How do I get stronger?
All the curls, tricep push downs, flyes, lateral raises, and crunches in the world will not get you strong – unless you’re a raw beginner. Heavy squats, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, presses, pull ups, and dips – these build strength. If, after 5×5 heavy back squats, you have the energy, motivation, and desire to do curls and crunches, then be my guest. But remember 80% of the results you get from that session will come from the 20% that you’ve already done.
Doing power based exercises (snatches, cleans, jerks, plyometrics) won’t build maximal strength (they’re limited by your ability to produce power and your technical ability), they refine it and transfer it to power/athleticism. Therefore if you lack strength in the first place, you’ll never get as powerful as someone who is already strong. Build a foundation of strength.
“But what about my stabiliser muscles?” Supporting a heavy bar will challenge your TvA/deep trunk musculature, rotator cuff, spinal erectors (etc.) in the way they’re supposed to work – in conjunction with each other as a unit. You may not feel a ‘burn’ like you do by isolating them and doing high repetition sets, but that isolationist approach (for healthy athletes) is inefficient and ineffective.
How strong is strong enough?
Having the necessary degree of strength to deal with the demands of your environment (be it sport, work, home) is considered the bare minimum. However your intention should be to exceed these demands and be prepared for any eventuality. For athletes – you need to be as strong as you can in order to develop the capacity to produce more power so you can dominate your competition and rise to the top of your sport. Providing the strength you’re developing is given time to transfer to your sport, then you are never too strong (Stone, Moir, Glaister, & Sanders, 2002).
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Stone, M. H., Moir, G., Glaister, M., & Sanders, R. (2002). How much strength is necessary?. Physical Therapy in Sport, 3(2), 88-96.
Fry, A.C. and W.J. Kraemer, Physical performance characteristics of American collegiate football players. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research, 5(3): 126‐138, 1991.