Right now, many of you will no doubt be missing the gym, and rightly so.
One thing that is for certain, though, is that better times are coming, and we will all be back lifting before we know it, clanging and banging like never before.
Now, as many of us will have a little more time on our hands for the next few weeks, what better way to pass the time than by learning how to step up your training so that you can hit the gym full of knowledge, with a different mindset?
When we think of lifting weights, many of us simply picture bodybuilders lifting weights so that they can bust out an awesome front double biceps pose for social media.
Training for aesthetics is perfectly fine, which is why people prioritize hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy is all about building muscle, but not everybody just wants to look big and jacked.
Some people train for strength and power.
With powerlifting and strongman sports now more popular than ever, people are realizing that it is cool to be strong.
If you want to focus on what is strength training, this is the perfect guide for you.
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Put very simply, strength training is a form of training that prioritizes increasing your strength and power.
You see, not everybody lifts weights in order to look big.
Some people lift weights because they want to improve their strength and power.
Whether you’re lifting weights for a powerlifting contest, a strongman contest, or just because you’ve hit a plateau with one of your favorite lifts and you aren’t sure how to break it, focussing on strength training will provide you with plenty of benefits.
Basically, if you want to get stronger, you need to switch up your training slightly and try different exercises and movements to do so.
When It comes to hypertrophy vs Strength, If you are training for hypertrophy, you’re training with the intention of gaining muscle mass and size.
Sure, you’ll likely get a little stronger, but the biggest improvements will not be in how much you can lift, but rather in how much muscle you build.
On the flipside, strength training is a method of training in which the goal is to get stronger and lift more weight.
There are of course some similarities, in the sense that much of the equipment is the same, I.E squat racks, barbells, dumbbells, safety bars, kettlebells, etc.
The main differences, though, come in the form of how you train.
With hypertrophy, you’ll likely lift weights in order to build muscle so will likely adopt a typical tried and tested method of training which consists of moderate weights and reps usually ranging between 8 and 12.
With strength training, the weights are usually heavier, but the reps are lower.
Rather than aiming for 8 – 12 reps, you would instead increase the weight and aim for anything between 1 and 6 reps.
The intensity is also higher with strength training because you have no choice but to force yourself to lift the weight and push your body beyond what you may have thought it would be capable of.
If you’re bench pressing a weight you can comfortably lift for 10 reps, you know that even though the weight will feel heavier towards the end, that you can control it and manage it.
If you’re going for a new personal record on the bench for a one-rep max, you know that you are going to have to give it everything that you have got in order to press the weight and get it up.
Strength training, as it is so taxing on the body, requires more rest between sets too.
With strength training, you are pushing your body and your muscles hard, and if you don’t give them enough time to rest between working sets you will fail the lift if you’re lucky, and pick up an injury if you happen to be unlucky.
Competitions like The World’s Strongest Man have been around for decades, and strength sports can be traced back centuries, yet for years these types of sports were just seen literally as circus acts and weren’t taken seriously.
We’ve all seen the freakshows featuring huge burly men in unitards, lifting ridiculously large and oversized dumbbells, bending bars, and ripping telephone directories in half.
But, over the last couple of decades, something has changed.
Whereas strongmen were once seen as freaks, they are now admired, and for good reason.
Strongman and powerlifting are both proving to be hugely popular, which is thanks in part to the internet.
We can now share feats of strength recorded on our smartphones with the touch of a button and powerlifters and strongmen are now able to update their fans regularly and share their training sessions with them.
As you might be aware, former World’s Strongest Man Eddie ‘The Beast’ Hall recently broke the world record for deadlift and became the first man in history to deadlift 500kg off of the ground.
That lift is considered by many to be the greatest show of pure strength in the history of strength sports, and it is the lift heard around the world.
Ever since Eddie broke the record, strength athletes and powerlifters have attempted to recreate the lift, or even go better and beat it.
Whilst there are some dubious claims online that people may have done it, the fact remains that, officially, the record still stands.
Hafthor Bjornsson AKA The Mountain from Game of Thrones has come very close, and the former World’s Strongest Man looked set to challenge for the record this year.
Current events now have this up in the air, but again, it is getting people talking.
