The fitness industry has become a bizarre place. Often, novice trainees and athletes are sold maneuvers and agility drills that look good on paper, but in reality are just failed sobriety tests.
Have we forgotten about the movements that can help us build muscle and develop strength? Whether you’re trying to build a strong physique or develop an athletic body, strength is essential and should be prioritized at all times. However, many athletes and lifters fail to realize this and latch onto advance training programs, innovation exercises and complex schemes instead of establishing a solid foundation of strength first. I believe that this is their biggest mistake. Maximal strength provides the foundation for training and once you’ve built it, it will stay!
So, how can maximal strength be build? I’ll reveal the secrets in this complete guide to maximal strength training.
Understanding Maximal Strength
I believe many people are unaware of the exact meaning of maximal strength, so I’ll clear the confusion. Maximal strength is the greatest amount of force that can be produced by a muscle or group of muscles. In other words, it means how much weight you can lift in an exercise.
With that clear, let’s begin with the guide.
Excel with Conditioning
You cannot excel in maximal strength without conditioning. I have seen some people make terrible mistakes in conditioning. A person can get conditioned by adding General Physical Preparation (GPP) training and extra workouts, but what lifters do is that they go from four workouts per week to fifteen and wonder why they failed to recover. You can get conditioned through many ways (increasing capacity of work and adding GPP are most common), but I recommend that you progress slowly so that your body can handle the extra work. In order to build-up progress slowly, I recommend you add some warm-up exercises in your training for a few weeks. For example, a warm-up session in the beginning could include:
Chin-Ups: 1 set of 12 reps, Push-Ups: 1 set of 12 reps, Glute Ham Raise: 1 set of 5 reps, Sled Dragging: 2 sets of 18 steps.
Once you’ve gotten used to this warm-up session with training for few weeks, you can increase movements and reps. For example, after a few weeks, the session could look like this:
Chin-Ups: 3 sets of 15 reps, Push-Ups: 4 sets of 16 reps, Glute Ham Raise: 4 sets of 10 reps, Sled Dragging: 4 sets of 60 steps, Neck Raises: 2 sets of 12 reps, Incline Sit-Ups: 2 sets of 18 reps.
From the session described above, you can see how the work and total volume has increased, but the main training exercises have remained unchanged. When the numbers of exercises in your warm-up sessions get to eight or nine, you can break the session into two parts (afternoon and evening) and complete half the exercises in the evening session and the remaining half in the afternoon.
Now, to increase the intensity of the workout, you can add three or four more exercises to the afternoon session and four more to the evening. However, progress with time and only add exercises once you’re comfortable with the workout. Some other exercises that you can add to your sessions include Light Deadlifting, Abdominal Training and Reverse Hypers.
Work on the Strength
To get strong, a person must have strength, simple right? So, how can you build strength?
I recommend a training technique I call the limit breaker method. This involves lifting heavy for 1 to 3 reps. You will need dedicate two days per week to limit breaker training, one to focus on the lower body and one to build the upper body. The best exercises for beginners are described below:
Limit Breaker Squat Movements (For the Lower Body)
- Deadlifts (1 rep. max)
- Narrow Stance Low Box Squats (1 rep. max)
- Pin Pulls (1 rep. max)
- Good Mornings (3 to 6-rep)
Limit Breaker Bench Movements (For the Upper Body)
- Reverse Band Press
- Pin Presses
- Incline Close Grip Bench Press
- Floor Presses
Make sure you only do one limit breaker movement per session. The number of sets depend on how much you can work up and what your strength is. If you’re able to bench 185 pounds, then I wouldn’t recommend you to start with 120, then increase the weight to 140 and finish with 190. It’s better to use a scheme that allows you to complete more volume. For 3 reps, begin with 70 pounds and then gradually move to 95. For 1 rep, if you’re used to lifting about 120 pounds then start with that. Then jump to 140 for 1 rep. Gradually, increase the weight to 155, then 170 and eventually lift 190 for 1 rep. If you think you can handle more, keep working up. As you can see, the volume and work load is much higher and it would lead to more productive strength gains.
What you should do after the limit breaker movements? After these movements, you should choose the exercises based on your weaknesses. Many lifters choose to work on triceps after bench movements and hamstrings after squat movements. You can either choose to follow other lifters or work on what you feel needs improvement.
Cycle the Limit Breaker Movements
You must remember that with the limit breaker style of maximal strength training, every movement has its own cycle associated with it. For the limit breaker day, the first limit breaker movement should rotate in a 1 to 3 week cycle. This can be accomplished in several ways. If you’re an advanced lifter, you will have to change movements faster. If you’re an intermediate lifter, you will have to change every 2 weeks while for beginners I recommend changing movements every 3 weeks.
