Getting stronger – and staying strong – is one of the best ways to improve all aspects of your health and fitness, writes strength coach Nolan Sunnassee.
But how can you break through those strength-training plateaus – when the weight progressions grind to a halt and you find yourself repeating the same sessions week after week?
This is the law of diminishing returns: doing the same workouts and seeing fewer and fewer gains over time.
That is because your body adapts and gets used to changes within six to eight weeks.
So the solution lies in variety, which is not just the spice of life, but your best friend when it comes to getting stronger…
1. Ramp up your nervous system
Stimulate your nervous system and add load to your lifts.
For example, if doing a bench press, perform a dynamic movement such as a smith press bench throw, or a medicine ball slam as fast as you can. Rest 60 seconds, then do 1-3 reps of your regular bench presses.
2. Hold fire
Another way to encourage your body into being stronger is to utilise isometrics.
Using 110-150 per cent max loads exposes your body to switching up strength mechanisms (it’s best to use a spotter or support pins on a squat rack for this).
Take the bench press, for example: simply lift the heavy weight off the pins, but don’t try to press it – just hold it steady for 10 seconds or as long as you can, then lower.
3. Free off any tightness
Soft tissue methods such as Active Release Technique (ART) help to make your muscles more effective by relaxing and releasing tightness and thereby improving nerve conduction. Find out more at activerelease.com
4. Test your instincts
Your body is much stronger than you think, but it prevents you from utilising all your strength as it’s trying to protect you from damage.
This evolutionary instinct can be temporarily overridden, however, by putting yourself in an unstable environment.
You can do this by standing on a step on one leg and closing your eyes – this stimulates this survival reflex.
Step off again, open your eyes and perform a squat.
5. Work your weak points
You are only as strong as your weakest link, so activating those muscles prior to your big lifts can increase joint stabilisation and improve force output.
The neck is one area generally neglected.
Using a fixed bench (that won’t slide or move) lie down on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and head and neck on the bench.
Push through your heels to lift your body up into a tabletop position, letting your neck take the strain. Hold for as long as you can.*
*Do not do this exercise if you have any neck or circulatory issues.
Nolan Sunnassee is an Olympic-level strength and conditioning coach, and founder of online fitness platform onlinepersonaltraining.tv