Who doesn’t love to get stronger? Strength is one of the key foundations to fitness. The stronger you are, the more likely you can achieve other goals like muscle gain, fat-loss, athleticism, and overall good health. As someone who values strength, I always wonder if I’m getting stronger.
I bet many fitness lovers can relate to this feeling. Strength progress can be tough to measure because you can gain strength in one lift and stay stagnant on another. This article will focus on exercise specific strength. There are many ways to see if you’ve gotten stronger.
One Rep Max
One of the most common ways to see if you’ve gotten stronger is to test your one rep max. If you could deadlift 300 pounds last week for a one rep max but now you can do 310 pounds for a max, you’ve gotten stronger.
- Lifting heavy weights is fun!
- It’s easy to find your weak points when doing a one rep max. For example, if you’re struggling at the bottom portion of a squat, you can do pause work. If you’re shoulders are letting you down with your bench press, do more direct shoulder work.
- Confidence boost. Nothing in the gym gives me a greater sense of confidence than lifting a new max. You just feel powerful when you do something you weren’t previously able to do.
- The biggest problem when maxing out is the injury risk. The weight you try might too much for your body to handle. That’s why it’s important to have a spotter or safety pins when trying out a new max. One way I try to reduce injury risk when maxing out is to use the wave loading approach I learned from Charles Poliquin.
- Confidence loss. When going for a one rep max, there’s a risk of failing on the lift. When it comes to gaining strength, failing is something you want to avoid.
Five Rep Max
This is one of the simplest ways to see how much you’ve progressed in strength. For the purpose of this article, I chose the number five rep max as a measuring tool. You can also different maxes like your three rep, seven rep, etc. Let’s say you can squat 250 pounds for five reps. If you can squat 250 pounds for seven reps two weeks later, you’ve gotten stronger.
- This is one of the the safest approaches to testing your strength because you’re using a weight you’re familiar. It’s easy to see if you can do more reps of weight you’ve used many times.
- This approach isn’t as fun as testing your one rep max unless you’re doing it with your two or three rep max.
Another way to test strength progress is through bar speed. This approach is best used when you’re doing speed reps. If you can move a certain wait faster than you previously could, you’ve gotten stronger.
The idea is that you’re able to apply more force. The more force you can use in a lift, the more weight you’ll be able to use. You have to use more to move 400 pounds than to move 300 pounds. I learned about this when I started doing compensatory acceleration training (CAT).
- You’re not stressing yourself with a heavy load. When lifting for speed, it’s recommended to use 55-70% of your one rep max
- Boosts athleticism! Most sports involve explosive movements like jumping and sprinting. If compound lifts like squats and deadlifts transfer well to sports performance, then doing them explosively could have an even greater impact. If you see athletes train in the weightroom, they often focus on doing the lifts in an explosive manner.
- Risk of injury: Speed reps can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Never compromise form in order to move the weight as fast as possible. I also try to keep my foundation as strong as possible through armor building exercises .
Increase Your Chances of Getting Stronger:
There are several programs, systems, and training protocols to get stronger. Many of them do work. The simplest advice I can give anyone who wants to get stronger is to focus on compound lifts.Compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and chin-up work many muscles at once. These lifts are also the best way to measure your strength because more parts of your body is involved. The bench press is a greater strength evaluator than the tricep extension.
In addition to doing compound lifts, try to get as much muscle contraction as possible through heavier loads or by focusing on speed. Good things come to those with the right habits. How do you normally test your strength?
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