Stuck on the hamster wheel of strength? Here's 6 tips to help you
I… trainer Scott Jenkins… am I strong?
Well, in areas I am. Although I’m not a powerlifter, Crossfit athlete or experienced body builder
I am, plain and simple, a personal trainer
However, I have had to complete certifications where strength has been tested
I’ve had to strict press a 40kg kettlebell, do a strict – bar to neck pull up with 24kg hanging off my foot. I’ve also had to pistol squat, perform a snatch test with a 24kg bell (100 in 5 minutes) and a few other bits and pieces.
What I do know is this, it has taken some work to pass these strength tests
Work which many aren’t prepared to do
In general, I have my strengths and I most definitely have my weaknesses (as we all do).
I do feel confident in saying, I know what it has taken me to get stronger
There are many I have helped get stronger, and of course I’m not going to lie to you
Some have only got so far
Training, strength training, there’s a bit to it!
So, here’s a few bits from me, 6 in fact
These are totally based on my experiences by the way (experiences from my own practice and from teaching others)
Have a read, let me know what you think
1. Follow a program
It would seem quite straight forward to follow some sort of program, but yet, this is the biggest challenge for many. In my terms, following a program means doing EXACTLY what the program asks you to do. So, doing the exact amount of days, reps, sets, resting when it says, and all the other demands of the program is what gets you stronger.
Doing the work and showing up are key ingredients to gains in strength not only physically, but mentally too. Following a program can test your resilience. It is not just the detail in the program, it’s the actions you take which determine your ability to get stronger. Be resilient in following the process, do what the program asks you to do.
2. Doing stuff, you don’t like doing
This is the working on your weaknesses bit. If you love bench, and all you do is bench, sure you are going to get stronger at bench, but that’s about it. I believe strength is a head to toe approach and you know what else? It’s an inside out thing too.
There is plenty to work on from a strength point of view. Can you work on everything? I would say most certainly not, but there is a lot you can and should cover if strength is your goal.
You want strength? Then it means at times, doing the exercises you probably dislike the most. If you’ve tried an exercise once, didn’t really feel much benefit or gain, then did you really try at all? I’m serious! Strength is the “long game”. There are times where you will have to learn movements which are going to take more than just a session or two, to attain.
It takes repetition, it takes incredible patience and sometimes you’ve just got to grit your teeth and do the stuff which isn’t the most fun. “No pressure… no diamonds”, “shut up and squat” – all applicable here 😊
3. Go to bed
I know, I’ve said this in other blogs too. You need the energy, your body needs to recover so why are you still up at night watching OZARK or checking out what everyone else is doing on Facebook?
Just do it, just go to bed.
4. Listen to your body
Strength training is a little different to what you might practice or have been practicing in the gym. There are times where hard work is required and there are other times where you just need be aware of your energy levels. If you are lifting away and it’s just not happening, then be content with backing it off a little. Save it up for another day.
I can’t remember who said it, (it was someone strong anyhow 😉) but… “strength is granted by the central nervous system, not by the muscles”. It’s something to be aware of when you are training. You don’t need to bash yourself continually to achieve gains in your strength.
For me personally, when I was training for the RKC level 2, it was lower rep range sets or anything between 2 and 5 reps, for approximately 5 sets or more. Some days I performed more sets or more reps than others.
So, when did I decide to cut the sets on exercises? It was when I felt my quality of repetition was going out the window. I was listening to what my body was telling me, and I was saving up my strength for another day. A concept which I think many of you would benefit from.
5. Muscle through it
I am purposefully going to sound like I am contradicting the above statement, but for some of us, we just need to stop “tapping out” so much and start pushing a bit more to get our training in.
I’m going to refer again to my training for the level 2 certification of the RKC. Jaycob had just come into the world, I was sleep deprived and my elbows ached from carrying him up and down the hall way during the nights where he would wake up and need settling. I also had the usual, self-imposed stress of running my fitness business. It was a very difficult task, fitting in the required training to pass my certification test. The circumstances were never right, but you know what I had to do? I just had to bloody well do it.
You are going to be sore, you are going to have niggles - period. I was having this conversation with my trainer, we do agree with the whole listen to your body concept, but there have been many times where we just had to train, because there was no way we were going to fit it in another day. And if we weren't getting a certain bell pressed up in the air, or we couldn't quite get an exercise, it was for no other reason than the fact were were't strong enough yet. There was more work to do over the coming weeks, even months before our bodies granted us the permission to lift or perform the exercise at the time.
So… to you, fellow gym goer, parent, professional, manager, business owner, general strength… pursuer! Is it time you just got your stuff done?
The reality for many is, you’re never going to have enough time, you’re always going to have certain levels of stress and you are most probably going to be tired. This is not just to do with the fact you aren’t sleeping enough, but because, well… life, right?
With all this being said, let’s just get you out there, and let's get you pumping iron whole lot more. It’s not perfection we’re after, it’s the repeated efforts.
6. Get your movement right
The Russian’s refer to strength as a skill. So, with any skill, comes the process of acquisition. The time spent acquiring certain movements can take time and this is due to many different factors. In can depend on the individual’s ability to learn, or it can be the style or level of coaching one is receiving (which can either progress one faster or inhibit them). The person learning the new skill may also have movement restrictions which might or not be solved by working on their mobility or getting them to see a health professional. Everyone is different, and what one individual is capable of, is not a true projection for others.
Nonetheless, it is imperative you attempt to get your movement or movements down pat, before adding any load to your chosen exercise. Those who put in the time to acquire their skill plus slowly and gradually build up their strength, reach “taller peaks” in their training. This approach will get you stronger and decrease your chances of injury.