal pressure. This will increase the core stability allowing you to immediately lift more weight.
Tip #13 – Squeeze the bar hard for three to five seconds before starting a set
Before starting a set, squeeze the bar tight for three to five seconds, rest for 5 seconds then commence your work set. Squeezing the bar will tighten up your body which will increase your lifting capacity.
Tip #14 – Take a deep breath after you lift the bar out of the rack on a bench press
When you hold your breath your blood and your intra-abdominal pressure increases. This helps with the spinal support and core stability when training with heavy weights. Before unracking the weight for the squat and bench, take a deep breath and hold it. This will enable you to unrack the weight more easily and also, it will help you get into a better starting position.
This is an advanced technique and should be used with caution. You don’t want to do the whole set under one breath.
Tip #15 – Do dynamic stretching exercises before starting your workout
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that involves speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. With dynamic stretching, the end position/the stretch is not held like in the static stretching.
Because it’s backed by quite some research, dynamic stretching is becoming increasingly more popular.
For a great program about dynamic stretching, I highly recommend Magnificent Mobility by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson. You’ll be able to see which exercise specific dynamic stretches to do before each big lift.
For me, dynamic stretching was one of the biggest discoveries that allowed me to immediately increase my strength.
These were the best 15 tips on how to get stronger I could think of. In case you have other interesting tips, please do share them in the comments section below.
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