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Lifting guru Dan John has said that “strength is the glass into which you pour every other fitness quality.” This means that everything else you want, such as endurance, fat-loss, muscular hypertrophy, and power are limited by your strength levels.
Here are four tips for building an effective strength training program that will help you meet your own unique goals.
1. Stay Focused
For example, let’s say you’re a soccer player looking to improve your game by getting stronger. You reason that powerlifters are very strong and thus decide to gain your strength by using the approach of a powerlifter. You will probably be disappointed by the results.
Why? Because powerlifting is its own sport with a different set of desired results. Over time, the energy and focus that is required to become good at a second sport will come at the expense of the main sport – soccer. Further, too much heavy lifting would negatively impact your speed and other physical qualities you will need as a soccer player.
When you embark on a strength training program it is important to remember why you want to get stronger in the first place, so that your program doesn't end up preventing you from reaching your true goals.
Check out Josef describing the double-kettlebell front squat
2. Avoid Training A.D.D.
When you look on internet forums you will notice that there are a lot of people who can bench 400lbs for reps at a bodyweight of 185. When you read about these “facts” it can tempt you to develop Training A.D.D. and/or lift weights that are too heavy for you because you want to keep up with PecPopper80 (my username) on your favorite forum.
Training A.D.D. occurs when you hop from program to program looking for too-good-to-be-true results that the internet assures you are possible with the right training program and an expensive supplement program. The internet is awesome in many ways, but it also leaves many people with a very warped sense of reality. Once you are past being a beginner, strength is slow. And it’s hard to ever move past being a beginner if you are hopping from program to program every month.
The reality is like this: adding 50lbs to your bench press in a year is probably the best that a drug-free non-beginner will ever do. This is less than 5lbs per month.
Challenging your body in new ways is a good thing, but trying out every new approach you read about on the internet will distract you from making the progress that only comes with hard work.
3. Standards are Important
Strength needs a definition, and that’s where standards come in. There are lots of standards, and you want to pick the one(s) that make the most sense for you. For example, if you really want to be a high level competitive powerlifter, then these would be really good standards for you.
However, if you really want to look good, feel good and keep your risk of injury low, then those standards might not make that as much sense.
Below are 3 of the standards that we want most people to work towards (and exceed) at my gym.
Males: 8 reps with 50% of BW added
Females: 10 reps with 10% of BW added
Males: 5 reps with 20% of BW added
Females: 5 reps with 5-10% of BW added
Single leg squats
Males: 3 reps to a 12” box with 25% of BW added
Females: 3 reps to a 12” box with 25% of BW added
4. Be Aware of Your Limits
There comes an age and a load where smart people ask themselves, “is going any further with this lift really worth it?” There is no exact answer, but it pays to think about it because you only get one body, and the older you get the slower you bounce back from injury, if you bounce back at all. (This article will help a lot with injury prevention.)
For example, if you work hard, smart and consistently over time and can deadlift twice your bodyweight, does it really make sense to take that any further? It all depends on you. If you’re a business owner and father, does risking injury* (and putting your business, and therefore your family at risk) by going for 2.5xBW make sense? For me, with some sadness, the answer is “not right now.”