8 Laws of Strength Training
8 Laws of Strength Training
by Bret Contreras – 11/05/2012
In my last article, I listed 20 "Almost Laws" of strength training that didn't quite make the cut. While those 20 tenets could be considered laws to many coaches, to me they're just the "icing on the cake."
However, the following 8 laws make up the cakes flour, eggs, sugar, and even the **** delivery box.
Let's dive right into them.
The Eight Laws of Strength Training
1. You must train consistently.
You can't train once a month and see progress. You can't train sporadically throughout the year – for example, only during the months of February, June, and October – and expect to see results.
While short-term blasts can be effective, the lifter who trains twice per week for 52 weeks out of the year will see better long-term results than the lifter who trains five times per week for 20 weeks out of the year.
Consistency is the name of the game, and the lifter who trains week in and week out will experience good gains in strength and muscularity over time.
2. You must work hard and smart.
You must work hard, but you don't have to kill yourself every session. You have to listen to what your body is telling you and make adjustments. This is incredibly important.
You must also experiment to figure out what works best for you. Despite demonstrating foolish behavior in many other aspects of their lives, some "meathead" bodybuilders and powerlifters are actually incredibly intelligent when it comes to their training. Training hard is good. Training smart is good. Combine the two and you've got the best of both worlds.
3. You must consistently stimulate the musculature of the entire body.
If a muscle never gets activated, it won't grow. To make a muscle grow, it must be stimulated on a regular basis. The deadlift stimulates a lot of muscles in the body, such as the forearms, traps, lats, scapular retractors, spinal extensors, glutes, and hamstrings. Even the core and quad muscles get activated sufficiently during heavy deadlifting. This helps explain why the deadlift is such a great exercise.
However, if all you did was deadlift, your pecs, delts, and biceps would not come close to reaching their full hypertrophy potential. Make sure that you incorporate exercises into your programs that combine to hit the entire body's musculature.
And if you want maximum muscle mass in a particular bodypart, then make sure you get strong at the exercise that elicits the highest activation in that muscle or muscle part.
For example, hip thrusts elicit the highest glute activation, so even if you're squatting and deadlifting it's worth adding them into the mix if maximum glute size is the goal. Similarly, if rear delt hypertrophy is the goal, military presses won't cut it – add in some targeted rear delt work.
4. You must get markedly stronger compared to when you started, especially on compound movements.
Progressive overload is the most important aspect in the strength game. If you embark on a strength training regimen and fail to get stronger, you won't gain much muscle. You must use heavier loads and perform more reps over time.
As mentioned in the previous article, there are many ways to progress, and indefinite progressive overload isn't mandatory, but for your first few years of strength training, it forms a huge component of your success.
Bodybuilders may not train heavy in terms of intensity (as in percentage of 1RM) since they typically perform medium to high reps, but most of them spent a few years focusing on their strength in the big basic lifts – which is why larger bodybuilders can typically rep out with your 1RM while controlling the weight to a much greater degree.
Strength forms the foundation for improvements in other areas such as power production (you have to be able to do something at a moderate speed before you can do it rapidly) and strength-endurance (you have to be able to do something once before you can do it repeatedly), so this quality can't be ignored.
Ideally, you want to progress dramatically in strength in a squatting variation, a deadlifting variation, an upper body pressing variation, and an upper body pulling variation. And if you want to be your absolute best at anything, be it squats, deadlifts, bench press, power cleans, or even Turkish get-ups, then you have to perform the lifts regularly to groove the neuromuscular patterns and maximize motor learning. Failing to do so will leave room on the table.
5. You must warm-up.
You can't just walk into the weight room and bench, squat, or deadlift a 1RM. Doing so will cause injury. Some folks need 30 minutes of warming up to feel right, while others only need 5 minutes. But everyone must get the blood flowing before lifting heavy loads.
Some lifts don't require much warming up, such as the hip thrust and row variations. Once you're warm and have completed the sets in your first exercise, then you don't need to warm-up for subsequent movements for the same muscle groups.
But failing to take the warm-up seriously will eventually result in disaster. Beginners typically ignore the warm-up and learn the hard way to take this component of the training session more seriously.
6. You must use good form most of the time.
Walk into any weight room and youll typically see people at one end of the technique spectrum or the other. Some lifters are very strict, perhaps even too strict, as they never use appreciable loads due to their robotic technique; others should reduce the weight dramatically and stop relying on momentum and energy leaks.
You certainly have some wiggle room in terms of form, as its been shown that slight momentum can increase torque requirements and muscle activation (Arandjelovic 2012). Your form will also break down a bit if you test your max at strategic points in the year.
However, most of the time you need to be very strict with your exercise form, and you need to learn the right type of form for your body on the various lifts. This is especially important for squats and deadlifts. Failure to do so will result in pain and injury, which will stop progress in its tracks.
7. You must consume adequate nutrition.
The best training program in the world is no match for a crappy diet. If you want to build a good physique and perform optimally, then you must take nutrition seriously.
You need to take in the right amount of calories and the right blend of macronutrients for your goals and physiology. You don't have to be perfect, but eating a bunch of crap day in and day out won't allow you to reach your potential, and will prevent you from building momentum in terms of strength and hypertrophy gains.
Supplementation with things like protein powder and essential fatty acids is very helpful. Im a big fan of Metabolic Drive® (both Chocolate and Vanilla) as well as Flameout™.
8. You must sleep well and avoid persistent distress.
Similar to nutrition, if you aren't sleeping well or are stressed out around the clock, your physiology will be working against you. Some folks need more sleep than others, but you should care about your sleep and prioritize it.
Make genuine effort to be consistent with your sleep if you're serious about getting results. Failure to do so will hinder your pursuit of strength and hypertrophy.
Regarding stress, your goal should not be to eliminate it altogether, but rather to optimize it. It's good to be challenged in life, but there's a fine line between eustress (positive or curative stress; like a good workout) and distress (negative stress; like in movies that Liam Neeson's characters tend to experience).
Stay in eustress most of the time for maximum results. Step back and analyze your life choices and habits. This is an area in which many lifters can make adjustments that lead to immediate results.
There aren't may absolutes in the strength training or bodybuilding field, as genetics and goals tend to dictate the efficacy of many of the industry's widely accepted best practices.
However, these 8 Laws of Strength Training are as solid as an 800-pound deadlift – and if you're not doing them, then you're probably spinning your wheels as they determine 80-90% of your results.
Get these 8 laws down to a science, and then add whatever "almost laws" from my past article that best suit your goals.
Then get busy growing!
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:1-2