10 Strength Training Strategies That You Need to Try

Strength is the foundation of everyday feats of athleticism (think hitting a 300-yard drive in golf), and not-so-human accomplishments (like J.J. Watt’s 5’1″ box jump). When you get stronger, you’re able to lose fat, run faster, and hit harder. At Sportstylez we’ve assembled 10 no-bs strength-training tips to help make everything in your life feel just a little bit easier (and way lighter).

1. Own Compound Lifts

The squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press are the best strength-training exercises bar none. The nature of their movements means more muscles are worked at a time which results in compounded" gains. 

2. Use Barbells First

You dont need all the fad equipment. The barbell is king, dumbbell is the queen, and everything else is a court jester—they have their place, but they’re not essential. Start your workouts with barbell exercises, such as the “big four,” described above. Barbells allow you to load a lot of weight, and lifting heavy is the first step toward getting stronger. Once your hardest exercises are out the way, you can move on to dumbbell and bodyweight training

3. Keep it simple

Some advanced athletes train negatives (A repetition of a technique in which the lifter only performs the eccentric phase of a lift), while this is great for elite athletes there’s no need to count anything but reps during a set. Simply focus on raising and lowering the weights in a controlled tempo, pausing for a one-second count at the top of the lift. 

4. Maintain a log

Writing down your exercises, sets, reps, and keeping track of each workout can be a great motivator in your gym goals. Keep track of your best lifts and the most reps you’ve done with a certain weight on an exercise and constantly strive to improve those numbers.

5. Don’t Overtrain

Try to stick to three or four lifts per workout. Keeping your workouts short helps you prevent overtraining. When you do too many exercises in a session, inevitably some of them will be half-assed. All you need is one main lift per workout (one of the big four), one or two assistance lifts (to keep the body balanced and strengthening the muscles that perform the main lift), then some core or specialty work at the end. Doing any more can lessen your results.


6. Think 5

You should shift through different rep ranges in your workouts, but sets of five seem to offer the best combination of muscle and strength gains. If you’re pushing through one of the big four moves during strength training, you’ll find that your form often gives-way after five reps.


7.Increase Weight Slowly

The main reason people plateau and stop gaining strength is because they go too heavy for too long. Leave your ego at home and do your main lifts using 10% less than the most weight you can lift for the given rep range. Increase the weight each session — but by no more than 5 pounds — and stick with the same lifts. You’ll rarely plateau if at all.


8. Cardio

Cardio is important if you want to be lean and healthy, but long-distance running or cycling increases hormones that break down muscle tissue. To get stronger while also getting leaner do cardio in short, intense bursts. Start at the bottom of a moderately steep hill and sprint to the top, then walk back down. When you’re ready, go again. In your first workout, only do half as many sprints as you think you can. In your next workout, add two more sprints than you did the first time. Continue adding two sprints to your workouts until you can’t improve anymore. Then do sets of sprints.


9. Balance your strength training

Whatever you do for one side of the body, you must do for the other side. Follow that rule in your workouts and you should be able to avoid injury and muscle imbalances. For example, if you’re doing squats (mainly targeting the quads), also do Romanian deadlifts (which hit the hamstrings). Your chest exercises should be balanced with back exercises. You don’t necessarily have to do your balance work all in the same session, but it should be done sometime in the same week. In general, follow a ratio of two-to-one between your pulling-and-pushing movements. So if you bench on Monday,  you can do chinups on Tuesday and bent-over lateral raises on Thursday. Every  pressing exercise you do should follow this formula.

10. Lift with Good Form

You may think you know how to perform the big 4, but you could probably get more out of them. Here are some cues for each one.

Squat: Start the squat by pushing your hips back as far as you can. Keep your lower back neutral and you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. When your hips are bent, begin bending your knees and squatting low. This is what you need to squat maximal weight.

Deadlift: Use the same stance you would to jump — your legs should be narrowly placed. When you bend down to grab the bar, keep your hips down and your back neutral, with your shoulders directly over your knees and toes ahead of the bar.

Bench Press: Begin with your head off the bench. With steady feet, grab the bar and pull your body up off the bench and forward, so that when your butt meets the bench your lower back is arched. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and try to make your arms touch using your chest. Your range of motion should be significantly shorter for stronger pressing.

Shoulder press: Grab the bar at chest level shoulder width apart. Flare your lats by grabbing the bar as if your trying to bend it in half. It will allow you to use more weight.

Inplement these tips and cues and you'll be well equipped to start your own strength program and reap the rewards of your training.