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Strength Strategies (Contest #4)

The best way to train for strength is to use a cycle training schedule, where your exertion level fluctuates in a planned fashion. Limit strength and speed strength will be specifically addressed during this last phase of training for the final four weeks.

Rest is more important than ever during weeks 9-12 of your training for this contest. You will be focusing only on the competitive lifts at this point. Weeks five through eight were your most intensive training weeks; now you will begin to taper off your volume of work in the four weeks before the final testing so that you will be well rested and won’t peak too soon. You will also begin training in the 6-8-rep range, as that is the range being tested for the contest. Depending on the workout day, you will be lifting heavier for limit strength or quicker but with lighter weights for speed strength.

You may continue to lose bodyfat during weeks 9-12, but lose at no more than the rate of ½ lb/week. If you lose bodyweight as bodyfat but retain your muscle, your strength-to-weight ratio will improve. DO NOT “diet” but you may eliminate most if not all junk food. Reducing calorie intake too much may cause muscle loss and loss of strength. It will also affect your technique and increase your chance of injury. Base your meals and snacks on lean protein and vegetables, and be sure to include a modest amount of whole grains and fat. Stay well hydrated with plenty of water.

You may wish to take creatine monohydrate during this four-week period. Creatine monohydrate increases your muscles’ ability to hold water, which increases the force you are able to apply while lifting weights. Besides adding structural support with the increased water levels in your muscles (which is a temporary increase), creatine will allow you to lift heavier weights, which will increase the size of your actual muscle fibers as well (which is a permanent increase--assuming you continue to train and eat well). Take 2.5-5.0 grams of creatine mixed with water twice per day, depending on your body size. If you’re over 200 lbs. you will have better results with 5.0 g twice per day. If your joints are bothering you, consider taking a joint support supplement such as glucosamine chondroitin. Follow dosage instructions on the label.

You may want to supplement with the amino acid glutamine as well. Take 5 grams of glutamine mixed with water once or twice per day. Glutamine is an essential amino acid that gets depleted in your body during taxing workouts. If your body is low on glutamine, it will “rob” glutamine from you muscles, causing you to lose muscle tissue and strength. Glutamine is found abundant in dairy products, but is not found in other sources of protein. Consequently, it is difficult to consume enough glutamine to support hard training from food alone. Glutamine, like creatine, is also a cell volumizer, which leads to an increase in the contractile force of your muscles.

See the training schedule on the right. You will perform explosive lifting once per week during this stage in your training. DO NOT train on days that are indicated as rest days--If you do, you will increase your likelihood for burnout and reduced strength when it comes time for testing. If you develop an injury or suspect you are developing one, skip a training session for the bodypart in question rather than risk injury at this stage in your contest preparation, because your sum score of weight lifted will be severely hampered if you have to leave out a lift due to injury!

Click here for more articles by Gina Paulhus

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