No matter who you are, there are certain fundamentals that cannot be ignored if you want to improve your strength in a manner that is relevant to your game. Let’s face it, nobody wants to get weaker and being stronger will improve your game.
By Josh Ciechanowski, Director of Nutrients Direct
If you want to get better at any aspect of performance, you need to work on it consistently over time. If you change the way you train too often you will confuse your body and not give it time to adapt in the direction you want it to go. Muscles take on average 48 hours to recover from resistance training. It’s crucial to subject them to the training stimulus often enough to elicit a growth response. Train too soon after the last session and you risk disrupting the recovery process and decreasing gains. Take too long (e.g. 4 or more days) and you’ll miss out on the brief window where you are temporarily stronger as a result of the last session.
Progress gradually and appropriately
The longer you stick with your training and keep healthy, the greater your strength gains will likely be. Try not to get stuck on the same weights for too long. Aim to increase your loads as often as you can, whilst still maintaining good form and completing your reps and sets or at least get close. Aim for increases of around 5% each week or so. If you’re still doing the same weights, sets and reps after months, you’re wasting your time. Your body and your brain will get bored and you gains will stall. If you haven’t trained with resistance before or it’s been a while, start will lighter loads for around 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and progress your way over time to 5 sets of 5 repetitions of the most load you can move with good form. The latter is the most fundamental structure for developing strength.
Don’t underestimate the importance of nutrition
You simply cannot out-train a rubbish diet. Even if you’re blessed with god-like genetics, you’ll miss out on huge potential gains if you don’t give damaged muscle tissue the nutrients it requires to repair itself and grow stronger. You wouldn’t put muddy fuel into your petrol tank so why would you do that to your body? If you want to build a solid rig and perform optimally, then you must take nutrition seriously. You need to consume the right amount of calories and the right blend of macronutrients for your goals and body type. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but your main pattern must be sold and based on sound nutritional principles.
Once you’ve got actual clean, wholefood-based eating sorted, then strategically supplementing with protein powder, amino acids, carbs and essential fatty acids will be very helpful for boosting your recovery and amping up your muscle growth. Check out www.nutrientsdirect.com.au Goals section for more information on Goal specific supplements that will help you get stronger faster.
Work on your core
Martial artists and strongmen of old have known this intuitively for hundreds of years – your strength comes from your core. Core refers to the deep level of muscle tissue that sit beneath the six-pack abs and wrap around the midsection helping stabilize the spine and control intra-abdominal pressure. It includes muscles like the diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus, transverse abdominis and the inner fibres of the obliques. Fitness guru Paul Chek said that you can’t fire a canon from a canoe, but you can from a battleship. The stronger and more stable you are through the mid-section that is the connecting junction of all your limbs and major muscle groups, the stronger you’ll be and the less likely you’ll be to injure your back. There are so many massive guys who despite being able to bench press or leg press a gazillion kilos, have herniated or ruptured discs picking up a pen on an angle or helping a mate move a couch. Take inspiration from Pilates based movements or a variety of plank-type holds. When you understand the value in a bullet-proof core and work on it consistently, you’ll start to look like you’re covered in oil when you’re out on the field. You will be so much harder to put down.
Work on what is relevant to your sport
Footy teams used to obsess about how much their players can bench press. Many probably still are. All guys love a big strong-looking chest but when training strength for your sport, you’ve got to ask yourself “How relevant is this for what I need to do out there?” If you can’t justify the exercise in a way that relates to performance then take it out of the program. When was the last time you saw a footy player lying on their back on the grass pushing heavy loads into the sky? Break down your sport into key movements required for performance and then work on those.
Focus on movement and not individual muscles
Everyone wants to look like Arnie. Well maybe not everyone, but who doesn’t want to look buff on the beach? Just be aware though that there are many huge guys out there who would end up snapping a hammie and collapsing in a wheezing heap very quickly if they tried to play footy at any reasonably competitive level. The brain doesn’t recognise individual muscles. It recognizes movement. How many muscles are you aware of activating when you reach out to grab your protein shake? You are likely activating hundreds. So try not to base your workouts around pecs, abs, delts, glutes, bi’s, tri’s & lats etc., rather focus more on the foundations of functional movement – Squat, Lunge, Bend, Push, Pull and Twist. If you do this, you’ll use all those muscles and more but you’ll be doing it in a way that will help you get better at your game and not just for looking good at the beach.
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