Improved strength is a result of hard work in the gym combined with lifestyle modifications. Probably the most common reason behind someone’s desire to work out is to get a sculpted body and more strength, to continually enhance athletic performance. For some people, it may seem like getting stronger is a mission impossible. Regardless of the method, you try the results to keep missing out? Don’t worry, you can improve your strength and in this post, we’re going to show you how. Scroll down to learn more about muscular strength exercises and other things you can do to get stronger and happier.
What is Muscular Strength? What are Strength Exercises?
Let’s start with the basics first. Muscular strength is defined as the amount of force a muscle can produce with a single maximal effort. The size of the muscle fibers and the ability of nerves to activate them play a role in muscular strength.
Your muscular strength is measured during muscular contraction. In other words, muscular strength isn’t exactly observed in how much you can carry or how many pounds you lift in a gym. Instead, it’s the maximal amount of muscle force you exert while performing a certain exercise.
The desire to increase muscular strength is in human nature. To achieve that, people do strength exercises. Strength exercises, or strength training, work your muscles by applying a resistance. They are meant to improve endurance and strength by targeting specific muscles. However, improvements in muscular strength will not affect muscular endurance meaning you won’t need to worry about losing your stamina in return. Different strength exercises are working on different parts of the body and help men and women achieve a sculpted look alongside increased muscular strength.
Natural Strength Standards and Expectations
Reasonable expectations are crucial for men and women who want to improve their strength. Unfortunately, this is where most people make mistakes. The rise of social media made it easy for us to follow fitness experts and people who have the physique that we’d like to achieve.
Although great for motivation, these platforms don’t always show the real picture and make it seem easy and effortless to increase strength and sculpt your body. A lot of hard work is necessary to make it happen, but you do need to have reasonable expectations. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed and will stay motivated to keep going.
Remember, not everyone’s body is the same. While it’s nice to look for inspiration online, avoid comparing yourself to others too much because different factors influence your strength, and everyone’s different.
You’ve probably heard about strength standards but weren’t quite sure what they implied. Strength standards are strength benchmarks for different exercises based on body weight and gender. Originally, strength standards were created by powerlifting organizations to rank their competitors.
Strength standards are practical for men and women who want to increase their strength and achieve their goals because they make it easier to track progress. They are often shown as tables or as multiples of body weight such as:
- Bench: 1.5 times your body weight
- Deadlift: 2.5 times your body weight
- Squat: 2 times your body weight
The common strength standard for the chin up and pullup is 10 x bodyweight meaning you should aim for performing 10 reps with your body weight (a 10-rep maximum). Nowadays there are different strength standards you can find online and use them to get the most out of your muscle and strength workouts. The most popular bodybuilding strength standards are Tim Henrique’s strength standards, Mark Rippetoe’s strength standards, among others.
The 7 Primary Natural Strength Movements
The best strength training program should contain certain movements so that you can achieve the goal of increasing strength and muscle mass. These primary natural strength movements include:
- Hip hinge
- Vertical press
- Vertical pull
- Horizontal row
- Horizontal press
- Overhead press
Incorporate these moves alongside some assistance exercises into your weightlifting workouts and you’re bound to experience improvements.
The Primary Strength Building Exercises
Besides primary movements on which you should base the workouts, there are also some exercises to perform. The reality is that there are tons of strength-building exercises, but starting with basic, the most important ones is always the best option. Without further ado, if you want to build muscle mass workouts should contain the following:
- Deadlift – challenging your true strength by lifting as much weight as possible off the floor
- Deep barbell squat – generates a great deal of growth, gains, and power
- Barbell bench press – one of the most popular and beneficial exercises for chest and arms
- Barbell shoulder press – for strong, broad shoulders
- Bentover barbell row – a back and core exercise in one
- Farmer’s walk – excellent for testing core strength and force distribution
- Woodchop/Sledgehammer hit – builds fundamental strength
What Exercises Are Good for Preventing Falls?
Numerous factors affect our balance and increase the risk of falls and aging is one of them. Thankfully, there are many exercises you can do to improve your balance and avoid unfortunate scenarios. These include:
- Heel raises
- Standing side leg lift
- Standing hamstring curls
- Leg extension
- Toe stand
All these are wonderful stretches to increase your flexibility, but also improve your balance.
What are the Benefits of Strength and Flexibility Activities?
