Muscle and Strength Evolution
Last time I talked about the when you need to build more muscle to build more strength and when you need to just focus on getting stronger with the muscle you have.
I’ve talked quite a bit recently about strength.
Mainly because, as I said at the very start of my strength based blogging, I believe that everyone to some degree should do some strength training at some point.
But also because I myself have been focusing on strength training and heavy lifting so it ties in nicely to what I have been doing in my own training.
My training has (actually had, now as I have to stop because of lockdown) been going really well.
I took my own advice, which I don’t often do, and I have been following the principles that I have been talking about. Kinda like putting my money where my mouth is.
Now I’m certainly not a beginner lifter. But one of the best things about being a trainer is the constant learning and growing.
So I decided to strip things back and do what I have been talking about. Back to basics and putting a lot of focus on technique.
I still wouldn’t say I’m a master but I feel more confident under the bar than I ever have done.
I am very proud to say I’m going into lockdown with my bench press, squat, deadlift and pull ups at an all time high.
But this ties in nicely to what I have been talking about.
I’ve kind of picked the low hanging fruit. My numbers have gone up simply by being better at the lifts. Now there’s still room for more improvement. However, I do need to plan ahead slightly.
Now that I’m well drilled and the motor patterns have been learnt, I am close to maxing out the gains that I can get from better neurological improvements and technique. I still have more gains to make just by working on this. The progress is slowing which means that time for adaptation is coming.
Which is a good thing. You should be training so that what you were doing is easy and you need to kick it up a gear.
So the next stage for me is, coincidentally the next stage of strength training that I have been talking about.
Once you’ve reached this stage you need to change the game plan up a bit. This is where you need to get bigger and stronger.
So what are my new goals to focus on?
1. Not neglecting what I have been working on and continuing to master the technique and work on the basics
2. Improve work capacity
3. Work on injury prevention
4. Build more muscle mass
Again, there are many ways to get to the same place. So follow whatever strength building program suits you and your needs. Individuality is very important. But as long as your program ticks the boxes I’ve talked about above, you will progress and see results.
So let’s go a bit deeper into these.
This can always be better. There is always room for improvement. So what you need to do now is ramp up the intensity. That means that you’ll probably do very little work on lower than 75% of your 1 rep max but not too close to your max as that’s where things start to fall apart due to the high load. Remember, we’re focusing on technique.
Now the focus is on mastering the technique while under the stress of a heavy load. This will be
massive for making strength gains.
Another thing to bear in mind is that as the intensity does up, the volume will go down. Always leave something in the tank. DO NOT GO TO FAILURE!
This sort of training puts your body under a lot of strain. This can limit your training in each session and each week.
But you don’t actually need to do lots of this style of training to get those neurological gains.
We are focusing on the functional aspect of the lifts and using it to build muscle strength.
2. Work Capacity
I have talked a lot about work capacity so I’m not going to repeat myself as I have done deep into this multiple times. So for more on work capacity, check out the rest of blogs on my website.
What I will say is, take into account how much work capacity comes up and have a good bit of variety in your training.
This will let you work harder and focus on your main lifts.
So look more at the likes of over head pressing, front squatting, pull ups etc. All of these types of exercises will tie in with your main lifts.
You can also throw in more body building style isolation training. Even bicep curls have a place in strength training. Plus, who doesn’t love a good bicep pump?
It is very difficult to avoid injury all together but there are definitely things that can be done to lower the risk.
This works with the isolation I talked about in work capacity. When you’re putting your body under that stress to get bigger and stronger, there is a very high risk for injury.
Whereas the isolation work that a body builder would do has a much lower risk of injury.
When doing incredibly heavy movements like what strongmen and powerlifters do, there is a huge risk for injury. Especially for the likes shoulders and lower back.
They perform complex movements under ridiculous amounts of stress, of course there’s a high risk.
So it makes sense that you wouldn’t to spend all your training time doing at. This is why it’s good to step back from that and do isolation work that will help improve your main lifts.
This will help build muscle and put your body under less stress and should lower the risk of injury.
4. Muscle Mass
Typically speaking, the strongest guys are the biggest too.
If you have big muscles and know how to use them properly, then you are on the right tracks to getting incredibly strong.
Studies show that one of the biggest indicators of strength was muscle mass per unit of height.
So the bigger the muscle mass, the bigger potential for strength there is. Now just because some guys have big muscles, it doesn’t mean that they are strong. But it means that they have all the tools to be strong.
If your muscles stay the same size, then you cap the strength you can build. This is another reason that that body building style of training can come in handy for strength athletes.
Most of your training volume should come from this accessory work, between this type of isolation work and your work capacity work your actual heavy lifting will make up a small amount of your volume.
A lot of coaches recommend other accessory work instead of lighter sets of your main lifts. The reason for this is because the motor pattern is different when lifting lighter than doing heavy sets.
Same idea as I talked about with doing cardio. You don’t want to water down your strength.