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How To Gain Strength As An Athlete

The question i get more than any other..... I wanna get stronger but don't want to be bulky, how can i do this? Today i'm going to answer this question as simply as i can as well as giving you a full insight into the optimal way to gain strength as an athlete.

The Science behind weightlifting?

Firstly, we are going to talk about the science behind weightlifting, once you get an understanding of this, everything else will begin to make sense.... I like to split weightlifting into three sections to make it easy to understand. 1. Strength training. 2. Hypertrophy training. 3. Speed training.

Let's first explain what these three types of training are and what they are used for.

  1. Strength Training - This is one of the most important training types as an athlete cause this will be what makes you stronger! Pure strength training means you are training with your maximum load, doing compound lifts, keeping rep range low as well as sets. The reason for this is because with pure strength work every rep should be 85%+ of your one rep max, for this reason the reps and sets need to be kept low as this type of training will fry your CNS. Compound lifts are lifts that use multiple muscle groups at the same time to lift the weight, take the deadlift for example, this exercise uses the whole posterior chain, which is exactly what you want to do to gain pure strength.

  2. Hypertrophy Training - This training type is not as important for athletes to use but still has a time and place if used properly. Hypertrophy trainings key goal is to develop muscle size. This is done by focusing on a lighter weight (40 to 60% of one rep max) while doing lots of volume and really trying to contract muscles as much as possible to get that "burn". This over time will help develop muscles and make them grow. The place where this can be really helpful for athletes is when they are extremely skinny and need to add size to their body or have a certain muscle group lacking behind the others.

  3. Speed Training - Finally we have speed training, this is what most athletes are interested in as they are usually in the gym to get stronger or faster. The way we can build speed in the gym is by lifting moderately heavy weights (70 to 80% of one rep max), focusing on compound lifts as well as concentrating on trying to complete reps as fast as possible, again with speed work reps and sets should be kept quite low as if you are exerting full energy in each rep after 5 to 6 reps your power output will massively decrease. Again compound lifts are key and the main difference between training for strength or speed is the speed of the bar and the load on the bar. The reason why we use a slightly lighter weight when working for speed is so we can ensure we can keep bar speed fast.

Big misconceptions

The one error i see from athletes time and time again is going into the gym and picking up some light weights and just doing loads of reps. They say that is cause they don't want to get big and bulky but by reading the science above you will now understand why that is completley wrong. Most of the time these people in the gym are really just wasting their time as the intensity is low and the weight is too light, if you were to put this training into any of the categories above it would be closest to hypertrophy training what is exactly what they are trying to avoid...

Things to consider

Even though these different types of training and more focused on specific areas, they will all have a bit of an impact on the other areas as well. For example, if you were to only focus on strength training for 6 months and just do heavy compound lifts for low reps and sets you would probably still gain a little bit of muscle size as well, this is because some hypertrophy work would still be happening during these exercises but just not at the same level as if you were to focus mainly on the hypertrophy part of training. The same going the the other way around and vice versa for the three different training types....

Key lifts of athletes

As an athlete the keys are going to be to get stronger and faster, for this reason the majority of your training in the gym should be focused on the heavy compound lifts, you should focus on doing some sets with max weight whilst other weight should be don't with a little less weight but at max speed. As well as hypertrophy work should be don't to maintain muscle already build as well as working on any other areas lacking behind. But remember the key things to work on if your trying to get stronger and faster!

Hopefully from reading this you should now have a bit of a better insight into building strength as an athlete and how to go about it. The last couple thing to remember is that form is key, if you'r a beginner in the gym this should be your only focus, form is always the most important thing, and also that this alone wont make you faster of stronger. This is just part of the puzzle, you also need to make sure your other training is aligned to what you want to archive as well as your diet.

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