Random Thoughts for Continued Strength improvements
I am quite fortunate to get to work with hundreds of individuals every day and all week. My facility and our team have such a diverse group of members that we work with in person, that it really opens up a lot of opportunity to see what works on a lot of different fronts.
For today, I wanted to touch on some random thoughts that those seeking big strength gains should always keep top of mind when entering a training session.
Here are 14 random thoughts on this topic:
- Find your optimal stance, grips and leverage points. This may change slightly from day to day, depending on joint stiffness, mobility or injuries you are currently working with . Use appropriate positions that work with your natural hip and shoulder architecture, as well as other body dimensions. Select the proper bar or lift style to give you the best leverage based on torso, thigh and shin length. Likewise, do not get married to a lift that simply does not suit you, or commit yourself to trying to conform your body to something someone else has had success with. A deep hip socket may not be able to narrow stance squat or hit ass to grass depth, however should be able to squat slightly wider down to parallel and produce lots of strength and muscular gains. Stick with what you can do and don’t fight a losing battle.
- Utilize various bars, grips or implements in order to continue making progress on any lift which needs an adjustment for an injury or other issue on any given day. Basically, auto-regulate and make adjustments. See thought #3…
- Auto-regulation is imperative for the advanced strength athlete or lifter. You MUST listen to your body and on any given day, make necessary adjustments and changes. Have a plan, but be ready to adjust it and not just push through pain or discomfort. Training hard can almost always happen, but it will not always be a top end day with personal records. This is ok, and all a part of long term training and consistent improvements.
- When considering the above point….” Live to lift another day” is a great way to look at training and avoid ego lifting. Many have done it, and many have been injured due to it. Choose the best course of action for the day and you will benefit big time for the long run.
- Utilize a proper hip hinge when moving around and loading plates. Back pain expert, Dr. McGill refers to this as spine sparing strategies or spine hygiene. Moving lazily or with a slack system is a total waste on spinal bend cycles and will weaken your discs and passive structures, and can lead to faster injury over time. This can also lead to faster injuries under less total load or stress, due to the tissues lowering their tolerance and capacity to resist injury.
- Lifting is a skill, respect this fact and move with intention on all loads and reps completed. Lazy lifters will get hurt, it is just a matter of when and how badly!
- Remember that stiffness, bracing and tension is a key to maximal neural drive and stability. Call it what you want, but just make sure you do it and treat all reps at all loads with respect.
- Breathing must be done “actively” and not simply an in and out natural response. You must stiffen and “tune” your tension and breath in a “hissing “or “leaking” air fashion. This ensures stiffness and stability is constant and will actually enhance overall full body stiffness as a result!
- Leave reps in the tank. Your passive tissue structures do not want to be taken to positional or negative failure. This means stop any sets as soon as you cannot maintain pristine technique. Grinding reps is good for your mental training, and important for recruiting high threshold motor units for the purpose of hypertrophy and strength gains, however bad technique will eventually catch you- just keep that in mind. If you were aiming for a top set of 5, and on rep 4 the weight gets surprisingly heavy and slow, just stop the set, back the weight off 10% and perform a max rep set. This added volume will be helpful and allows you to stay within your daily abilities (given everything else is in check).
- Be sure to pay attention to weak links in the bodies kinetic chain. Weak lats or obliques will quickly lead to a weakened squat or deadlift, as well as an unstable shoulder in a bench press or overhead movement. Identify them or hire someone who can.
- Wear appropriate footwear to the lift. You CAN wear the same footwear for a full training session, however use common sense and ensure that your footwear is not the reason you have poor leverage or inappropriate stability.
- Understand the demands of your particular sport (for example, a powerlifter requires a smaller flexibility reserve than a football player, whom will encounter forces chaotically and unexpectedly from all angles). The football player would need a greater flexibility reserve in this case to avoid potential injury, whereas the powerlifter needs just enough to hit depth and proper positions. More for the PL will not increase performance and could in fact hinder it due to decreasing the elastic energy storage component of the involved structures. Flexibility and mobility matter, no question, but know when you have enough and don’t use your training time for 60 minute foam roller sessions that you do not need.
- Don’t be a program jumper. Trust the program you are on and make small incremental improvements. This is called progressive overload and is an essential process needed for continued tissue and neurological adaptations to continue taking place. Make the plan, set some goals and then follow the rules above to keep making improvement.
- Do not skip your supplemental work and accessory work. If in a rush, complete at least 1 set of all movements for the day with focused intensity and effort.
“The one thing you can always control, is effort”
Crush your training this week and hopefully these random thoughts are helpful!