Increasing your strength can be a very long, difficult journey. Many people give up trying to increase their strength, because it can be so challenging. After initial strength gains, plateaus set in and frustration ensues (for further reading, check out Kenny Hager’s great article about busting through stubborn plateaus). Lucky for us, there are certain techniques that can be used to increase strength instantly. While they’re not guaranteed, I’ve personally had success using the following strength-increasing techniques:
- While holding a bar or dumbbell, crush the bar with an insanely tight grip. Pavel Tsatsouline, a Russian trainer and former Soviet Special Forces trainer, teaches the value of this technique in his book “Power to the People.” Pavel explains that when you powerfully flex your fingers around a bar, the surrounding muscles are recruited more heavily than when using a light grip.
- Begin squats by “spreading the floor.” This is an old school powerlifting technique that helped improve my squat. Spreading the floor begins after you have taken the bar off of the rack but before you begin the lift. Concentrate on planting your feet into the ground and isometrically — without movement — contract your hips as if you could move your feet out to your sides. Also tighten your glutes before beginning the lift to slightly rotate your knee caps to the outside. These movements — abduction and external rotation — are two functions of your glutes. Recruiting your glutes prior to and throughout the lift will protect your knees and allow you to lift heavier weights.
- Learn to utilize intra-abdominal pressure. Your core is like a big coffee can — the bottom is your pelvic floor, the walls are your core muscles, and the lid is your diaphragm. When you are breathing properly your diaphragm expands downward, causing you stomach to expand. When you are bracing your core and breathing diaphragmatically, the pressure of your breath pushes outward while your muscles resist the pressure. This action causes tremendous pressure throughout your core and stabilizes your spine. Apply this to every exercise and you may see gains while protecting your spine!
- Sometimes holding your breath is appropriate while lifting weights. When you fully exhale you lose nearly all of your intra-abdominal pressure. During difficult lifts, hold your breath during the eccentric (lengthening phase) and until you reach the sticking point. The sticking point is the most difficult part of the lift, and it will vary from person to person. Believe me, when you reach it, you will know. Once you reach the sticking point let out very small powerful breaths to propel yourself through this difficult phase. Always reserves some of your breath for stabilization purposes though! DO NOT use this technique if you have high blood pressure!
- Improvement in life can seem near impossible at times. Whether you are trying to increase your patience, pay off debt, or break a bad habit, moving forward in life can be downright frustrating. This frustration appears in nearly every fitness program as well. Hopefully these tips can help you progress through difficult times in your fitness journey.
Sources: Pavel Tsatsouline, Power to the People; Pavel Tsatsouline: “The Evil Russian Speaks: Part 1,” accessed from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/the_evil_russian_speaks_part_1]; Stuart McGill, Ph.D.; Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance
Originally posted 2013-09-09 12:24:01.