By Alex Kain
Being a trainer, coach, and gym owner I often get asked what is the number one trick to getting stronger. There are so many factors that can lead to gaining strength. The factors near the top of the list would be supplements, nutrition, type of lifts and the weight used. These are all very important when it comes to getting stronger and we’ll talk about all of them. The first is supplementation.
Supplements can be very important, and the type of supplements used are also key, however supplements are (as the name clearly states) a supplementation to your diet. This makes it important to note that supplements should be added to your diet when something is lacking or missing. Supplements are not meant to be a staple in your diet. You should be trying to get whatever you’re lacking in your diet through proper eating and nutrition.
Second on the list as stated above is nutrition. If you’re missing something in your diet or eating habits, you can supplement with it. This is why you see protein being the number one supplement used, secondly would be vitamins and minerals. However if you’re trying to gain the most strength one could argue you should be eating quality whole foods that provide you with the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Eating quality sources of protein that are giving you a balanced amount of amino acids. You shouldn’t be eating sub-standard processed foods, or fast foods, or bakeries made from enriched, bleached ingredients. Therefore relying on supplements to give you the nutrients you’re not getting from your food. This is also important for overall health but that’s for another conversation.
Third on the list would be the type of lifts used. There are many different types of lifts out there and there are many different benefits to the lifts. I myself, am more of a fan of larger compound movements that work many large muscle groups, however I also like to use supplemental lifts to work on the smaller muscles or individualized muscles. Regardless of what lifts you are using, you should always be lifting with proper form (to minimize injury) and increasing the weight used, but not beyond capacity. The repetitions and sets used will vary whether you’re lifting for strength or hypertrophy. Strength does not necessarily mean bigger muscles and bigger muscles does not necessarily mean stronger muscles. The weight, set, and rep scheme are all ways to vary the intensity of the lifts and work on different components, whether those components be muscular endurance, muscular strength, and/or muscular hypertrophy. It is also possible to work 1, 2, or all 3 of those components within a particular lifting session.
Out of the 3 factors listed above, they can all improve strength significantly but there is one component that trumps all the others. That one component which plays the biggest role in strength development and training is consistency and/or frequency. Getting stronger is like any other skill or element in life and that takes practice. Nobody is instantly good at anything. Granted some might be more naturally talented than others, but nothing beats work, especially strength training. If you wanna get the muscle you gotta put in the hustle. Lifting once a week will get you stronger than not lifting at all, and lifting 4 times a week will get you stronger than lifting once a week. I’ve seen many people get committed to a routine of 3x a week and that’s great but there is still an even more important component missing. Strength, just like fat, is not built quickly. A workout regime of 3x a week is great, but if you do it for the summer (2-3 months) but then stop once school starts back up again, you really haven’t done as well as someone who lifts only 1x a week for an entire year. When you look at someone who has a great physique or is really strong you’re missing a really key component and that is how long they’ve been training for. Many can argue that it’s taken them many years to get where they are. Rome wasn’t built overnight and a great physique or great strength isn’t built overnight either. It takes time to get there and consistency over time. Missing a week here or 2 weeks there isn’t bad if you’re consistent over the course of 2-3 years.