Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just trying to improve your functional strength, making a concerted effort to get stronger pays dividends in many facets of life. You’ll have more endurance, feel more youthful, and impress a lot of people with your freakish gorilla-like power.
Here’s how to get stronger and improve functional strength.
The Glamour Muscles
There’s a difference between training for strength and training for aesthetics. The glamour muscles are those seen when you where a tank top and shorts. The biceps, pectorals and the calves all look super pretty but don’t contribute to functional strength to the same degree as other major muscle groups.
The muscles you train, and also the way you choose to train them determines strength versus aesthetics. A typical bodybuilding regimen focuses on reaching hypertrophy. Pushing your muscles past fatigue, tearing the muscle fibers in an attempt to induce growth of new muscle tissue.
This effort typically requires a rep range of 10-12. Strength and power training doesn’t require hypertrophy, and isn’t intended to spur an increase in muscle size. You’re just trying to get stronger, not necessarily bigger.
The biggest dude in the gym, isn’t always the strongest. It just means that person spends a lot of time doing bodybuilding routines.
Power routines usually keep the repetitions below the 6-8 range.
Rule #1 – Don’t Get Hurt
Before getting to the core muscle groups to improve your strength it’s important to address safety and preventing injury. Nothing will wipe away all your hard work, and strength gains faster than an injury. Other than an extended illness, an injury has the greatest influence to keep you out of the gym for weeks and sometimes months.
If strength and power is the path you’ve chosen, it means you’ll be training longer, lifting heavier and pushing yourself to your limits.
Don’t get hurt, and listen to your body. If you feel tightness, or sharp pain in a lift, it’s time to stop.
– Wear braces on your wrists and knees as needed
– Use a well fitted back support
– Don’t overtrain
– It’s okay to take a day off
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The shoulders play a role in nearly every lift requiring you to pick up a bar off the ground. People spend so much time trying to improve their bench press, even though it’s functional value is limited. Unless you’re trying to push a car off your chest, how is this helpful?
Shoulders, on the other hand, add pure functional strength to nearly everything you do in a gym. It also pays dividends in almost every major sport, and is a workhorse among the major muscle groups.
Here’s a list, of the best exercises to improve shoulder strength.
Barbell Shoulder Press
Improving your back strength will improve your core, and makes life in general much easier. You’ll feel younger, and more energetic as well. Training your back is also one of the easiest ways to cause an injury.
Your back is stronger than you think, allowing you to move very heavy weight.
As you go up in weight, the more likely you are to cause an injury. When training your back always place form over ego. Using strict form will avoid injury, and focus your efforts on making “good gains”.
It’s not uncommon to get stronger with sloppy form, but at the cost of pure back strength. Sloppy form while back training will place greater emphasis on your shoulders and biceps, rather than your back.
See Also: Does P90X Work?
Legs have the rare quality of providing functional and aesthetic value. It’s also the only muscle group considered “sexy” by both men and women when well developed. It’s hard to find an activity or sport that doesn’t benefit from stronger legs.
Truly, when focused on pure leg strength everything begins and ends with squats. Power, shape, endurance — it has it all. Squats are truly a super move.
It’s not always a gym favorite, however. It’s not the easiest move, and can create a deep “burn” in the quads. Some people completely avoid them, due to the effort needed.
But nothing, and I do mean nothing, will improve your leg strength like squats.
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