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Simple tips to build strength

Tom Blackett   |  14/05/2014

There are so many products, experts, supplements and “scientific” theories that supposedly help us achieve the body we want in “just weeks”. But truth be told, the fitness industry is full of more lies, myths, and total B.S. than nearly any industry on the planet!

Building a stronger and fitter body shouldn’t be made so complicated.  So here are some of my tips on how to do it:

  1. Get a programme.  I’d say most people when they start exercising/lifting don’t have a structured workout regime – this means they end up guessing what to do.  A programme takes the guesswork out of exercise – minimising error.  It will provide information on what exercises you should do, and for how long.  Don’t underestimate the importance of a programme!
  2. Leave your ego at the door.  Don’t start training with the heaviest weight you can find.  Start by lifting something you feel relatively comfortable with (around 10%-20% less than the most weight you can do for the given rep range).  Then gradually increase the weight each session – but by no more than 2.5 kilos in total.  This will massively reduce the chance of plateauing – slow and steady wins the race!
  3. Do the compound movements/forget isolation movements!  Don’t bother with exercises such as bicep curls and shoulder raises when you start working out (isolation movements).  These exercises are for more advanced lifters who already have a good foundation of muscle and strength.  Instead, get used to the idea of doing squats, dead lifts, pull ups etc which train large muscle groups all at once.
  4. Use a barbell.  The barbell has to be my favourite piece of gym equipment, simply because it’s so versatile.  With a barbell, you can train every body part efficiently.  You really don’t need anything else.
  5. Learn how to lift with good form.  To maximise strength and minimise chance of injury it is essential that you learn how to perform the various weight lifting movements properly.  If you’re not sure – research!
  6. Train 3 – 4 times a week.  Unfortunately exercising once a week won’t really get you far.  Train 3-4 times a week for 40 minutes to an hour each time.  You can even get a good work out done in 30 minutes if you push yourself!
  7. Maintain a log.  Make sure you keep track of how much you’re lifting and for how many reps – keep striving to improve those numbers!  Following a fixed exercise programme will make this a lot easier.
  8. Don’t forget cardio.  Don’t be afraid of cardio – there seems to be a false perception that it will burn muscle mass.  It will only do this if you’re not eating enough (a caloric deficit) – but so will any other exercise.  The fact is you can get stronger and leaner by managing both your diet and doing cardio in short intense bursts – something commonly referred to as ‘interval training’.  Find a hill, sprint to the top and walk back down.  Don’t overdo it in your first workout, do 50% of what you think you can do, then try and set a new personal best on your next workout.
  9. Up your protein intake.  Protein is essential for muscular repair, if you don’t get enough – you don’t mend as well.  The general rule of thumb is get one gram of protein per lean ilb of body weight.
  10. Balance your training.  Whatever you do for one side of your body – you must do for the other side.  This will help build a well rounded physique, improve posture and prevent muscular imbalances.  Take bench press for example – for every rep you do, you should also do a bent over barbell row.  Similarly with squats – for every rep you do, you should also find an opposite that trains your hamstrings e.g. stiff legged dead lifts or hamstring curls.

Good luck everyone!