Strength is sometimes a confusing attribute, I hear people describing someone who is ripped as being strong when the truth is they may lift less than many people who don’t have a six pack. So what is strength? Strength is a measure of a muscles ability to perform under an exerted stress the more stress it can perform under then generally the stronger the muscle is. What factors contribute to the strength of a muscle? Firstly, size DOES matter if you have a larger muscle mass you will be able to lift more weight. Secondly Muscle density, this is to do with how closely the muscle fibres are packed together. If you have more muscles fibres per unit of volume then you will obviously lift more weight. Lastly the way the muscle has been trained will alter it’s physiological properties so that for instance, it is more efficient in producing ATP.
This being said it does not mean that Mr Olympias of this world are the strongest even though they may have the biggest muscles. Bodybuilders are built for size not strength, yet the power lifters are not built for appearance just for brute force. Surely this then goes against the first point of size does matter when it comes to strength? Yes it does but this is only one of a number of contributing factors and can be outweighed by the others. So how can you increase your strength and learn how to get stronger?
- In order to build muscle you need to lift some weights. The act of lifting weights causes muscle fibres to become torn and damaged. The body then builds the muscle bigger and better than before. This is the first step to increasing strength.
- If you are happy with your muscle mass the way it currently is and would just like your muscles to become stronger then you need to undertake very explosive exercises. An explosive exercise puts more pressure on the muscle and it’s surrounding tendon insertions. With the correct diet this can be used to an advantage as it will enable the muscle to perform under more pressure therefore increasing it’s strength.
- A great way of increasing muscle density is by tensing for 30seconds after completing an exercise. This will enhance the process of Myofibrillar hypertrophy which is the increase of actin and myosin contractile proteins which are attributed to muscular strength.
- Finally heavy sets of 2-6 repetitions have been found to increase muscle strength.
How to Get Stronger – Compound or Isolation exercises?
If you have the choice between big compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts and isolation exercises such as bicep curls choose the compound ones every time. They are going to exercise loads of major muscle groups, they are also great as they are exercises that exhibit positive transference. Lets take squatting as an example if you increase your squat strength and power, this is going to enable you to jump higher.
A good way to make sure you are pushing yourself is to keep on adding weight to the bar. ‘You will only get stronger if you get stronger.’ May seem like a meaningless comment but if your not adding more weight to that bar then you’re not getting stronger. So document what weight your pushing and how many times your doing it and then add a pound or too more to ensure you progress.
The strength of a muscle is also limited to it’s ability to maintain in contact with the bone, these are due to it’s tendon insertions. These tendons also need to be strengthened in order for the muscles full strength to become useable. Surely tendon strength will increase in concurrence with the muscles? Yes this should be the case however rapid muscle growth occurs faster than the tendons can resulting in recurring injuries. This is usually seen in people using steroids but can happen to anyone.
So if you ever had to arm wrestle a bodybuilder or a power lifter, choose the bodybuilder every time. So by applying these principles you will never need to ask, ‘How to get stronger’ again you will be only answering the questions of those in awe.