What is the Most Efficient way to improve strength for sport?
Strength is defined as, “The maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can generate at a specified velocity.” Or in more layman terms for all of us; “how much weight you can lift, at any speed.”
I have been training athletes of all levels since my years at George Mason University (1990 – 1995). Yes, I was on the 5 year plan!
What I learned was this:
In order to increase the strength in any muscle we must tear muscle fibers (micro-tears). Every time we tear the muscle fiber, the muscle heals. When it heals, it increases both size and strength. This is mainly where our muscle soreness comes from. So being sore, is not such a bad thing.
So, in all my years since graduating GMU, I have been teaching, no… rather preaching the same thing:
SLOW IT DOWN!
The slower you perform each repetition:
- The more tension you put on each muscle
- The more muscle fibers you recruit.
- The more muscle fibers you tear(micro-tear)
Hence, the more size and strength you gain.
There are two main movements when lifting.
- Positive (concentric)
- Negative (eccentric)
Using the bench press as an example:
Pushing the bar up and away from the chest is the positive movement, while lowering the bar towards the chest is the negative movement.
**The negative movement is 40% stronger than the positive of any lift.**
What does this mean?
If your max bench press in the positive movement is 100lbs, then you could support up to 140lbs during the negative movement.
If you have ever failed while attempting a 1-rep maximum bench press, you have experienced this effect. You were able to control the weight on the way down, but then failed to lift the bar back up.
Why is this important?
If we were to challenge (or you could say “max out”) the negative movement of a lift, up to 40% more tension could be applied to the muscles. This increased tension causes more muscle fibers to be recruited, giving us an increased potential to increase strength and even size.
The negative movement is mostly forgotten in lifting. Most athletes will explode up on the positive and let it fall down even quicker on the negative. To optimize increases in strength, we need to do the opposite!
- For every lift you perform, lighten the weight by about 25% of what you are currently doing.
- For every lift, increase the amount of time per repetition, but do the same number of repetitions per set that you would normally perform. When focusing on strength, I suggest giving yourself a rep range of 2-6 repetitions. If you cannot complete 2 reps with correct form and speed, then decrease the weight. If you can complete more than 6 reps with correct form and speed, then increase the weight.
- Each repetition will be a total of 7 – 10 seconds, no matter how many reps.
- The positive or first movement is 3 – 4 seconds.
- The negative or second movement is 4 – 5 seconds. THIS IS THE BIG ONE.
Do this for 3 straight weeks with every lift, every set. I promise at the end of this you will be stronger and on your way to being bigger.
If you want some other ideas or techniques to increase strength, email me at email@example.com.
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Don’t forget to look for my video blog on this topic. I will go through some great exercise techniques and exercises for you to try.