While many people lift weights to improve their body composition, many others lift weights to increase strength or for a combination of the two. While increasing strength is depended on other factors such as diet, sleep, and supplementation, there are specific training methods and exercises that are considered to be the best for increasing strength.
Exercises that help increase overall strength the fastest are compound exercises, which utilize multiple muscles in combination to complete the movement. Examples of good compound exercises to increase strength are the squat, deadlift, bench press, military press, and barbell row. These exercises will allow you to use much more weight than exercises considered to be isolation movements, which typically involve only one main muscle on which the trainee focuses as they perform the exercise.
When training for strength, the repetition count of your working sets should be low. Low rep sets will target specific muscle fibers as well as cause neurological adaptations that are essential to increase strength. Anything in the range of 3-6 reps is low enough to increase strength while being high enough to limit the risk of injury. Some experienced lifters also will work with sets that are lower than 3 reps.
To increase strength, be sure that you are taking adequate rest periods between sets. Many popular bodybuilding training methods call for short rest periods in the range of 30-90 seconds. When training with heavy compound movements, you are simply not going to fully recover optimally both physically and mentally for your next heavy set with only 1 minute of rest. Take as much rest as you feel you need, but do not sit around for 15 minutes between sets either. Getting a big blood pump is not the goal when training to increase strength, but we also do not want your muscles getting cold between sets. Everyone is different when it comes to rest periods, so you will have to use your best judgement here.
Optimal training to increase strength in the gym should involve compound movements, heavy weight (relatively), and adequate rest periods to fully recover between sets. On a side note, training heavy does not mean using improper form to lift more weight. This will do nothing but harm you in terms of stalling out your progress and causing injury! Follow these guidelines, and you will have a solid foundation of basic techiques to increase strength that you can base your lifting program off of.
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