The truth is there is no one secret to gaining strength fast. It’s a series of guidelines implemented consistently that allow you to bring your strength up over time. Checking in on these tips throughout your year of lifting will help ensure you are checking the boxes to stay on track. The key here is to train smarter, not harder.
If you look at any top powerlifting or olympic lifter, the biggest thing you’ll see they have in common is PRACTICE. That doesn’t mean going balls to the wall every session. What it does mean is that they cycle through their main lifts 2-3 times a week minimum at varying intensities to groove proper movement patterns. Increasing weight isn’t the only way to gain strength. What people don’t realize is a lot of gaining strength is simply central nervous system adaptations. By practicing say a squat 2-3 times a week, with immaculate form, you will teach your body to properly fire the appropriate muscles while going through a full range of motion with an added load.
This may seem counterintuitive to number 1, but it should go without saying, if you want to gain strength, you need to push heavier and heavier weights. Proper programming for strength athletes should have some sort of progressive overload where you are slowly increasing weights over time. They don’t have to be big jumps. But there does need to be a solid plan of attack. If you have a goal to get stronger, you need a roadmap to get there. No one ever got their strongest by walking into a gym without a plan. Track your workouts!
Varying Your Intensity
When beginning lifters think fast strength gains, they assume they have to max out every time you go into the gym. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Again, if you look at any top olympic or powerlifting program, what you’ll see is MOST of the time is spent NOT maxing out. They work at percentages of their 1 rep max, and are usually doing submax work to get the volume in. Only very occasionally do they peak.
Just because you want to get stronger at your 1 rep max, or some lower rep range that allows you to load the heaviest, doesn’t mean you should only stick to that range. A strength program cycles through rep ranges to stimulate the muscle differently. You might want to start with more of a hypertrophy phase where you do higher rep, higher set workouts to bring up lagging parts, or build a stamina, and foundation of musculature that will translate to the eventual lower rep phases. Then you might bring the sets and reps down a bit to start building that base level of strength. As you head towards your peak, then you’ll kick up the intensity and go lower rep to figure out your new personal records and see how your strength has improved over the last macrocycle.
Eat in a Surplus
All that hard work, and pushing weights in the gym is useless unless you are feeding your recovery properly. You need to be eating in a surplus of calories to feed your gains! Your body can’t build strength if it doesn’t have enough fuel to recover from the workouts. Make sure you are eating .82-1g/lb of protein and enough carbs to have energy in the gym to attack the workouts effectively. I’ve had clients struggle to improve their strength because they weren’t eating accordingly. They got stuck for months at the same weight. Only once we bumped up their eating did they start growing again.