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How to increase raw strength

Updated on September 3, 2014

Why Strength Training?

It was said by Matt Biondi that 'Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement'.

This quote has been used by coaches, athletes and motivators over the years without fail as they seek to continue motivating and pushing forward to greater success in their fields. Now whilst this is the case, I also believe that this is the case for athletes regarding strength training.

Persistence with strength training can change an athletes impact upon their given sport or improve their capacity within their field. However there have been many different opinions as to what constitutes strength training and as to what actually works compared to theories.

I personally believe that strength training is essential for the athlete, regardless of gender, as there are many ways for the athlete to benefit from this type of training such as flexibility, less possibility of injury and the ability to become durable.

Weights for strength


Different Schools of Thought:

There are many different ways to increase the strength levels of an athlete. Trends in recent years have ranged from running and training barefoot, to using machines such as the resistance machines seen in gyms and in martial arts facilities.

Schools of thought and communities now clash in the world of strength and conditioning as some believe strictly in the power of the barbell and in compound movements, others believe in high intensity training such as crossfit and similar programs or regimes. Others find that using their own bodyweight as a strength system is the best way of meeting their strength need.

I for one believe that whilst machines have their position and their place within a continuous strength regime and are indeed useful,that free weights such as a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells and equipment like this are the best way to build muscle.


Measuring your strength:

How do you measure your strength level? Is it through:

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Strength Training for Sports

Why Free Weights?

Free weights have been used by all athletes primarily strength athletes and track athletes for many years for various reasons.

The free weights firstly allow for the muscles that will be used to be forced to react to the stress that they are put under. With free weights there is no support for the muscle as there may be machine such as the backboard or the metal of a shoulder press. This in turn means that when the body picks up free weights for exercise the muscles have to first stabilize themselves in order to be used and then can the correct exercise be carried out.

There is no greater way to obtain maximum strength, than through the use of free weights as it forces the body to utilize many different muscle groups at one specific point in time which spreads of the stress placed upon the body in different areas preventing injury in the process.

The main benefit of the additional muscles being used is that there is not a greater issue of a muscle being isolated. Now there are differing views as to whether the isolation of a muscle allows for a greater emphasis of strength in that specific muscle, i.e. the calf muscle, but it is my belief through experience that great strength which is relatable to sport comes from the use of free weights.

Best Strength Training Exercises for Athletes:

Barbell Clean and Press: This exercise helps to build explosive power and also to help improve shoulder stability.

Barbell Deadlift: There is no greater pulling movement apart from pulling your own bodyweight to increase raw strength, whether that be for sport, competition or just for your own personal lifestyle.

Since the deadlift is a lift that allows for the athlete/powerlifter/bodybuilder/gym enthusiast to develop strength quickly, it allows for increased resistance such as bands, chains and other methods of resistance to be added in order to continue increasing strength.

Barbell Squat: The Barbell squat incorporates around 3 different muscle groups: The lower back, hamstrings and quadriceps into the exercise. It is a great way to develop lower body strength but also increase power at the same time as Barbell Squats can be done with pauses at the bottom of the lift, with speed, with a timing sequence or done for max reps in order to meet your sport specific strength needs.

Over time, just as described with the deadlift, resistance bands and chains may be added to the barbell squat but to begin with or even whilst returning to this exercise, it is best to stick with a weight that you are comfortable with before increasing that weight according to your needs.

Chin-Ups: Chin Ups are great for building athletic strength as they also are a multi muscle movement with the upper back and deltoids (shoulders) being focused on. Thus leading to greater stabilization of the muscles, strength gains and even at times definition (hypertrophy).

Chin Ups can be done with bodyweight or they can be done with added resistance such as bands or weights which will force the body to respond to an increased load and therefore build maximal strength.

Note: No exercise should be undertaken without the permission of your doctor/or without consulting your medical professional.

Typical Gym for Strength Athletes
Typical Gym for Strength Athletes | Source


To Summarise: I believe that the best way to increase raw strength for athletes is through compound exercises which target different and multi-faceted areas of the body whilst focusing on a primary area.

This is in order to make sure that there is complete stabilization of the muscles whilst remaining strong. If the muscles are not stable, then the strength has a weakness or leaves the muscle/muscle group open and available to injury.

I am only writing about what I have found to be beneficial to me.


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