Not only that but with YouTube personalities such as Larry Wheels and Bradly Martyn also showcasing their personalities as well as their insane strength, this is helping to gain more exposure for strength sports and strength training.
At the end of the day, the general public just wants to see grown-ass men lifting insane amounts of weight, and that is exactly what we are fortunate enough to get.
So, it’s safe to say that strength training is proving very popular, but what advantages does strength training provide over other conventional forms of weight training?
Here’s a look at some of the key benefits of strength training:
Yes, we know this is painfully obvious as a benefit, but it’s the most crucial and relevant one so we had to include it and get it out of the way nice and early.
If you’re looking to lift more weight and become bigger and stronger, strength training is a great way of doing precisely that.
Whether you want to improve your functional strength in everyday life or just deadlift like a beast in the gym, strength training will work wonders.
One common myth associated with strength training is that it doesn’t allow for fat loss.
That’s completely untrue.
Yes, you need to keep calories high for energy when it comes to strength training, but if you monitor your macros and caloric intakes and make sure that you watch what you eat, strength training will promote some serious fat loss.
One of the main reasons for this is simply due to the fact that, as it’s so physically demanding, the harder you work to perform each lift the more energy you use and the more calories you burn.
When people grow older, they are encouraged to take up some form of resistance training in order to help increase their muscle mass and strengthen their joints.
Whereas elderly people are obviously not encouraged to power lift, gentle resistance training does indeed strengthen the joints.
Those that take up strength training will almost certainly have stronger joints and healthier connective tissues.
Whereas it’s great to be able to squat 400 pounds or deadlift 500 pounds in the gym, if you struggle to move your household furniture around when you decide to do some spring cleaning at home, your functional strength needs some work.
Another key benefit of strength training is the fact that it promotes functional strength.
Because of the equipment and the way you train, this mimics more movements and body mechanics that we see in everyday life.
The end result is a distinct increase in functional strength that will help you in everyday life.
Finally, in this last section, we’re going to take a look at a few tried and tested strength training tips.
Whether you want to bench more, break a plateau, compete as a strongman or powerlifter, or just lift more, check out these handy tips and you’ll be displaying beast-like strength in no time at all.
Despite intensity being so important when strength training, the simple fact of the matter is that you need to ensure you’re getting plenty of rest between working sets.
You aren’t training to look good, you’re training to perform well, and in order to do so, you need to give your muscles and central nervous system plenty of time to recover.
Whereas bodybuilders take anything from 60 – 120 seconds of rest between sets, as a strength athlete you should aim for at least 5 minutes.
When you’re resting, don’t let your mind wander and instead focus on establishing a strong mind-muscle connection for the next set.
On the subject of a mind-muscle connection, the stronger yours is, the stronger you will become. During the lift, visualize yourself successfully lifting the weight and executing it correctly.
Picture your muscles working in synergy to complete the exercise and think about how great you’ll feel afterward once it has been successfully completed.
Between your sets, don’t think about anything other than the lift.
Visualize getting the setup right, your breathing, your technique, and everything else needed in order to lift the weight.
This should go without saying, but if you are looking to increase your strength and take up strength training you are going to have to focus on heavy compound lifts.
A compound exercise/lift is an exercise that works several muscles all at the same time.
Whereas should presses performed on a machine will target the delts only, shoulder presses using a set of dumbbells or kettlebells will target your triceps, your core stabilizer muscles, your traps, and of course, your delts too.
Compounds not only target the primary muscle, but they also hit the secondary movers too, which are muscles that assist with performing the lift.
Assistance work refers to exercises that are designed to help strengthen muscles that play important roles in executing certain movements.
As an example, for pressing movements, it is important to work on your triceps because the triceps muscles help to assist with so many different variants of the press.
Bench presses, for example, will benefit massively from plenty of triceps-based assistance work.
Remember, don’t just focus on the primary mover, focus on the secondaries too.
At the end of the day, you could be doing all of the exercises in the world when training, but if your diet sucks you just aren’t going to perform or see the improvements you would have wanted.
Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery, complex carbs and healthy fats are great for energy, and get plenty of greens and vegetables as these are loaded full of immunity-boosting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.