If you’re new to maximal strength training style, it means that you’re a beginner. There are balances and checks throughout the limit breaker program, so you’ll be able to know when you have to change. For example, if you start with two board presses and lift 300 on first week, 315 on the second and 330 on the third, then you must use a 3-week rotation. However, if you’re able to hit 320 on the first week, 330 on the second, but can’t do 320 on third week, then you must use a 2-week rotation. The more you use this method, the sooner you will be switching every week.
There are some other alternative approaches that I’ve used with my clients. I used a 2 week cycle with one of my clients where I kept the first week as merely an introduction to the limit breaker movements. Here I used a percentage based scheme (70 percent of his best with the same limit breaker movement for 3 sets of 5 reps). The athlete was able to perform much better in the second week when I focused on the intro in the first week.
Doing Limit Breaker Movements Every Week
Some of my clients have asked me whether they should do the limit breaker movements every week or not. You might be wondering the same. Well, the thing is, it depends on what you’re doing on all the other days of the week. If you are hitting the gym very hard on the other days, you will find it difficult to perform the limit breaker movements every week. If you find that you’re not able to recover properly, you will have to take it easy with one of the limit breaker workouts each month. By taking it easy I don’t mean a day off, rather you should replace the limit breaker movement with higher rep work using an exercise that’s intended to work the same muscles.
Cycle the Other Exercise
In addition to cycling the limit breaker movements, you will also have to cycle the other exercises. You don’t have to cycle other movements at the same rate though and they can be cycled longer. I recommend cycling other movements in these four ways:
With the movement cycles, you will be required to switch movements after every week and cycle the reps and sets as well. This choice suits the advanced lifters as they’ve an idea about how much they need to train in a single week.
For increasing volume over the cycle of training, set cycle method works best. All you need to do with set cycle is add one more set to your movements with a number of reps that you can handle. For example, if you’re using reverse hypes movement, for first week you do 3 sets of 10 reps. In the second week, you do 4 sets of 10 reps; in the third week you move up to 5 sets of 10 reps and do another set of 6 reps. Then, you will change the movement.
In this method, you’ll work to aim for more reps on each set of the movement. For example, if you choose a movement for hamstring work and get 1 set of 5, second set of 6 and third set of 5 in the first week, then in the second week you will try to increase the number of reps. After four to five weeks (when you aren’t able to add any more reps), you will switch the movement.
In this method, you will try to increase the weight for the same movement with the same reps until you cannot increase any more. When you can’t increase the weight anymore, it is time to switch the movement. Let’s take an example of the dumbbell extensions. In the first week, you do 50 pound for 2 sets of 12 reps. The next week you perform 60 pounds extensions for 2 sets of 12 reps. In the third week, you take it up to 80 pounds for 1 one set of 12 reps and one set of 5 reps. After that, you’ll switch the movement.
Check out our blog on how many push ups can I do.
Nutrition is important for all types of training. During maximal strength training, you’ll be performing limit breaker movements as well as other regular exercises; therefore, you’ll need to keep those muscle glycogen stores full. Avoid junk foods at all times! Many of my clients suffered from injuries due to poor nutrition. Therefore, when you begin maximal strength training, get those proteins, fats and carbohydrates and eat as much healthy food as you possibly can. Vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, whole grains, fish and meat should be the part of your diet when you’re training for maximal strength.
We all experience times in life that can be termed as the defining moments. In our lives, these moments can prove to be disastrous or glorious, but what they do is shape the path or direction of who we’ll become. From these defining moments, we learn and grow to become better or worse. What’s the thing that creates a difference between us becoming better or worse? It is how we perceive the situation. If something awful happens to you, do you consider as a good learning experience or do you allow it to bring you down? If something works in your favor, do you consider it just luck or ask yourself why that happened?
Why am I talking about this in the maximal strength training guide? What does it has to do with training? The truth is it has everything to do with training, strength building and life! To succeed in the maximal strength training game, there are many qualities you’ll need. The most important ones include living the life you want, learning from mistakes and passing on the information to others.
Don’t let anyone bring you down and tell you that you cannot become stronger; remember it’s your life and you can be what you choose to be. Learn from your mistakes and other people. If maximal strength training is your game, learn about it from others and find out the mistakes that they’ve made to ensure you don’t repeat the same. And once you’ve learned, share your experience with others and pass on the information. So, now that you’ve learned to train for maximal strength training, what are you going to do? That’s right; share the information with others and help them get stronger!
Check out our personal trainers guide to healthy living