From the first time you walked into a gym, getting stronger has likely been one of the goals at the top of your list. After all, stronger muscles equal bigger muscles, right? Sometimes, though, increasing strength consistently is easier said than done. If you find yourself struggling to improve in that department, it’s likely you’re making one— or more— of the common mistakes below.
1. You’re Not Eating for Your Goals
What does eating have to do with getting stronger? More than you think. After all, where do you think you will get the energy to push to your limits? One of the easiest ways to improve your lifts is to add quality size to your frame, but for many, eating to get stronger or bigger is actually harder than training. Getting enough calories in to sustain and grow muscle size and strength is a full-time job, and the more you progress, the more important this becomes. Energy is going to derive from the food you consume, and if you don’t have enough you’ll be running low on gas before know it.
2. You’re Not Training for Your Goals
Would you spend your time on curls if you wanted to increase your bench? The specificity of training teaches us that in order for us to become “good” at a skill or task, we must practice that skill over and over again. However, it must be the task or skill that is related to the goals we are striving for. Exercises, rest periods, rep ranges— they all have an effect on the body when it comes to strength-specific training. Even though it’s widely accepted that lower rep ranges are more effective at building strength and power, it’s not a bad idea to throw in some higher-rep work once in a while to improve other areas besides strength training. The traditional strength exercises that most people know are squats, bench presses, military presses and deadlifts. These four exercises are the core for any type of strength training, and one should always include them in their workouts when looking to get stronger.
3. You’re Not Constantly Striving to Progress
Theoretically, one of the best ways to build strength is utilizing a lower rep range. This usually equates to 85 percent to 90 percent of your one-rep max (1RM). But the goal is to eventually increase the amount of reps you can do with that weight. Look to eventually add an additional set with the same weight, or enlist the help of a spotter to get an extra rep or two. You can also use intensity techniques like rest-pause, negatives and drop sets. Even if it’s as simple as getting one more rep on your last set, the small adds to be the big over time.
4. You’re Not Being Realistic
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same line of thinking applies to your body. Most people get impatient when trying to get bigger and stronger, and this is a major problem. Gaining size and strength requires a plan. And that plan needs to involve realistic goals so you don’t lose motivation and you don’t get injured. Simply loading an extra plate on the bar when you’re squatting isn’t typically the best idea. Start by assessing your strength levels and, once you’ve done that, outline some small, attainable goals for the coming weeks and months. Patience and consistent, hard work on a daily basis over a long period of time will get you where you want to be.
5. You’re Not Failing
Your body is smart but, as smart as it is, it was not naturally meant to be lifting four to five times your weight in benches, deadlifts and presses. It was created to be a smart machine that will tell you when it’s in pain and when you should stop. But don’t confuse your own laziness with the pain the body is trying to communicate to you. If you truly want to get stronger, you’ll have to push past your limits. You can’t improve your physical strength without having the mental fortitude to get you there. Don’t let your self-doubt step inside the gym with you.
6. You Need a Friend
Getting stronger on your own is completely achievable. But even the best of us eventually reach a point where we need help. That help can be constantly asking people at the gym for spots (which can be a bad idea if they don’t know how), or you can find a training partner who shares common goals. Having a partner pushing, motivating and yelling at you to push harder can definitely have a great impact on your strength. If you’re doing everything else right but not progressing like you think you should, consider enlisting the help of a partner— even if it’s just on those heavy squat days.