8 Essential Strategies to Boost Your Strength Training

Building muscle and increasing strength are key goals for many gym enthusiasts. As an online fitness coach, I understand the importance of evolving your strength training to avoid plateaus and to keep achieving your fitness goals. Whether you’ve just started lifting weights or are looking to enhance your current regimen, here are eight strategic ways to improve your strength workouts.

Tips to Improve Your Strength Workouts

Why Increase Training Volume? What Is Progressive Overload? To build muscle and get stronger, you need to continuously challenge your muscles. This challenge is essential for muscle growth. When you lift heavy weights and struggle to complete your last reps, you’re pushing your muscles to adapt and grow stronger.      

Sticking to the same programme and lifting the same weights won’t suffice as your muscles adapt and cease to grow without new challenges. That’s why increasing your training volume is crucial. You can do this by lifting heavier weights, adding more reps, or including an extra set in your workouts. This concept is known as “progressive overload,” a fundamental principle for muscle building.

For instance, if your programme suggests three sets of 10 reps with 20kg, and this becomes easier over time, it’s a sign to increase the weight or the number of sets to reintroduce the challenge.

1. Complete Regular Strength Tests

Testing your strength periodically is an excellent way to understand your capabilities better. These tests can reveal that you’re stronger than you initially thought, motivating you to lift heavier and enhance your usual routines. Strength tests might include:

  • Lifting a maximum weight for a specific exercise over six reps.
  • Seeing how many reps you can complete with a set weight within a specified time frame.

I recommend conducting a strength test every 8-10 weeks to measure progress and set new challenges.

2. Maintain a Log or Follow a Training Plan

Consistency and documentation can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your workouts. By keeping a detailed log of your exercises, sets, reps, and weights, you can track your progress and systematically increase your training volume. This approach ensures that you’re not just randomly working out, which typically leads to random results.

Having a structured workout plan is like having a roadmap; it guides your daily gym sessions so you’re never guessing what to do next. As your online fitness coach, I can help tailor a workout regime for you, ensuring it matches your fitness goals and takes the guesswork out of which equipment to use or exercises to perform.

3. Increase Reps or Weight

One of the key strategies in strength training is progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight or reps to continuously challenge your muscles. This method ensures you see consistent progress in your workouts.

For example, let’s say last week you completed 3 sets of 10 reps of squats with 20kg:

  • 10x 20kg
  • 10x 20kg
  • 10x 20kg

This week, you could try increasing the weight:

  • 10x 25kg
  • 10x 25kg
  • 12x 20kg

Now, you’ve increased your training volume. Remember to record these changes so you can aim to complete all 3 sets with 25kg next week. This incremental increase will help you build strength effectively.

4. Add Resistance Bands

Incorporating resistance bands into your workouts can dramatically enhance muscle activation and increase the intensity of your exercises. Resistance bands are not only portable and affordable, but they also provide a unique form of resistance that can engage muscle groups differently compared to traditional weights.

Benefits of Resistance Bands:

  • Versatility: Resistance bands can be used for a variety of exercises that target both large and small muscle groups. You can perform full-body workouts or focus on specific areas like your arms, legs, or core.
  • Progressive Overload: As you become stronger, you can increase the resistance of the bands either by using bands with more tension or by shortening the band to increase the difficulty of the exercises.
  • Injury Prevention and Recovery: Often used in physical therapy, resistance bands can help in the rehabilitation of injuries and are less likely to cause injury during workouts due to their elasticity.
  • Improved Strength and Mobility: Regular training with resistance bands can improve your strength, flexibility, and joint stability, which are crucial for overall fitness and preventing injuries.

Effective Exercises with Resistance Bands:

  • Bicep Curls: Stand on the band with feet shoulder-width apart, hold the band with both hands, and curl up towards your shoulders.
  • Tricep Extensions: Anchor the band at chest height, face away from the anchor, and extend your arms to target the tricep muscles.
  • Squats: Stand on the band with both feet and perform squats while holding the band with both hands to add resistance.
  • Pull-Ups: Attach a band to a pull-up bar and place your knees or feet in the band to assist with pull-ups, reducing the body weight you lift.
  • Using resistance bands can also save space in your home gym and allow you to maintain an effective workout routine even when travelling. They’re a practical addition to any strength training regimen, especially for those who may not have access to a full range of gym equipment.

