5 Quick Tips to Increase Strength

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There are no “hacks” to getting strong. I’m a firm believer you get out of it what you put in.

It’s hard, and it takes a lot of hard work; oftentimes over the course of several years.

That said, below are a few “quick” tips that can help expedite the process. Admittedly there’s nothing profound or elaborate included, but I felt it important to suggest things that are easily accessible to the bulk of people who read this site.

Hope they resonate and help.

5 Quick Tips to Increase Strength

1. WARNING: Captain Obvious suggestion of the day: Creatine

It still dumbfounds me to think there are people out there who train on a consistent basis, yet are still not taking creatine (and yes, this includes you as well ladies). It’s the most researched supplement in human history and it’s efficacy has been proven time and time again.

*It’s safe

*It works

*It’s NOT steroids

Just take five grams of creatine monohydrate (no need to buy the expensive brands that are laced with rocket fuel) per day and that’s that.

ADDENDUM: This is a suggestion. Not mandatory. The first step to addressing lack of progress is to audit your program and nutrition. If those two factors aren’t getting the job done, no one supplement is going to be the panacea.

That said, you still need to go train like a savage. Taking creatine alone isn’t going to mount to much.

2. Deadlift Barefoot

Everyone who trains with me here in Boston is told to take their shoes off when (s)he deadlifts.

To quote a new client I started with the other night

“Why?”

BECAUSE I SAID SO. HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME. KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!

Just kidding.

Well for starters, by taking your shoes off you’re now 1-2 inches closer to the ground, which is 1-2 inches less distance the bar has to travel.

Secondly, and more germane to the point, by taking your shoes off you’re now able to push through your heels. As a result, you’ll recruit more of your glutes and hamstrings to help out.

It’s not uncommon for some people to see a significant increase in how much weight they can pull off the ground from a little more posterior chain recruitment.

Thirdly, people will automatically think you’re badass cause you’re training with no shoes on. Of course, this is contingent on whether or not your feet smell like you’ve been walking through a sewer all day.

In that case, it’s your call.

3. Glute Activation

If your glutes aren’t able to fire full throttle, the hamstrings and lower back have to do more work than they’re accustomed to doing.

So from that standpoint paying more attention to glute activation can have positive repercussions for those suffering through chronic low-back pain.

However, people often forget the badonkadonks are not only the body’s dominant hip extensor which play a key role in athletics and strength, but are also a fairly large muscle that’s aesthetically pleasing to look at (cue obligatory fitness Insta-celebrity pic here).

Don’t worry, I got you too ladies:

By “turning on” the glutes with some simple activation techniques beforehand, you will undoubtedly be able to handle more weight when you squat and/or deadlift.

To that end, while I don’t have any PubMed research articles to back this up, more weight=more strength=more people want to see you naked.

Here are some of my favorites:

Up 2, Down 1

 

I like this variation because it allows for more eccentric overload on the lowering leg. Obviously one will need to master the two-legged variation first, but this is a nice progression to consider.

Band Resisted 1-Legged Hip Thrust

 

This is an ingenious variation I stole from Dean Somerset. If you’re looking to progress you’re 1-Legged Hip Thrust and having a hard time figuring out a way to do so, give this a try.

Creepy McCreepypants Frog Pumps

 

Popularized by none other than Bret Contreras, Frog Pumps are another fantastic exercise that aid in getting the glutes nice and juicy.

Thing is, they’re awkward as fuck to perform in public.

So, there’s only one way, and one way only, to perform them….

…..by copying Bret and Dr. John Rusin’s lead and making direct, intense eye contact with someone and making things creepy AF.1.

Reps can range anywhere from 15 to infinity.

4. Stop Testing Strength and Build It

I’m not the first to say this.

Many other coaches stronger than I – Chad Wesley Smith, Greg Robins, Julia Ladewski, Pavel, to name a few – have reverberated this quote on repeat throughout the years.

Far too often trainees head to the gym week in and week out and “test” their lifts rather than actually build them.

