No matter where you look, you’ll find “Top 5” lists everywhere. There are at least two or three on my site alone. Sometimes they have solid points, other times they’re just nonsense you’ve already heard. Hopefully this list of strength training tips will be the former!
There’s no doubt you already know and/or use all these tips, but maybe I can shine a different light on them. This isn’t one of those be-all-and-end-all “Top 5” lists on how to lift. Instead, it’s about the top five issues that hold people back when lifting weights, as well as techniques to overcome them.
All five of these overlooked strength training tips are equally important and can be applied to any lifts. Why do they matter? Because we get so caught up in the actual lifting that we overlook the little details that help us get better at it. Time to change that!
Call me old-fashioned or new-age, but it matters how you approach a bar, how you grab it, and how you transfer your energy into it.
Sure, we can talk about the different types of grips: overhand, underhand, hook, false, alternate, wide, and close. But there’s enough information about those already out there.
Instead, I want to talk about how to actually grab the bar. Do you lightly put your hands on it, sort of squeeze, then try to lift? Not me! When lifting, my hands are glued and become one with the bar, just as a sword is an extension of a samurai’s arm.
No matter which type of grip you use, you should squeeze the bar as hard as you can, almost like you’re trying to break it. You’ll feel an intense sensation in your forearms, which instantly prepares your body to start some serious lifting!
According to most yogic organizations, your breath is your life force. (Yes, it’s still up for debate whether I’m new-age or old-fashioned.) But a common issue I see among people who strength train is not breathing properly before and during a lift.
To be fair, there’s a lot of confusion over the safety of breathing techniques while lifting. The most common misconception is that you can have a stroke if you hold your breath. Don’t fall for this myth! One of the best things you can do is take a deep breath before you start the exercise. The goal is to breathe into your belly, also known as “yoga breathing”. This creates a full body brace and keeps you inflated during the hardest part of every lift.
So take a deep breath before squatting down, before unracking the bar, and before setting up the bar for a deadlift or an overhead press. You absolutely don’t want to be deflated before pressing!
After completing the rep, I recommend a couple of smaller breaths, then one deep breath before the next rep. Inflate and prepare yourself as best you can!
This may be new advice to some of you, but please use your legs in all your lifts! They’re the base of support that keeps you in contact with the ground. Plant those feet and use them!
The two most common lifts that lack leg drive are the bench press and the deadlift.
When setting up for a bench press, you have two options: 1) plant your feet fully, or 2) bring your feet back. Dig your feet into the ground to create more tension in your legs and squeeze your glutes. Quick tip: if you’re too short, place a yoga block under your feet for better contact.
For a deadlift, make sure your full foot is planted. When doing this exercise, think about “pushing the world away”. The goal is not to rip the bar up, but to drive through your legs and raise the weight.
Since the weight is technically on you during a squat or overhead press, you’re more conscious of your legs. Remember: keep your foot fully planted. Very often you’ll see heels come off the ground, so stay planted, stay strong, and drive through the heels.
Focus plays a huge role in every lift. It’s like what I learned in martial arts: “where the eyes look, the body will follow.” It’s a fascinating phenomenon!
While lifting, I like to have a focus point: a single point you look at throughout the entire lift. I tell my students to focus on one point to help them through a lift, but it also comes in handy when concentration is a problem. There are a lot of distractions around you at the gym, so having a focus point helps you tune them out.
When you can focus on a single point, you’ll be able to concentrate on keeping your body moving. Focus on your body powering through the exercise and you’ll feel yourself becoming stronger!
It’s true what they say: if you can see it, you can achieve it! Whether it’s a new weightlifting record, a house, a car, or a job, the more you visualize your dreams, the greater your chances of making them a reality. Believe you can succeed and you will achieve your goals and become stronger!
You can start practicing all five of these strength training tips today, or you can take your time to see where you are in your lifting before gradually incorporating them into your training. See what works for you until you find the best way to become a stronger and healthier you!
Do you use these strength training tips? How have they improved your training? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below, and be sure to share this article with your friends!