Here are Five Ways to Improve Your Strength
Improving your strength is incredibly important for your overall health. Our bodies naturally lose muscle as we age, and the only way to combat this is by lifting weights and building muscle. However, getting stronger often takes time. It can be frustrating if you go to the gym and never see any improvement. The good news is that there are ways to improve your strength quickly and help you see results fast. Here are five ways to improve your strength.
1. Create Tension
While you don't want to tense up the muscles that you aren't actively working, you do want to create tension in the muscles that you are targeting. This means you need to activate those muscles, so you can perform each lift with proper form. That way, all of your energy will go into the lift, and you'll make gains much more quickly. So, before you perform any lifting, focus on what muscles you'll be working. Squeeze and release them while breathing deeply. For example, if you are performing a deadlift, open up your chest, send your butt back to the wall to activate your hamstrings, and squeeze down on your shoulders so that your lats become tense. This will get your body primed and ready for the perfect deadlift!
2. Lift Beyond Your Maximum
Lifting progressively heavier weights is the best way to build muscle. However, many of us tend to avoid maxing out or trying to go beyond it. After all, it's called a maximum for a reason! However, if you want to increase your max weight more quickly, then try lifting beyond it. The key here is not to complete a full rep with this super heavy weight. Instead, you want to hold the weight for 5 – 10 seconds. For example, if you want to increase your squat max, change the load on your barbell to 125% of the maximum weight you can handle for one rep with perform form. Then, unrack it, walk out as you would for a squat, and simply hold the weight with your legs straight for 5 – 10 seconds. Do not squat! Then, rerack the barbell, place your max weight on it, and squat. You'll be able to do more than one rep more easily than you thought! Scientists still aren't sure why this works, but lifters often use this trick to reach new PR's in a short amount of time.
3. Practice Breathing
Breathing correctly may be the most challenging thing about weight lifting! Many of us tend to hold our breath when we lift or we inhale and exhale at the wrong time. On top of that, our form is not great. It may not seem like a big deal, but breathing properly can help you brace yourself to lift heavier weights with perfect form. Instead of thinking about filling your lungs with air, fill your belly instead. You want your abdomen to extend as you breathe in! Then, as you breathe out, pull your stomach in, and draw your ribs down. This will give you more oxygen and stabilize your abs for better control.
4. Use a Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are a great way to work on improving your reaction time. That's because you have to use explosive movements to throw medicine balls, which forces your body to recruit muscle fibers that otherwise lay dormant. This can lead to significant gains when you lift. Not sure how to incorporate this into your workouts? Try doing a medicine ball chest throw 3 times for 3 – 5 sets before you start lifting. If you prefer, you could alternate the medicine ball work with your regular lifting sets. Either choice will get your muscles working in a big way.
5. Go Barefoot
Going barefoot at the gym might seem a little odd, but it's a great way to give yourself an advantage. When you lose your shoes, you are decreasing the distance that you have to lift. While that might not seem like much, it can make a big difference when you're trying to max out. If skipping shoes grosses you out, then opt for shoes with thin, flat soles, like wrestling shoes or even converse! You could also use toe shoes that mimic being barefoot at all times.
If you start using these techniques in the gym, you'll see a boost in your performance that will make a big difference in how you look and feel. Getting stronger and lifting heavier weights is one of the most satisfying parts of hitting the gym, so take advantage of these tips to see those results. You'll be more motivated to keep going back, and you'll be stronger than ever.
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