How to increase muscle strength

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If your goal is to increase your strength then look no further. In this article I will outline the best training methods to enhance gains in strength.

How does strength improve?

Muscle gets stronger via two main methods: by an increase in muscle cross sectional area and by neural adaptations. By increasing muscle size – there are more muscle fibres that are able to produce force and the muscle is therefore stronger, hence there is a need for hypertrophy training to improve strength. Neural adaptations results in increased muscle fibre recruitment, hence more of the muscle is activated for a given movement. These neural adaptations cause greater changes in strength than an increase in muscle size.

Training to increase strength

Training for strength rather than size involves much fewer reps per set, between 1 and 8 is usually used. Whereas the number of sets per exercise can be much higher, sometimes as high as 10, in order to increase the volume. By repeating the same exercise over and over the body will become accustomed to the movement and it will be able to recruit more fibres.

Rest between sets should be much longer than in hypertrophy training, as long as 5 minutes. As a general rule you should wait until you feel completely rested before starting the next set. The reason for the difference is that you are not trying to exhaust the muscles like in hypertrophy training, instead you are getting your muscles to adapt to a high load. Another reason for the long rest is to allow your energy systems to recover after each set, specifically the phosphocreatine system. The phosphocreatine system utilises creatine to provide energy during the set – however it can takes a few minutes for the phosphocreatine to regenerate. Therefore adequate rest ensures your body is fuelled for high intensity exercise. This also highlights the benefits of supplementing with creatine in a strength training programme.

As previously mentioned strength can be improved by increasing muscle size. Therefore an element of hypertrophy can be included in a strength training programme. However always carry out the strength element of the workout first, this ensures your muscles are at their strongest for the strength training.

Words of advice

When strength training you should be much closer to failure during your sets, therefore it is extremely important to have a spotter during your sets. Finally like in hypertrophy training the greatest gains are made by being consistent so only design a training plan that you are intending to stick to.

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