Now, mind you, lifting heavy things (90% + of 1 rep-max) is a non-negotiable factor to getting strong. However, as I noted in THIS blog post sub-maximal training (I.e., predominately using loads in the 65-85% range) is much UNDER-valued component to strength training.

In other words: loads in those ranges help one to BUILD strength.

Moreover, utilizing more sub-maximal training – while having an obvious muscle building effect (bigger muscles often equate to more force output) – also allows trainees to hone their technique and to get into (and maintain) proper positions to exhibit their strength more effectively.

5. Use Novelty Sparingly

Unlike coaches Dan John or Mike Boyle, I don’t find myself to be a very quotable person.

However, I am proud of this one:

“Look, I’m not bashing exercise variety. Variety has a time and place. However, the greatest gap in most people’s training isn’t lack of novelty, but rather lack of mastery.”

Many trainees have what I like to call “Squirrel Syndrome” when it comes to working out.

They start doing an exercise (or in most cases start an exercise program) and before they’ve put down the dumbbell on their first set they’re distracted by a new “squirrel.”

 

In this case the squirrel is an entirely new exercise program or a bright, shiny, new exercise.

– “Jumping Jack BOSU Bicep Curls?”

– “Sweet Christmas, I need that in my life.”

Want to get stronger?

Stop hopping exercise to exercise or program to program. It’s almost impossible to see steady progress if you’re heavy-handed on the novelty.

I like Jim Wendler’s approach to programming for strength:

“The boring shit works.”

Observe anyone who’s strong or has a physique you admire and almost always they’re doing very vanilla things in the weight room.

Contrarily, watch most other asshats who cry afoul about hitting their genetic ceiling2(or something equally as lame):

Jumping Jack BOSU Bicep Curls.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. Actually, please don’t do this. Unless you want to have several restraining orders in your name

  2. Which does exist, mind you. But come on, most people don’t work remotely that hard to hit it.

Comments for This Entry

  • Josh

    I'm a big fan of creatine, but to say that EVERYONE ought to take creatine might be a stretch. I would caution the use of creatine for those with some underlying thyroid dysfunction (Hashimoto's, hypothyroidism NOS), even if treated. In hypothyroidism, one is more prone to hyponatremia for reasons that are not clearly understood, although the inhibition of mitochondrial metabolism almost certainly plays a role in the electrolyte anomaly. With creatine, extracellular sodium shifts intracellularly, leading to further hyponatremia in the person with hypothyroidism, and hyponatremia often leads to metabolic acidosis and potentially rhabdomyolysis. Additionally, the influx of sodium intracellularly leads to increased release of calcium from the pre-synaptic cleft. Problem is, in hypothyroidism, the pumping of Ca2+ back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum is sluggish, leading to localized tetany. Bottom line, creatine is great for most of the training world. But the metabolic anomalies present in thyroid dysfunction make creatine a generally poor choice from a biochemical standpoint.

    May 30, 2018 at 11:43 am | Reply to this comment

  • Seth

    Tony and Josh - I'm the 1% and had NEVER heard someone provide such detailed analysis of creatine's affect on thyroid disease. It's ultimately up to the individual to make the call but blanket statements can be dangerous. Thank you both for the insights!

    May 30, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      It was an impressive response for sure, and MY response wasn't meant to belittle or disregard Josh's statement. I hope it didn't come across as such. Thanks reading both of you.

      May 30, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Josh

        Don't worry, Tony...I took no offense at all! I love your stuff and I respect what you do. I think it's just something to be aware of...and thyroid dysfunction is a bit more common than one might think. On a slightly different note, the positive effect of creatine on neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's is fantastic (check out the research...pretty awesome) and I do highly recommend it for the majority of my patients.

        May 31, 2018 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    Tony - I'm on the older side of life (61) but prior to having back surgery a year and half ago I worked out three times a week at a local gym. My coach at that time wasn't into creatine in fact said I should not consider it. Now I have no medical health issues according to my doctor and i have been working out at less aggressive degree as before, but now I am trying to ràmp my workout back up. So I am asking you the question to creatine or not to creatine and if your response is yes do you have a recommendation of which product to use.

    May 30, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Reply to this comment

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