Strength Training: How It Can Help You Build More Muscle

strength training

What Is Strength Training?

Strength training, unlike bodybuilding, is done with only one goal in mind: To increase the body’s physical strength.

If your goal is to build more muscle mass, you should practice strength-training every once in a while to not only help increase your muscle gains, but also to keep your workouts fresh and to keep your body from getting used to doing the same routine/exercises.

In the long-run, strength-training will help you build more muscle mass because whenever you increase your overall strength, your muscle gains will increase as well, seeing that you are eating the correct muscle building foods.

If your current routine involves bodybuilding movements such as isolation exercises, also known as single-joint movements, you’ll need to switch to performing more compound movements and take a break from isolation movements for a while in order to develop maximum upper and lower body strength.

To increase your strength on various lifts such as bench press, rows, shoulder press, squats and deadlifts, follow these strength training guidelines;

1) To develop more lower-body strength, eliminate leg extensions for quadriceps and lying leg curls as well as seated leg curls for hamstrings. Substitute these single-joint movements with dumbbell or barbell lunges.

Lunges will effectively work both the quadriceps and hamstrings and build more leg strength compared to isolation movements like leg extensions and leg curls.

2) For more arm strength, eliminate all curling exercises. This includes barbell curls, dumbbell curls and cable curls.

For strength training, do bent-over barbell rows instead. Heavy rows will work your biceps muscles very hard as well as your back.

But unlike curls, heavy rows build raw upper body strength much faster compared to any curling movement.

3) Train explosively. For strength-training purposes, you should perform all of your lifts in an explosive manner.

For example, on the bench press, instead of lowering the bar in a 2-1-2 tempo (2 seconds down, 1 second pause and 2 seconds up) lift in a 1-0-1 tempo.

When you’re training for strength, don’t worry about time under tension (TUT) because your focus will be on building maximum muscle strength and not muscle size.

Training explosively does not mean training recklessly, be sure that you never bounce the bar off of your chest in the bottom position on the bench press, but instead, let the bar touch your chest just slightly and then lift it back up in an explosive manner.

This goes for squats and deadlifts as well. Instead of focusing on making the muscle do the work (mind-muscle connection) just lift the weights from point A to point B in an explosive but controlled manner.

Never bounce from the bottom position on squats and pause for a second at the bottom position on deadlifts.

4) Perform more dumbbell presses for chest and shoulders instead of using barbells. Dumbbells force each side of your body to work independently, which helps balance out any strength imbalances that you may have between your left and right arms.

When you substitute barbell bench presses with dumbbell bench presses, you’ll notice that you won’t be able to lift as much weight.

If you’re currently bench pressing 300 pounds for 10 reps on the barbell bench press, you most likely won’t be able to handle more than 90 to 110 pound dumbbells in each hand on the dumbbell version.

Incorporating more dumbbell presses into your strength-training routine will allow you to push more weight on the barbell bench press, since you’ll be building more strength in each side of the chest independently, thus you’ll work each side with greater intensity which leads to more growth.

5) Strive to increase the amount of weight that you lift each week (progressive overload). For strength-training to be effective, you’ll have to increase the weights on a weekly or at most a bi-weekly basis.

Your body gets used to lifting the same amount of weight week in and week out, so you must challenge it to avoid a strength plateau by increasing your weight after each week or two of strength-training.

The weight increase does not have to be massive and it won’t be since you can only gain a certain amount of strength at any given time.

That being said, adding as little as 5 pounds to the bar or dumbbell on each lift once a week is enough to avoid a strength-training plateau and continue gaining strength.

Don’t worry about gaining muscle size when you’re strength-training. Since you’ll increase your total body strength and power output on each exercise while in the strength training phase, your muscle gains will increase once you get back to muscle size training/bodybuilding.

6) And finally, cycle your strength-training workouts. This goes back to the point I made above, in order to avoid a plateau you should increase the amount of weight that you lift over a period of time.

A perfect example of cycling in a strength training routine would be to train for strength for no more than 12 to 16 weeks at a time, and cycling your strength training workouts every 4 weeks.

Say for example for weeks 1 through 4 of your strength training routine, you would do 5 sets of squats with 350 pounds for 10 reps on each set, for a total volume of 17,500 pounds.

Then on week 5, you would increase your weights on squats to 375 pounds and add another set to make it 6 total sets of 10 reps each, which would give you a total workout volume of 22,500 pounds.

And then on week 9, you could either keep the sets the same and increase the squat weight only, or you could increase the sets to 7 and keep the weight the same, as doing either one of the two or both will further increase your total workout volume and prevent your muscles from getting used to the same poundage’s and sets.

To sum it all up, strength training should be done for periods lasting anywhere from 3 to 5 months and strength training should be performed in cycles where you increase your total workout volume/weight lifted in each cycle in order to prevent a strength/performance plateau.

You should train with explosiveness on each set in order to develop more raw muscle power which will help boost your muscle gains in the long-run.

Since strength training involves the use of heavier weights and slightly lower repetitions, be sure that you warm up properly before each strength training workout in order to protect your joints and muscles from injury.

Here is an example strength training workout that incorporates all of the guidelines that I’ve mentioned above:

Day 1 (Monday):

Bench Press 3 x 10
Military Press 3 x 10
Bent-Over Barbell Rows 3 x 8
Barbell Squats 4 x 10

Day 2 (Wednesday):

Dumbbell Bench Press 4 x 10
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 10
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows 3 x 10
Dumbbell Squats 4 x10

Day 3 (Friday):

Barbell Lunges 4 x 12
Military Press 3 x 8-10
Chin Ups 3 x 10
Bench Press 3 x 8-10

The above workouts are just examples to give you an idea of how to structure your strength training routine.

Feel free to alter the order of the exercises, sets and repetitions in order to build strength in the areas where you’d like to improve the most.

Always remember to work your whole-body during each strength training workout and keep the workouts compound movement dominant in order to maximize your raw strength gains and explosiveness on each exercise.

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Adi Crnalic

Adi Crnalic is a certified personal trainer, lifetime natural bodybuilder and muscle building & fitness expert. He writes all the articles and posts on this site. He was born in Bosnia and currently lives in the state of North Carolina, USA.

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