Strength training workouts routines and flexibility activities do wonders for our physical health and wellbeing. If you haven’t started yet these benefits are bound to motivate you:
- Increased bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Increased muscle mass
- Improved joint flexibility and range of motion
- Improved balance
- Faster metabolism
- Weight loss/management
- Reduced signs and symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, back pain, diabetes, and even depression
- Improved thinking and learning skills
- Beneficial for prostate and patients with prostate cancer
The Role of the Central Nervous System
Strength and power involve more than lifting weights in the gym. The central nervous system is also involved as the latest news confirms. You see, the central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for the transmission of impulses to the muscles. The stress placed on the central nervous system is directly proportional to the load you’re trying to lift. In other words, the more or heavier you train, the greater the response by CNS.
If you’re trying to increase strength, training with high loads is going to result in greater strength adaptations. That happens because brain and motor neurons, cells that send electrical signals to the muscles, adapt more effectively to high rather than low-load weight training. High-load training creates better conditions for the central nervous system to transmit electrical signals from the brain to muscles. That way, the force those muscles in your body can produce increases to a greater extent.
How to Avoid Training Injuries
Injuries are common among active men and women, but preventable. As you work to increase strength and sculpt the body your goal is to take athletic performance to a new level. But doing so is not just about the exercises you perform. It’s also about doing your best to avoid injuries.
Injuries require proper recovery and may slow you down. Although sometimes they’re bound to happen and they’re a normal occurrence in people who exercise regularly, there’s a lot you can do to minimize the risk of getting injured.
These tips can help you out:
- Avoid training if you’re ill or exhausted
- Avoid training through an injury
- Control the weights at all times
- Don’t hold your breath
- Don’t rush to complete an exercise and get it over with, make sure you do it properly
- Focus on proper technique
- Gently place weights on the ground once you finish the set, don’t drop them
- Maintain a strong form when lifting
- Maintain correct posture
- Proper recovery is essential, rest the specific muscle group for 24 hours minimum before training that muscle group again (that’s why we have leg days, arm days, etc.)
- Start slowly
- Use only safe and well-maintained equipment
- Use the full range of motion
- Wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment such as gloves
Training at Home
Strength training doesn’t have to include workouts in the gym only. You can build muscles at home, if necessary. This is especially important now in the times of COVID-19 pandemic when people are trying to find a way to avoid close contact with others as much as possible.
These tips will show you how to get the most out of training at home:
- Get dumbbells and weights, nowadays it’s easy to find at-home equipment at affordable prices
- Avoid exercising in the room with TV, you won’t be able to focus on proper technique
- Keep track of exercises you do and have dedicated workouts for specific muscle groups
- Work on increasing your range of motion
- Challenge yourself, whenever it’s easy and effortless to do some exercise, increase the number of reps and sets
- Avoid performing the same exercises over and over again, try something new and unfamiliar every week or every other
- In absence of fitness equipment, you can use random objects from your home e.g. water bottles, bags of pet food, etc.
Nutrition and Supplementation
Exercise and proper diet go hand in hand. After completing a strenuous workout in the gym the last thing you need is an unhealthy meal that won’t do anything for you.
When it comes to increased strength, the essential macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) are necessary to provide energy, build muscle, and maintain proper health and function of the cells.
You shouldn’t exercise on an empty stomach. Strive to eat a meal 60 to 90 minutes before the workout. That meal doesn’t have to be big; it can be a whole wheat tortilla with one cup of chopped chicken breast or one large banana and one cup of cottage cheese.
Protein consumption is crucial and the best sources are eggs, chicken, lean beef, cottage cheese, salmon, tuna, and beans.
Carbs shouldn’t come from heavily processed and refined foods but whole grains and similar food items. As far as fat is concerned, seek healthy fat sources such as olive oil or fatty fish abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids.
It would be practical to seek consultation and assistance from a personal trainer or a nutritionist who will create a diet plan based on your current weight, activity levels, and fitness goals.
Men and women often consume dietary supplements to increase their workout efforts and achieve results with more help. Besides whey protein which you can add to smoothies, other supplements that support strength training include creatine, vitamin D, vitamin K2, beta-alanine, berberine, l-arginine, and l-citrulline. These supplements prevent nutritional deficiencies, boost energy, promote muscle growth, and support recovery.
Yoga Poses to Build Strength
Yoga is an ancient practice with a wide range of benefits. Regular yoga practice increases flexibility and range of motion meaning it can help improve your athletic performance and strength training. Some yoga poses also build strength and you should give them a try. These include:
- Warrior II
- Chair pose
- Crescent moon
- Side plank
- Boat pose
- Locust pose
- Three-legged dog
- Crow pose
In this post, you’ve learned what it takes to improve your strength and sculpt the body. Now you just have to implement these recommendations into your workouts and lifestyle. Remember, everyone makes a progress at their pace. Be consistent, be confident, and results will come.