If the article title brought you here, I hate to tell you there aren't any "secrets" to getting stronger. Getting stronger rely on a few basic principles, and we'll go over them later.
Getting stronger requires work inside and outside of the gym. Too often do I see people work so hard in the gym just to ruin their progress outside of the gym.
So before you click off of this article, let's jump into 17 tips guaranteed to get you stronger.
How to Build Strength Outside of the Gym
They always say that you break down muscle in the gym and build it up in the kitchen. The same goes for building strength.
#1 - Eat Better Foods
Eating crappy foods eventually takes a toll on your body; even when eaten in moderation. That bloating and indigestion you have is because your body has to work hard to digest it.
Start incorporating healthy whole foods into your diet and you'll start feeling the difference it makes.
Start remaking your favorite "bad dishes" with nutritious foods and enjoy the flavors you love without the unnecessary calories and additives.
#2 - Eat More Food
It's no secret that the more you eat, the stronger you get.
Eating an extra chicken breast or drinking a gallon of milk will not make you as fat as eating that extra donut or three.
I'm not giving you an excuse to eat an extra large pizza every day, but eating more food will help your nervous system recover and build some serious strength.
#3 - Use Supplements Properly
Once your diet is in check, adding in supplements will boost your performance.
My go-to supplements are:
- Pre-Workout - Find a pre-workout to amplify your performance and gains.
- Intra-Workout - Supply your muscles with BCAAs or protein during your workout.
- Post-Workout - Get nutrients into your muscles and start the recovery process much faster. Supplements such as ZMA will help you sleep better and recover faster.
- Creatine - One of the most studied and proven supplements on the market.
- Protein - Get your gains in liquid form.
#4 - Get More Sleep
Strive to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Having trouble falling asleep? Try some ZMA or melatonin.
While we can work on 4-6 hours of sleep, we are hurting our progress and hindering our performance.
Getting as much quality sleep as you can will help you recover and perform at your best.
Try taking a power nap during the day or set limits to how long you spend on Tinder at night. Your body will thank you for it.
Sleeping Tip: Unplug from your phone at least 30 minutes before sleeping. While there are apps that help remove blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythm, stimulating your brain on Facebook or other social media won't help you sleep.
#5 - Reduce Your Stress
Start meditating, unplugging from the internet, and relaxing more.
Listening to soothing music on your ride to work or taking time out of your afternoon to enjoy a nice cup of tea can make a huge difference in your life.
Stress literally kills us and takes a huge toll on our nervous system. Quit worrying about the small things and stay in a positive mindset.
#6 - Deload More
Many elite lifters have told me they deload every third or fourth week of training.
Getting stronger is a long-term game, not a quick fix. This is why I recommend sticking to your program instead of trying one rep maxes. You're only slowing your progress.
How to Build Strength Inside of the Gym
While adding weight to the bar every week builds strength, let's see what else we can do to help our strength gains along.
#1 - Address Weak Points
Instead of taking sloppy form and adding another 10 pounds to the bar, address the weak points in your lifts.
Are you unable to get power out of the hole of the squat? Are your hips shooting up before your torso on deadlifts? These are all form issues that can be corrected with addressing weak points.
Start looking at your weakest link instead just hoping you can get the lift.
#2 - Drop The Volume
Building strength can be done at any rep range but if you specifically want to target nervous system improvement, you're going to want to work in the 3 to 8 rep range.
Anything under a triple and you're "testing your strength" which needs to be used sparingly. Unless you have a powerlifting competition coming up, I would not do anything less than triples.
Find what works best for you and run with it.
#3 - Practice and Perfect Your Form
Treating your warm-up reps as your 1 rep max ensures you commit to proper form.
Every rep you do should be considered practice.
Practicing perfect form allows you to find weak points and keeps you from getting injured.
#4 - Warm-Up Properly
Warming up is priming your body for performance.
Do you start your car in the middle of winter and just drive or do you give it a few minutes to warm up? The same goes for your body.
Warming up properly can mean different things to different people. I personally prefer more volume with upper body and less volume with a little bit higher intensity for lower body.
Everyone is different, so try different protocols and find what works best for you.
#5 - Squeeze the Bar
While this doesn't seem like a very good tip, squeezing the bar as hard as you can when performing the exercise recruits more muscle.
Try this for an example. Grab a piece of paper and wad it up.
You've made a ball of paper and it was relatively effortless, right? Squeeze that same ball of paper with all of your might and you'll feel your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and even lats engage.
This is how you pull more power out of your lifts.
#6 - Learn Proper Breathing Techniques
Learning how to do the Valsalva maneuver will help your lifts go up.
Just like bracing your abs before you take a punch, you are creating tension and strength in your core.
Learning how to properly breathe in and hold it while pulling your abs in will create more strength than you are going to give it credit for.
I deadlift 600+ and squat 550+ beltless due to learning this technique. I don't recommend everyone going beltless, but learning this technique is important.
#7 - Progressively Overload
If you aren't planning each workout to go in and lift more weight or complete more reps, you're doing it wrong.
If you have been lifting the same weight for any amount of time, chances are you won't notice any improvement.
Strive to add 5 pounds to the bar or one more rep every time you step into the gym. Progress is progress.
#8 - Focus on the Lift
While it can be hard to do, putting 100% focus on the lift and forgetting all of your problems make a huge difference.
Next time you are going for a personal record, don't worry about the late cable bill or that girl that blew you off last night.
Focusing on your goals and watching them come to fruition is rewarding. Take time to plan out your progress and put all of your attention into it when the time comes.
#9 - Increase Rest Times
When you are working in the upper range of your max, taking time to ensure your body is ready is important.
I generally spend 2 to 5 minutes between my heavy lifts. Your form has to be on point, so rushing into the next set will not help.
Write down how you feel about different rest times and dial in what it takes for you to perform at optimal levels.
#10 - Try Paused Reps
Stuck at a certain weight? Try paused reps.
Paused reps force you to get better at a lift and will help you address weak points.
Are you having troubles off of your chest with the bench press? Adding in one paused rep at the end of your set will shock your system.
I've had some great strength increases from adding paused reps into my arsenal. Try them out and see how they work for you.
#11 - Focus on Adding Power Moves
Adding in dynamic power moves will build strength.
Working at 50% weight on deadlifts increase how much power you can call upon and you also can enjoy the feeling of moving weight fast.
Dynamic and speed work such as box jumps and vertical jumps work your fast-twitch muscles which are what produce that burst of power.