5 Ways To Get Stronger In And Out Of The Gym

WRITTEN BY Linden Ellefson

Feeling weak sucks.

The most frustrating feeling is when you step under the bar for a monster set of squats, and you’re squatting 10-20lbs less than last week.
You know you could lift more, but  your strength is going down instead of going up like it’s supposed to.

You can’t seem to figure it out. Your program is on point, you finally are eating things that are not just burgers and fries, aka green stuff, so why the heck does everything feel terrible.

Not only that, but your joints feel like glass. Not pretty, artistic glass either. This is broken shards.

Because you can’t figure out why this is happening, you start looking at different supplements to help aid your ridiculous weakness.

Instead of running to GNC to grab the next “muscle building” or strength boosting supplement, these supplements will skyrocket your performance allowing you to set new PR’s, and continue yoru pursuit of getting stronger.

PART A: OUTSIDE THE GYM

Drink your dang water!

You like muscle?

Of course you do. Did you know your muscle is 70% water?

So unless you’re 4 foot 11, filling up your shaker bottle a couple times won’t cut it.

If you care about performance, you NEED water. Not only does your muscle benefit from increasing your water intake, but your joints, skin, and hair and brain all have this deep need for more water.

Once you start drinking more water, not only will your performance improve, but you’re going to start sleeping better, breathing better, and your joints won’t feel like a complete anus.

If you need a reference guide on how much to drink, think 1oz/kg bw. OR half your bodyweight in ounces.

For a real life reference, most shaker bottles are 20 oz. If you’re a 100kg human, drink 5 shaker bottles of water through the day, and you’re good to go.

SLEEP

This shouldn’t even be on this list, but if you’re reading this, you’re likely only getting 6-7 hours of consistent sleep every night.

If you’re serious about pushing your strength, you need more sleep.

Sleep is when the body recovers. Natural anabolic hormones like GH, testosterone increase during sleep while stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline decrease so you can receive more benefits from them during training.
It’s not only about how hard you can push yourself in training. It’s about how much you can recover from said training.

If you train hard, your strength isn’t going to last if you’re not getting enough sleep.

When strength training athletes were studied and restricted their sleep, it only took 4 days to see a noticeable change. This was restricted by more than half of what people typically get, but ONLY 2 DAYS made significant changes on the leg press, deadlift and bench.
So if you had a couple crappy nights of sleep, with your performance suffering, that’s why.

So we know that when you don’t sleep you lose out on strength. What happens when you get extra sleep?

It’s like you take the world’s most potent steroid.

In a study of the stanford men’s varsity basketball team, they had them extend their sleep by 1.5-2 hrs a night (from an average of 7 hrs a night) over a 5 week period.

The results were incredible. Not only were they more alert in their games, their sprint time improved, their shooting accuracy improved, and they had less overall fatigue.
Even if you’re more likely to lace up your chuck taylors for a workout instead of Jordans for a game of basketball, sleep extension can benefit your strength goals by improving your explosive strength, fine motor skills (like adjusting foot position in the squat), and decresaing your fatigue so you can accumulate more volume over the weeks. And that added volume will get you stupid strong.

So for the sake of your next Squat PR, aim for a 8-9 hours of sleep a night.

I don’t need to tell you how. Just freaking get it done.

STRETCHING

Nothing can start a debate in strength and conditioning faster than whether or not to stretch.

By stretching, I am talking about static stretching.
Some swear by it, and others swear it’s useless. Either way, Some have claimed it helps with mobility, joint pain, feeling better, and holding injuries at bay.

Research can be inconclusive about the benefits of stretching, so instead of relying on what someone else says, test it for yourself.

Stretch for a few minutes a week, and if it makes a difference to how your joints and body feel, then continue doing it. If it doesn’t improve how your joints feel, or your overall mobility, then stop. If it helps, well hey! You just found something that can help hit new positions in your lifts, allowing you to stay injury free, then you win!

Start with Stretching your quads, ankles, groin, Chest, Lats, Hamstrings and glutes for a minute each, for 2 rounds. Does that take too long? Well take 4 areas you think need stretching most, and hit those instead. That’s only 15 minutes. You can easily crush that during the first episode of Seinfeld you’ll watch tonight.

PART B: IN THE GYM

Pause Reps

There’s no better way to tell if you’ve been cheating your depth than by doing isometric training, or pause reps. By pausing at challenging part of your lift, say at the bottom of a squat, or half way on a bench press, you teach your body how to be strong at every point.

If you pause at the bottom, it’s also a great way to improve your mobility. Your hip mobility could be restricted at the bottom because it’s just not used to being there. So by getting into your bottom position and holding it for 5-10 seconds, you’re telling your body this is a safe position, and it’ll sink deeper into your squat.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so Use pause reps before your working sets to warm up your body and improve mobility, or use them after your working sets to iron out your sticking points.

Improve your Explosive Strength

If you’ve been chasing max numbers in lifts like squat, bench and deadlift, it’ll be no surprise if you’ve spent most of your time grinding out reps above 80%
It’s cool if you’ve built your strength this way, but if you haven’t spent time on improving your SPEED, you’re missing out on a valuable piece of training.
Think of it this way. Two guys deadlift of 425. One of them makes it snappy, quick, making it look like he could clean it off the floor.
The other guy approaches the bar and takes almost 5 seconds to lock it out. He grinds it out, making a turtle look fast.
Who do you think will have the higher deadlift?
Of course the guy with the fast deadlift. Which means if your deadlift is starting to look like the second guy, you need to work on improving your speed.
Being more explosive at lower weight means faster, snappier reps at higher weight.  
Improving your explosive strength can be done with your choice exercise at about 60-70%. This means if you have the 425 deadlift mentioned above, you will do 5 sets of 3 at 70-75%.
You can also improve your explosive strength by doing vertical jumps, the olympic lifts, OR some real heavy kettlebell swings.

You don’t have to stay stuck at your current strength levels. By improving these key areas, you’ll be setting new PR’s before you realize it!

RESOURCES:

Sleep:

Effect on Physical performance (Leg press, bench, deadlift): https://w ww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8112265
When you sleep more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21731144

Effect on Testosterone: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839/

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Author: Linden Ellefson
Linden is a Personal Trainer and Online Coach from Calgary AB. When he's not drinking coffee or playing with his dog Taco, he's helping 30-40 year old guys get in better shape than they were in college.
You can find Linden Ellefson at http://lindenellefson.com

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.

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