How To Get Stronger On Any Lift By Breaking The Rules

Is your workout giving you everything that it could?

When it comes to lifting weights and bodybuilding I have always sort of followed things by the book which honestly has served me well, I look and feel strong as a result, this isn’t the whole story however.

I have had my fair share of injuries in the past, more so than many others in fact, why was I in so much pain when I can squat, bench and deadlift so much?

I have got very frustrated in more recent times and have recently made a drastic decision. I stopped lifting at the local gym and got rid of all machine and cable work, going in a completely different direction to what I had been.

After dropping my gym membership I began training more like an athlete using my parent’s garage with only a barbell, squat stand, some dumbbells, rocks found in the back yard and local playground equipment.

I would sprint up and down hills and stairs, push my SUV across a parking lot and swing sledge hammers every workout. These workouts were far from perfect but have helped me progress in a way I never thought possible, this is how to make a similar approach work for you.

Whatever kind of training you are currently doing, I recommend adding in some much needed supplementation.

A Time And Place For Everything

Today, after nearly 2 years of transitioning out of traditional gym workouts I have come to a point in my evolution where I understand that strength and muscle discriminate against nothing. There is a time and place for free weights and machines, odd objects and body weight training, they all work so long as you put the effort in.

This is where most people fall down, they expect a certain training tool or method to be a shortcut or magic pill which is just not the case. It goes back to what Arnold said about the pain barrier, you have to go through it to succeed. Unless you are pushing the limits on your training, you will never understand or experience this pain barrier.

It is a key element to getting on top of your game, not just in sports or bodybuilding but in real life as well, it is far more important than whatever object you are trying to move.

When put into action this simply means your body can get stronger or bigger using any training method or tool. So long as your lifestyle is in check, technique is on point, intensity is high and dedication is consistent, results will come.

I train myself these days with many different tools, they all have a time and place but there are certain factors that will determine when I use a certain training method or tool:

  • Experience in training.
  • Goals.
  • Training for sports versus all round strength and fitness.
  • Injuries.
  • Weak Areas.
  • Level of coordination/athleticism.
  • Level of mental toughness.

Free weights and machines definitely have their place but that is not to say there are not other methods out there.

These are tools I will use to show up weaknesses from the previous list:

  • Barbells and dumbbells.
  • Kettlebells.
  • Sandbags.
  • Stones.
  • Tractor tires.
  • Sleds.
  • Chains.
  • Kegs, anvils and other odd objects.

It may sound like you need a ton of tools but most of these are easier to find than you think. More traditional gyms these days are beginning to introduce kettlebells, sleds and even sandbags. As for anvils and other random heavy stuff just start looking online.

Right Tool For The Job

You might think you have to do weird, hard to learn movements to get any value out of things like kettlebells or sandbags but the opposite is actually true. The movements I use with each tool often center around basic exercises like squats, presses, pulls and carriers. Each object has a different feel and a slightly different effect than others.

Sandbags: I really like these, something to ‘fill the gaps’ at the gym are a great addition. Squatting with a sandbag requires you to power clean the bag and rip it off the floor at the start of each set. The awkward weight will put your body off-balance so you have to wrestle the weight into position, developing important coordination and mental toughness in the process. Once in position, sandbag squats, like kettlebell goblet squats also teach proper squat position, I learnt these variations before doing back squats.

Squats and deadlifts etc. are amazing at building core strength which in turn helps your other workouts.

Kettlebells: They require a lot of coordination and finesse, we must learn to use only just enough energy during exercises like the snatch, clean and press and Turkish get-up to keep the technique in check, overpowering the kettlebell leads to sloppy technique. Bells build focus and discipline, traits anyone serious about lifting should have.

Barbells And Dumbbells: Free weights will always be the king of the weight room for the simple reason that you can move the most weight with them but you quickly realize the responsibility that comes with getting those big numbers.

You must have proper technique if you want to be barbell strong on things like squats, deadlifts, power clean, bench press and bent over rows. These are all pretty advanced exercises and even advanced athletes never developed the strength to do them properly.

Putting A Program Together

All of these things can get messy and complicated but if you train in micro cycles it doesn’t have too. Athletes tend to thrive on variety. Many of us struggle with 12 straight weeks of back squats and to stay physically and mentally plugged in. Unless we had to do a sport were we had to squat a certain way why would we bother repeating the same exercise over and over?

Try this as a progression on squats for the next 12 weeks:

  • Weeks 1-3: Squats with a barbell.
  • Weeks 4-6: Front squats, shoulder squats or Zercher squats with a sandbag.
  • Weeks 7-9: Kettlebell double front squats.
  • Weeks 10-12: Squats with a barbell.

Getting a decent program in place will see even more and better gains than ever before.

There are plenty of other options available too:

  • Back squat.
  • Box squat.
  • Barbell Zercher squat.
  • Wide-stance box squat.
  • Lower-box-height box squat.
  • Specialty barbell squat.
  • Kettlebell goblet squat.
  • Light barbell or bodyweight jump squat.
  • Kettlebell jump squat held at side or sumo position.

You may hesitate to learn a new variation every four weeks but if you follow this basic progression then you can get stronger at pretty much any movement you choose.

  • Week 1 – Introduce each movement, refine technique and establish baseline loading.
  • Week 2 – Break week 1 records, push intensity up a bit and maintain perfect form and technique.
  • Week 3 – Break as many records as you can, especially in the core lifts, maintaining perfect technique and form.
  • Week 4 – If all the training went well and week 3 was a strong one then deload.

This approach can be used over and over again and will make you stronger with time. Various tools will help minimize boredom and injuries from overuse. Try it with any movement you do now that you might be struggling with and get ready to be surprised.

These are the real procedures needed when you want to know how to get stronger.

Check out the program located here for a helpful way to build muscle and see some serious and impressive gains.

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