Getting stronger – How it works

To get stronger you first have to understand or define what physical strength actually is.

What it’s not is a single measurement – instead it tends to have three components:

  • The greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction
  • The ability to overcome resistance with a fast contraction
  • And the ability to express force many times over – endurance.

The best way to make a difference to your overall strength is to improve on each one of these components by increasing reps, sets or intensity.

By putting your muscles under stress in this way you cause your muscles to tear and re-grow (hypertrophy) which increases their size and strength. The more stress you put them under, the bigger they grow. And the more frequently you put them under stress the greater your naturally occurring stores of muscle growth hormones become, which in turn gives you the strength to lift more.

When you first start training, don’t get bogged down with complex routines – of which there are many, that’s for progression later. Keep it simple:

  • Go for straight sets
  • Ideally go for 8-12 reps per set.(source: National Strength and Conditioning Association)
  • Ideal rest time between sets – 60 seconds. (source: Journal of Strength and conditioning)
  • Optimum size of weight you should be using for building muscle ( as a percentage of your one-rep max) 80%. (source: NSCA).

And finally, always warm up and cool down. A lot of people don’t, but it helps to prevent injury and aids recovery.