1) Volume with your weight lifting!
It is proven that to increase your testosterone levels naturally through weight lifting you need to lift for an extended period of time. Lifting weights 5 times a week is great, but you may get more out of your week if you lifted only 3 times when those session were longer. Powerlifters increase their strength by lifting 3 days a week, with 2 and a half to 3 hour lifting sessions. Sound crazy? That is the norm with strength routines!
2) Use core exercises!
You can do isolation curls all you want, do the pec deck, or leg curls on machines, but in the end you are kidding yourself if you think you are gaining power. For true power you need exercises that recruit your whole body. These are mainly the powerlifts (bench press, squats, and deadlift) but also the Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches). No leg machine or chest machine can replace any of these lifts. And if some one tells you that squats is for legs and bench presses are for chest, you know right off the bat they are doing them wrong and don’t know how to strength train. These are full body workouts.
4) Use freeweights!
Doing squats on the smith machine, or bench press on the smith machine, or deadlifts on the smith machine (or any bastardized version of these lifts on any machine) is not the same. I won’t say don’t do the Olympic lifts on a machine cause I can’t picture a machine that would allow you to. But sure as hellfire don’t do your strength exercises on a machine. You will not get the same results. It takes away from the full body gains you get, and you can’t to them properly. Learn how to do them free weight. If it takes you a bit to master them, take the time. (Or read my previous articles on how to squat and bench press)
5) Keep your weight you are using fluctuating!
between 50% of your max to 90% of your max. Don’t go into the gym and max out every day. That is the best way to plateau. You should actually not fail in the gym. Most strength routines worth their salt will keep you lifting around 80% of your max and working with that weight in volume. Some people want to go heavy all the time with their lifts and think it will get them stronger. Your central nervous system is the engine of your body, and you can’t rev that engine every day and think it will keep in max performance.
6) Less cardio!
I know for some this is a hard trade-off, but the more cardio you do the more your strength will go down. Your energy reserves get spent on whatever exercises you do in a day. If you budget your energy for strength, than that is where you will see your gains. Some would like to think that cardio and strength will increase together. In a perfect World this would be true. Fact is, your over all strength lifts at the gym will go down with an increase in cardio. Depending on your sport of choice, or personal goals, may be to an extent this is a fair trade-off. If you are solely strength training, I would suggest cutting the cardio all together. Diet and proper weight training can lead to a more muscular body. The more you focus on running, and less on weight lifting, the more you loose muscle mass. Sprinters incorporate weight training and are the thickest competitive runners. Marathon runners rely the least on weight training, and run much longer distances. The picture above shows the difference in their builds.
7) Proper diet!
You need to ingest calories to support a high volume weight training routine. Your body will run through these calories like a car runs through gas. To pack on size and strength you need to eat more calories than you burn in a day. This depends on the size of the person and training that is being done. To that extent this part is personalized.
8) Plenty of sleep!
When the body is at rest at night is when it recharges the batteries so to speak. Your muscles repair and you re-energize for the next day. Getting a good 8 hours (give or take an hour) of sleep will keep you full of energy for your workouts and also give your body enough rest to repair.
9) Full range of motion in your lifts!
If your training program calls for squats, don’t do anything less than a full squat (that is break parallel). If your training program calls for bench pressing, touch your chest with the bar. If you deadlift, do it from the floor not off of a rack and bouncing the weight off the floor (this is much easier and takes away from the deadlift). Getting a full range of motion is how these exercises were meant to be, and how you will get the most out of them. That being said…
10) Partial movements with freeweights!
To ADD to your full range of motion freeweight exercises like squats and bench press, you can do heavyweight partials. I stress that these are used to add to your full range of motion lifts, and not to be used in place of them. For some people, heavy partials is all they do, and they don’t recognize them as partials at all but fool themselves into believing they are doing actual squats and bench pressing.
Putting on the safety pins for a quarter squat that is past your max will get your central nervous system use to handling heavy weight. You can do the same with floor presses and board presses for bench press, and deadlifting off of the safety pins in a squat rack from your knees (or deadlifting to your knees and not locking it out).
Added bonus tip…DON’T USE WRAPS!!!
I would like to throw in there that you should never use wraps when training! They are the best way to weaken your grip strength. It is annoying to hear people talk about how their grip gives out because they go so heavy with deadlifts, so they need them. Try to explain theory to a powerlifter who deadlifts 3 times their bodyweight without wraps. Using chalk is fine, but if you are using wraps you are not getting the proper strength training in. Telling yourself you need them is just a way of setting your own limits. If you tell yourself you go so heavy you need them try taking a look on the net to see how heavy the human body can do without wraps. You are stronger than you think, so stop selling yourself short! NO WRAPS!!!!
***The author, 6 Pack Lapadat, is a National Powerlifting Champion and Guinness World Record holder in the squat. He raises money for sick kids by pulling school buses, airplanes, and flipping cars***