Every few weeks I hit a local gym to see what’s happening. Today, I hit a beautiful community centre overlooking the park. The equipment was state. Newest of the new. Best of the best. I had not been there in over six months, but I did notice the same people. Not much had changed. As with every visit the best bodies were lifting intensively at the free weight section, the Ok bodies were lifting semi intensively at the cable and machine section, and the worst bodies were slowly grinding on the treadmills.
If I was an exerciser who worked out at the gym this would tell me one thing: for best results you need to be pushed toward strength. In other words: strong is the new skinny. Strength is a form of athletic performance which, when coupled with a solid nutrition plan, leads to a great physique faster than most forms of training.
But how do you get strong? After all if it was easy, everyone would lift like Louis Cyr.
Step 1. The first thing is realizing what exercises make you strongest fastest. The list is not extensive. Suggestions: Squat. Yes. Deadlift & hip thrusts. Absolutely. Chin ups & Presses. Yep. One Arm Rows. Sure. Weighted push ups. Short sprints. Definitely.
Step 2. The next component is varied low to mid rep ranges combined with mixed tempos. Despite what Gwynth Paltrow preaches, over the long term, high rep, up & down rep ranges don’t necessarily cut it. Sure it’s great to add high light reps sporadically or with select lifts. However, over the bulk of training sessions we want big, high tension, or fast & explosive lifts. Large efforts, just by their very nature require lower reps. If you can do 15+ reps without much bother this is far too low. Instead I would shoot for 9-12, 7-9, 4-6 & on occasion 1-3 reps. Another option is having fun with pain by adding tempos. For instance, as opposed to just the usual lift up, lift down (which is a bit too missionary for my liking) complete a rep in four, six, or even ten seconds.
Step 3. After a lift you should require a rest period. This is a big one. The rest period might be 45 seconds, 90 seconds, three minutes or after a particular taxing set: five minutes. Regardless, if you are not taking rest periods this is a good indication the intensity is not high enough. After a set you should have been working hard enough that your body needs brief rejuvenation before continuing onto the next exercise. When you go for a sprint moving as fast as you can you need a rest because the intensity was high. This same rule applies to lifting: after every set you should be somewhat spent/not too dissimilar to the feeling of just completing a short 40 m sprint.
*When a client roars from one exercise to the other I rarely think they are pushing hard. Instead, I think because they can roar from one exercise to the other the workout is too easy.
Step 4. Application of effort. When seeking strength, continuous effort is key. On a scale of 1-10 this effort should be a consistent 7/10 to a full 8/10,9/10 or 10/10 effort on almost every set. Throughout the workout these 7-10 efforts would need to take place in repeated bouts for up to an hour. Multiply this by the few weekly workouts needed every week to achieve strength & it starts to become clear why most people gravitate toward the cardio machines and easier exercises.
Step 5. Eat quality carbs. If you are going to lift for strength you need glycogen. Glycogen comes from carbs. One of the worst mistakes is going low carb if you want to get strong. Going too low on carbohydrates limits glucose in the body, which in turn, will mean the exerciser (despite their high performing intention) will not have the energy to raise the necessary intensity.
TLA has several clients who consistently hit high numbers, take rests, always puts 7-10 efforts in most exercises and enjoy an enviable level of carbs throughout the day. As a result, they look pretty amazing. This is not a magic pill. Instead, build up gradually, and as you build up follow these 5 simple steps. The results radar will travel from flatline to through the roof justifying your claim to be part of the new skinny.