5. Prioritise Compound Exercises Early in Your Session

Starting your workout with compound exercises is a strategic move that can significantly enhance your strength training efficiency. Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints, allowing you to lift heavier weights and increase overall muscle activation compared to isolation exercises.

Why Start With Compound Movements?

  • Energy Utilisation: You have the most energy at the beginning of your workout, which is ideal for handling heavier weights required in compound movements.
  • Maximise Muscle Gains: By engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously, you stimulate widespread muscle fibres, promoting more significant growth and strength gains.
  • Efficiency: Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses offer a full-body workout in less time, making your sessions more efficient.

Examples of Effective Compound Exercises:

  • Lower Body: Squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
  • Upper Body: Bench press, overhead press, and pull-ups.

Incorporating these exercises at the start of your workout ensures that you perform them with maximum strength and focus, leading to better performance and reduced risk of injury as fatigue sets in.

6. Tackle Your Weakest Exercises First

Addressing your weaker exercises at the beginning of your workout can be a game-changer in your strength training routine. This approach ensures that you dedicate the most energy and focus to improving these areas, leading to faster and more balanced progress.

Advantages of Prioritising Weaknesses:

  • Optimal Energy Utilisation: You naturally have more energy at the start of your workout, making it the ideal time to tackle the most challenging exercises.
  • Enhanced Skill Development: Regularly practising your weaker exercises when you are freshest can improve both your technique and strength in those areas.
  • Balanced Muscle Development: This method helps prevent muscle imbalances by ensuring that weaker areas receive the attention they need for growth.

For example, if you find overhead presses challenging, start your upper body workout with this exercise when you’re at your strongest. Over time, this can lead to noticeable improvements in both strength and technique.

7. Swap Dumbbells for Barbells in Your Training

Incorporating barbells into your training regimen can significantly enhance your strength gains, especially if you’re aiming to lift heavier weights. As an online fitness coach, I often recommend transitioning from dumbbells to barbells to those looking to improve their overall strength. Barbells allow you to load more weight than dumbbells, making them ideal for major lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. They also offer greater stability during these exercises due to the even distribution of weight across the bar, which can be particularly beneficial for those new to heavy lifting.

While barbells are excellent for achieving new personal records and building strength efficiently, it’s important not to overlook the benefits of dumbbells. Dumbbells require each side of your body to work independently, which helps correct muscle imbalances. They also provide a greater range of motion, which is beneficial for targeting specific muscles more intensely and improving joint health.

Maintaining a balance between using both barbells and dumbbells is crucial to maximise the benefits each type of equipment offers. This approach ensures a comprehensive strength training programme that enhances muscle growth, strength, and overall fitness.

8. Change Your Workout Split

Adjusting your workout split is a key strategy I recommend as an online fitness coach to keep your training sessions fresh and challenging. A workout split is how you organise your training sessions to target different muscle groups on different days. This method helps optimise recovery and muscle growth by allowing specific muscles to rest while you train others.

Typically, if you’re working out three times per week, you might follow a full-body routine each session. However, to increase focus and potentially enhance your training volume for specific muscle groups, consider dividing your workouts more distinctly:

  • Day 1: Focus on lower body exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
  • Day 2: Dedicate to upper body workouts, including bench press and pull-ups.
  • Day 3: Mix both, or target areas that need extra attention based on your progress.

This shift can lead to more targeted muscle fatigue and growth because it allows for greater intensity and volume per muscle group during each session. By frequently changing your workout split, you challenge your body in new ways, which can lead to better results and prevent plateaus.

Key Strategies for Enhanced Strength Training

To enhance your strength workouts and continue seeing progress, it’s essential to integrate various strategies into your routine. These can range from conducting regular strength tests to reassess your capabilities, maintaining a detailed workout log, increasing the weight or reps periodically, and incorporating resistance bands for added resistance and muscle activation.

Prioritising compound exercises at the beginning of your workout maximises your energy utilisation, while tackling your weakest exercises first ensures you address them with maximum effort. Additionally, alternating between dumbbells and barbells can help you balance the benefits of isolated and compound movements, enhancing overall muscle growth and strength.

Changing your workout split is also crucial; it keeps your routine fresh and challenges your muscles in new ways, preventing plateaus and maximising muscle growth. As your online fitness coach, I can guide you through customising these techniques to fit your personal fitness goals and ensure you are continuously progressing.

If you’re ready to take your strength training to the next level and need personalised guidance, remember that having an online fitness coach can provide you with the tailored support and accountability you need to succeed.


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