Male rivalry obliges us, we like to compare ourselves to others in terms of performance in weight training and elsewhere as well… However, not all of us are equal in muscle mass and strength.
In this article, our expert strength training David Costa explains the principles of muscle strength and offers a 3-week program to increase your performance.
Muscular strength: what is it?
Strength is the ability of a muscle (s) to contract intensely to allow a joint to move a load or fight resistance.
In weight training, force is measured by the maximum load displaced and can vary greatly, from one exercise to another and from one individual to another, for the following reasons:
- Joints and lever arms of each
- Muscle typology
- Number of muscles used
- Functioning of the neuromuscular system
- Available muscle mass
- Gestural technique
For example, the hip, which mobilizes many muscles during its extension – especially very powerful ones such as the buttocks – generates a very high force. The knee, too, thanks to the quadriceps, can produce a high level of strength. That’s why in squat and ground lifting, we can put more weight than elsewhere.
On the other hand, on a forearm flexion isolating the action of the biceps brachial, the load is very reduced because of the important lever of the articulation and the limited force of the biceps brachial.
To illustrate another parameter, when we first started weight training, the progression in terms of strength is rapid, not due to muscle gains but due to an improvement in neuromuscular function.
The influence of muscle size
The size of a muscle will also influence its strength potential. So, the more muscular a person is, the stronger he or she will be? Not necessarily…. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see people of small stature being stronger than others who are more muscular on certain movements. Since force production is multifactorial, this may be due to differences in favour of the smallest template on the points mentioned above.
The technique also makes it possible to obtain clear gains in strength: during my weight training courses in Paris, it happens that experienced athletes increase their maximum by 10 kg or more in squat, bench press or raised from the ground in a single session.
Why work on your strength?
Muscular strength from a neurophysiological point of view is based on the following principles:
- Muscular hypertrophy: increase in fibre size by increasing the number of myofibrils.
- nervous recruitment: the greater the strength required, the more fibres with a high potential for strength will be used (IIa and IIb) but also the more muscle fibres will be recruited!
- synchronization of motor units: the greater the effort required, the stronger the muscle can be by simultaneously activating (synchronizing) its muscle contraction messages sent to its muscle fibres (via its motor units). It is about coordination “inside the muscle” – so nothing to do with technical mastery.
- Intermuscular coordination: or how the body best coordinates its muscles with each other when performing movements. It is this lack of coordination that can be seen when we learn of a new action when the expert who performed it as a demonstration presented a perfect relaxation.
You then have a better understanding of why it is necessary to work on your strength! Not to be an “ox” but to allow your body to exploit its full development potential.
To initiate you to strength work in a fun and accessible way for all. Here is a program to do for 3 weeks the first time, then for 2 weeks, and this every 8 to 10 weeks. You can intersect it with muscle development programs of your choice, including those of my 9-week weight gain program.
Be careful, as hard work is very demanding, make sure you manage the volume of your training (number of sessions, exercises, series and rehearsals) so as not to fall into overtraining or hurt yourself. Keep in mind that it is during rest that you progress. So, don’t hesitate to slow down if you need to!
Tips before you start
Preparation for strength training:
At each session, as a warm-up, you will need to do mobility exercises on the joints that will be used, as well as abdominal and lumbar sheathing exercises. Then, for each exercise with load, you will have to gradually increase the weight (over 2 to 6 series according to your level) to reach your workload: the one with which you will carry out your 1st series.
Which loads to use?
For the workloads, those with which you will carry out your series, you must complete each series without failure or help from your opponent. If, on a series, you need help, reduce the load used from the next series. It is possible that as the weeks go by, your workload will increase!
If you make all your series with the same load, increase slightly at the next session.