1. More is more
When it comes to building strength, you have to look at the bigger picture. It’s not just about the hard hours of training, it’s about adequate rest, recovery, and high protein calories.
Unless you’re a soviet weightlifter, one ‘session’ for each major compound lift (think barbell and squats, deadlifts, presses, plus pull ups and rows) supported by the correct accessory work (lunges, dumbbell presses etc.) is probably enough.
Training a back squat 3+ times a week at a high intensity could lead to overtraining, meaning at best demotivation and at worst injury.
Just make sure you leave nothing unspent. Work hard and rest well!
2. The programme doesn’t define the success, your effort will define the success!
Simply following a well-known and proven strength plan does not ensure success is guaranteed.
The sets, reps, and rest time are of course all relevant, but the one thing far more relevant is your work ethic!
If you lift a genuine ‘85%’ for 5 reps, then not only should you want the 2-3 mins rest before you go again, but you should need it!
If you feel ready after 30 seconds, then slap more weight on the bar.
In saying the above sentence, I must add: Don’t over rest. We need the right stimulus.
If your goal is 5 x 5 at 85%, then think of the last two sets. The first set or two shouldn’t be ‘all out’, you’ll need a reserve for the fatigue factor
3. ‘Just get it done’
Nope! Consider your speed of movement and your technique. What is your form on a squat? Are you cheating at all?
When factoring in form and speed, you may find you’ve had to swallow some humble pie and lighten the load. That’s no bad thing. Get perfectly strong with the weight you’ve picked, this way you’re going to be far more bulletproof and your joints will be happier.
If your workout calls for light loads and a high speed, then you need to be sure to attack the reps with tenacity. Equally, if you’re doing heavy deadlifts then be a form critic. A prawned back with more weight on the bar will likely lead to injury, not strength.
4. You can’t get strong doing high rep ranges (or slow reps)
Conventional wisdom will lead you to believe that we need to do sets of 3’s or maybe 5’s to get strong.
That’s just not true. A Powerlifter will spend plenty of time in the ‘hypertrophy’ rep range (8-12, possibly 15+ reps), in order to build strength and endurance.
Maximum load all the time will fatigue you both physically and mentally.
This really comes back to the point about effort. I can guarantee that if you spent months on sets around the 8-12 range, giving every ounce of effort then you will get stronger.
As a beginner to strength you really should spend more time in the 10+ rep range. As strength and muscle quality increases you can experiment with lower reps and higher weights (and experiment with a whole host of other things like paused reps and using bands!). You need to earn the right to test your 1 rep max!
5. Lack of variation
In order to get stronger, you need to keep the body guessing and mix up your sessions. This does not mean swapping out the back squat for the leg extension, more so it means tweaking the main compound lift to offer a different stimulus.
Variations on the back squat may include the banded squat or box squat.
Using bands (with caution) allows the squat to have a more even strength curve, what this means is that the part of the squat that’s typically easier (once you break parallel on the way up) is all of a sudden the heavier and harder part of the lift, due to the band now being under tension (band looped round barbell and bottom of squat rack). A box squat (paused) takes out all stretch reflex from the squat, it helps creative explosive power needed to drive out of the bottom of super heavy rep.
Strength in fitness,
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