Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, March 17, 2014

3 Ways to Make Your Workouts Better Right Now

If you aren't doing all of these, or any of these, this is for you. These can transform your workout without changing a single other aspect of your training.

#1: Don't hold the weights, grip them.

When you lift weights, don't take grab the handle and hold on. Wrap your hands around the handle with intent and authority, and grip it hard. The more you squeeze, the more of the surrounding muscle you will recruit and thus the harder you can train. Your body can't generate maximum force with a minimal grip.

#2: Get Tight Everywhere.

It's easier to push a weight with a pole than with a rope. Why? The pole is stiff, and lets you transmit force from your muscles to the weight. The rope has give, and and until that give runs out the weight doesn't move. Lifting weights is exactly like that.

No matter what the lift is, you want to stay tight everywhere. Breathe, but keep your abs tight. Lock down every part of your body that isn't moving and tighten up the ones that are. Even on a simple biceps curl, you want your whole body tight. Grip the floor with your feet, tighten your abs and hips, and curl the weight up with the rest of your body locked tight. The tighter you get, the more force you can apply - and thus, the more weight you can lift.

#3: Treat Every Weight Like it's 10,000 pounds.

In other words, there are no light weights - only weights you can lift more times before you fail. Treat every weight (and indeed, every object you pick up) like it's the heaviest object you can lift. Treat it with respect. Get into the proper position to lift it, brace yourself, and practice your form as if every iota of strength, tightness, and energy you have is needed to move it. Don't get yank it up, but grip it, get tight, and take up the slack before you break it off the floor or the rack. If you don't like how your setup looks or feels, start over. Workouts are about building you up, not getting hurt, and it's always better to reset than to get hurt.

Like the other two tips, this will let you lift more and heavier. But it will also protect you from injury when you either grab something too casually or grab something that really is too much for the form you used to grab it. By treating them all with respect and as if they were heavy enough to warrant your full attention, you will maximize the benefits from them and help to minimize the risk of injury.


Remember, you get out of your workouts what you put into them. These three tips will help you put the most into your next workout.

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