7 Strategies For Increasing Strength and Muscle
Strength training (also known as resistance exercise) increases muscle mass and tone and strengthens bones. It’s also important for preventing bone loss as you age, which can lead to decreased strength and mobility.
Aim for two to three strength-building workouts per week, and eat enough protein to support the growth of new muscles. Try consuming high-protein foods such as milk, yogurt, eggs, peanut butter and a protein shake.
1. Increase Weight
If you’ve always lifted lighter weights for more reps, switching to a more strength-focused training program can help you see bigger gains in muscle size. The key to this type of training is doing more reps with moderate to high levels of resistance, such as with compound exercises like squats, rows and deadlifts. These movements target multiple muscle groups at once, triggering the release of testosterone and growth hormone to build muscle mass.
It’s also important to eat enough to support the growth of new muscle. Ideally, you should be taking in around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. Protein can be found in many foods, including poultry, fish, eggs, milk and Greek yogurt.
Building and maintaining strength throughout your life is crucial to a well-rounded fitness routine. Adding strength training to your workouts not only increases your power and stamina, but it also helps you perform everyday tasks more easily. Skipping up the stairs, carrying a heavy bag of groceries or hoisting your grandkid in the air will all be easier once you add strength training to your weekly routine. Strength training is also a great way to stay in good shape as you age, preventing muscle loss (sarcopenia) and promoting strong bones and healthy tendons and ligaments.
2. Add Reps
For most people, the most effective way to get stronger is to increase the number of reps in a set. Lifting very high weights for very few reps leads to the greatest strength increases, while lifting very light weights for many reps results in only small increases in strength. In between, there are a variety of methods that can help you build muscle and increase your strength.
Muscular endurance requires the ability to move a load for prolonged periods of time without experiencing fatigue. It’s important for activities such as jogging, swimming, cycling, and playing sports. However, no sport requires muscular endurance as its sole fitness quality, so it should be balanced with other fitness qualities like explosive strength and sport-specific skills.
If you’re doing a lot of high-rep sets, consider increasing the number of reps per set or adding more sets to your workout. This can make your workouts more mentally stimulating, which can help you overcome a training plateau (that dreaded no man’s land where your body adapts to your routine and stops making progress). Adding some higher rep sets may also improve your form and technique by forcing you to use more of your slow twitch muscles to perform the movement.
3. Add a Rest Period
For years, the common belief among bodybuilders and strength-focused gym-goers has been that short rest periods (less than 60 seconds) help to increase muscle pump and lactic acid buildup – which are both believed to lead to more muscle growth. This may be true in some cases, but it is also likely that limiting your rest period between sets leads to sloppy repetitions, lack of complete muscle exhaustion and missing the mark when it comes to training for hypertrophy.
In fact, it’s not the amount of blood lactate that accumulates but how much total volume is performed in a workout that is important for muscle growth. Longer rest periods allow you to perform a greater number of sets to failure, thereby increasing the training volume within your workout.
This is especially important when you want to focus on building muscle mass as opposed to improving muscular endurance. In some studies, it has even been found that overall training frequency is less important than the actual training volume of a workout (e.g., the number of sets and reps completed on a weekly basis). However, it is still important to include some high-frequency training sessions, such as performing five to six workouts per week if your goal is to increase strength.
4. Keep It Simple
While setting a new strength record can be a great feeling, it’s important to remember that getting stronger requires consistency. Whether you’re hitting the gym, crushing body resistance exercises at home, or taking a FitOn Pilates class, find a routine that works best for you and stick with it.
Keeping your strength training simple can also help you avoid overtraining, which can lead to muscle soreness that interferes with your training and ultimately slows progress. Aim to work against resistance in a range that is challenging enough to leave you slightly sore for a day or two but not so sore that you can’t walk up the stairs, climb into a car, or pick something off the floor.
Start each workout with a warm-up, pyramiding up in weight but never reaching muscle failure. Always focus on achieving good form, stopping when you can no longer maintain proper form; this is your point of failure for the set. Then move on to your main lift. Add in a few assistance lifts to strengthen weak links among your muscles, and train at the same tempo every time (count to three while lowering the weight, count to five as you lift it back up). This tempo will keep you from using momentum and compromising your strength gains.
5. Keep Challenging Your Muscles
Building muscle requires commitment and a clear plan of action. It also takes time to see results, as strength is a progressive exercise. But there are several strategies for accelerating the process. These include manipulation of sets, tempo and exercises to overload muscles and produce the desired changes in strength, endurance and performance. With whey protein isolate, you’d be able to push yourself to your limits.
For example, lifting a heavier weight on the first set and then increasing the weight on subsequent sets is one way to get stronger faster. Another is to go as close to muscle failure on the last rep of a set as possible, or at least as far as you can with good form.
The best way to keep your workouts challenging, though, is to make sure you push yourself every workout. When you go to the gym, aim for more reps and a higher intensity than you did the previous week. You will see better results if you don’t give up on your goals, but instead push to keep breaking personal records.
The benefits of strength training are well known — it builds muscles and increases your overall strength, which can help with everyday activities like lifting heavy grocery bags or climbing stairs. It can also boost your mood, improve your sleep, and help you reduce the risk of injury and illness.
6. Eat Right
A strong, healthy diet is essential to muscle growth. Aim for protein, carbohydrates and fats from healthy sources, such as fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, beans, soy and whole grains. Be sure to get enough calories to support growth as well, but don’t overdo it. Too many extra calories can end up in the form of body fat, which will hinder your strength gains.
Eating a balanced diet also provides the vitamins and minerals your muscles need to recover after a hard workout, as well as support overall health. Avoid or limit sugary, fatty foods, such as candy, sodas and processed baked goods, which can increase inflammation and inhibit muscle recovery.
You may be surprised to learn that it’s not only the exercise you do that increases your strength and muscle mass, but also what you eat. Muscle growth requires protein, the building blocks of muscle. The amino acids that make up protein cannot be manufactured in the body, so you must eat them from your food. Aim to consume protein from a variety of sources to ensure you are getting all nine essential amino acids. Good protein sources include meats, eggs, dairy, fish and tofu.
7. Take Care of Your Body
Taking good care of your body will help you perform at your best and achieve your strength and muscle goals. You should always warm up and stretch before your workouts, avoid overtraining and eat well. A balanced diet rich in protein and low in carbohydrates is critical to muscle growth, but you will also want to avoid sugary drinks and processed foods as these can hinder your progress.
In order to increase your muscular endurance, you need to train with loads that are between 40-60% of your one-rep max (XRM) or the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition without fatigue. You can do this by performing a series of sets with varying rep ranges, or by using compound exercises, such as squats and bench presses, rather than isolation exercises, like bicep curls.
If you are new to resistance training, it is a good idea to work with an experienced trainer or physical therapist who can ensure proper technique and safety. Additionally, a personal trainer can help you follow a program that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. Research shows that men lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30; lifting weights regularly can slow or even reverse this loss.