Building strength is the holy grail for many athletes. I have seen people search for strength in pills, lifting programs, even clothing accessories... And if you search the internet there is a million ways to build strength. But what is the truth? Is it days, weeks, months...years? Lets unlock a few truths and discuss a few ways that you can guarantee the gains that you desire.
First we need to look at basic physiological adaptations. To build strength you must build muscle fibers and the associated neural pathways to utilize them . Under the most advantageous conditions athletes have been shown to increase muscle mass and composition in as little as 3 weeks. The conditions, which I will go into later, need to be precise and the training rep ranges must be pretty dialed to get these results.
The other detail about building strength in this short amount of time is SPECIFICITY. Specific muscles getting worked under specific rep ranges will yield greater strength. Its simple like that. The sacrifice is that building overall physical strength like we strive for in CrossFit does move at ta slower pace than say, getting your deadlift to 500#. Adaptations to certain biased muscles and neurological pathways are quicker than developing full body balance, agility, coordination, and endurance and strength.
I have been coaching strength since 2009. A recipe for success that I have given to my athletes over the years is 6 weeks to strength development. The 6 week strength building period allows me as the coach to assign what I call 'substantive' workouts and 'accessory' workouts. As i will go into, training has to be diversified because routine is the death of gains!
Now lets look at a few key components to ensure that you hit your strength goals in the shortest amount of time:
1) Set goals. Many times I have heard athletes come to me saying that they have 2-4 months and they want to build strength... OK... What kind of strength? What do you want to be able to accomplish at the end of your 'strength' work? These are key questions that will help you focus your goals and feel accomplished as you hit certain numbers or gymnastic movements. There is also a big difference to what your training is going to look like if you want to increase your Snatch numbers by 40#, your Backsquat by50#, or be able to achieve a front lever on the rings.
2) Get away from the routine.. Routines kill your gains. Many years ago I head Louis Simmons talk about how he trains his power lifters. Yes they are concerned with the Bench Press, deadlift, and squat but if you were to look at their training you would see 2 things; 1) shit is fucking brutal. You want to get strong in those lifts, prepare to work your frickin ass off. 2) They do everything and anything to create the 'same yet different' stimulus to strengthen a certain movement pattern. Simmons calls this the 'conjugate' method and I can tell you.... it works!!
***This is where I say you must seek out a strength coach that knows their shit. If you can find one,you will be stoked as your training will be diverse, fun and keep you motivated to reach your goals!
3) Motivated People make gainZ!!! I can't tell you how many times over the years at Good Times CrossFit I had visitors walk in on a lifting day with no intention of PR'ing a lift and 1 hour later walk out stoked on a new lift PR. Part of it was my coaching (had to throw that in there) but much of it was the positive and motivating community that pushes the athlete to step out of the comfort zone and really TRY to make gains. Surrounding yourself with other motivated people will help you reach your goals. CrossFit has proven this to be true time and again. The same can be said for making strength gains under a bar or on the Rings. Even if this means going to train at a gymnastic gym or a power lifting gym, you will be pushing harder than you do by yourself.
4) Be patient. Depending on how specific you are attacking your goal, strength has to build up to your hopes and dreams. The power of will is amazing but nature has to run its course. This is where goal setting helps and a road map towards success. Remember that strength is earned not given.
5) Finally, you have to keep your nutrition and recovery on point. This means that Taco Tuesday and Saturday night club night cannot be a reward for 3 strong days in the gym. One big misconception is that strength is made in the gym. Strength simply is not... Strength is build in the 48 hours after your hard work in the gym; therefore it is vital that you stay focused on proper recovery during your training. Alcohol and shitty food are the quickest way to put you back at square 1. Literally... (well I always allow for a little wine :)) Sleep, supplements, and whole foods are your homework if you want to do well on the strength test.
Staying focused really is the true test of how long it will take to get you stronger. If you are dedicated you can do it. Hopefully these tips can answer some questions and allow you to break the plateaus or mental blocks. Strength=Strength. Mental and physical dedication helps you achieve what you want and can lead to greater happiness. I know that PR's and sticking movements is super gratifying. Keep the faith and never give up. Love yourself along the way and don't forget to help everyone else striving for the same goals as you! Success is better shared.
Standing Toe Touches W/ KB
Back squat (Week 1 of 5)
3-3-3 @ 80%
7 Rounds not for time
8 Strict Chin Ups
:20 L hang On Bar
10 Ring Support Bottom/ alt. single arm extension (iron Cross progression)