Strength Strategies (Contest #4)

Besides following the strength training program outlined to the left, there are a number of other things you can do to improve your strength.

The first thing you need to know about training for strength is that the body adapts best when your primary activity is the exact activity you would like to improve in. For example, if you want to increase the amount of weight lifted, the best activity for you is to lift heavy weights! That may seem obvious, but many people try to do lots of cardio and lots of lighter weight work in addition to training with heavy weights. Not only does this typically lead to burnout from too much activity, but it also means that your muscle fibers will be forced to be a “jack of all trades” rather than a “specialist” in the particular activity you would like to improve the most. Some light cardio work is important because it will help improve your overall conditioning and endurance for workouts, but more than what is recommended in the plan outlined on this page will only take away from your strength improvements. Do not add extra exercise to what you see in the sidebar if you want to maximize your strength gains.

One extra component you can add to your program is more stretching and myofascial release work. Stretching programs should include stretches for all major muscle groups with emphasis on the tightest (meaning, least flexible) parts of your body. Besides static stretching, where you hold the position for 20-30 seconds at a time, partner-assisted stretching and contract-release stretching as well as pulse stretching provide further benefit. Also use of a foam roller or foam ball for myofascial release are helpful. When your muscles are more flexible and free of tension you will experience an increase in strength, and your risk of injury is greatly reduced. Appointments are available to learn the most effective flexibility techniques. Work with a therapist may also be worthwhile, and I have a great recommendation for one that has helped me tremendously. Call 508-633-7749 for more information.

The best diet for a strength athlete is a calorie intake near maintenance calorie levels; i.e. no stringent dieting. The healthier your diet is, the better you will do. This means to limit processed foods and foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and refined flour. It can be difficult to eat enough calories when your diet is extremely healthy, so you will probably need to eat at least four, and as many as six meals per day to keep up with your calorie needs. Avoid low-carbohydrate diets and extremely low-fat diets and be sure your protein intake is at least 1 gram/lb. of bodyweight.

The best supplement for strength athletes is creatine monohydrate. Creatine is a tasteless white powder that can be mixed with any beverage. It comes in bulk powder and capsules, but I recommend the powder because you typically need to take at least three capsules at a time for the correct dose if you use capsules, so the powder makes more sense. Also, the powder is more economical. I recommend taking 3 grams at a time if you weigh less than 200 lbs, and 5 grams at a time if you weigh more than 200 lbs. Creatine should generally be taken twice per day. If you are exercising, take one dose before your workout and one dose after. If it is a rest day, take one with breakfast and one with dinner.

A carbohydrate/protein drink taken around your workouts is another “supplement” (it’s actually a food) that will improve your results. I suggest making your supplement out of a sports drink such as Gatorade and whey protein. Take 100 calories’ worth of the sports drink mixed with 20 calories’ worth of whey protein before your workout, and 200 calories’ worth of a sports drink mixed with 50 calories’ worth of whey protein immediately after your workout. This is helpful for your weight workouts but not your cardio workouts during this training program.

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