Maximum Strength

Why You Should Improve Your Maximum Strength

I’ve had a long hard time of asking myself,„How many repetitions should I do in training?

When I started training, my goal was to do as many repetitions as possible per exercise.

I thought many repetitions are equal to a lot of maximum strength and power.

Unfortunately, I was on the wrong track and it took me a while to realize what it takes to build up strength effectively.

If you are working more intensively to improve your physical performance, you will eventually stumble upon terms such as maximum strength, hypertrophy and endurance.

And if you read about it in a forum, you will soon find out that everyone has a different idea of what is most important.

It is certain that all of them are important and where your focus should be in the training session is solely determined by your goals.

Here is a brief overview of where the most important effects are and below I will show you what you should focus on in training to get better everywhere.

Maximum strength: you become stronger
Hypertrophy: you become more muscular
Strength endurance: you can achieve more or last longer at lower intensity

As I said, these are only the rough targets and I could list a lot of sub-items. Furthermore, the objectives overlap.

I’ll tell you a secret. If you focus exclusively on the maximum power, you will automatically improve on the other two.

Why?

I’m just gonna steal Eric Cressey’s description. This is great and you get a good idea of how important maximum strength is.

Imagine, maximum strength is a glass and the more strength you gain, the bigger the glass is. The other strength – abilities are in the glass. You should try to enlarge your glass first.

But how do you have to train to do that?

Here is a simple formula: 1-5 x 1-5

Here are the details:

At first glance, this formula doesn’t look like much. That’s a deception. The formula leaves a lot of room to improve your strength forever. Through variation.

The first 1-5 stands for the sets/rounds per exercise/movement. The second 1-5 for repetitions.

Example:

Front Squat 5×5 = Five sets of five reps. Total 25 Hg.
Front Squat 3×2,3,5 = Three sets of two, three, five reps. Total 30 Wdh.
Front Squat 1×1-5 = One set of one, two, three, four, five reps. Total 15 Hg.
Front Squat 4×1-3 = Four sets one, two, three times Wdh. Total 24 Hg.

The benefits: The training is more intensive, because you can choose the resistance higher on fewer repetitions (more weight or harder leverage). And high-intensity training makes your glass grow.

I was able to see for myself how well this form of training works and how big my glass is in 2013. I took part in a trainer certification. The final test included 100 repetitions divided into four exercises and the whole thing in 8 minutes. If an exercise was started, it had to be completed without a break. Between the exercises, it was allowed to pause.

These were the exercises:

Bodyweight squats: 40 repetitions
Push-up: 30 repetitions
Hanging Knee Raises: 20 repetitions
Pull-ups: 10 repetitions

I took the test at the certification for the first time.

Why?

I was well prepared. My glass was big. I knew my strength levels during the individual exercises and knew that I did not have to worry.

Here are the same exercises as I do in my workouts (November 2012):

Squats: Pistol Squat 5×1-5 per leg (total 75/75)
Push up: One Arm Push up 5×1 per arm (5/5 total)
Hanging Leg Raises: Extended legs to bar 5×5 (25 total)
Pull-ups: Weighted Pull Ups 5×1-3 (30 total)

Although I never did more than five repetitions per set in practice, the test was no problem. What the test demanded was meanwhile within my strength endurance range.

The reasons why many participants failed the test are different. Some of them simply dripped off the rack after hanging leg raises, because they were too heavy and couldn’t pull themselves up anymore or lacked grip strength. Some of them were simply too fatigued after the three days training or had prepared themselves for the test exclusively with strength endurance training (too small glass).

Here are a few more examples that illustrate what I mean.

If you can perform several (perfect) one arm push ups in one training session, you can easily do 30 regular push ups at a time. If you can do 30 regular push ups, this doesn’t mean that you can do a one arm push up.

Another example would be that you can turn an Olympic weightlifter into a marathon runner faster than vice versa. This is because the marathon runner has a smaller glass filled with strength endurance and the Olympic weightlifter has a very large glass that you can quickly fill. The comparison is somewhat misleading, because both require very specific training and the objectives could not be more different, but the example fits.

Should you train the other skills in a targeted way?

It depends on your goals. But it’s a fact that you don’t have to worry about it as long as you don’t have a big glass in the basic movements. Strength and fitness trainers speak of „Entry Level Strong“. You should have a certain strength level before you start worrying about other things. There is a value in loading assistance exercises with light weights and high repetitions. But for the basic lifts go with more weight and lower rep ranges.

How big your strength level should be depends on your particular sport or everyday stress.

I often see a problem in competition sports. Regardless of whether it’s a contact or team sport. If you are watching the athlete, the sports-specific training they do is usually in the strength endurance range.

And what do they do in their strength training sessions? Exactly. They train their strength endurance. They quickly fill their little glass. The glass becomes bigger in the same way, but it takes forever.

The same is true for hobby athletes, however, the reason is they are told that as beginners they have to take light weights and have to do many repetitions in order to get their bodies used to the strain of regular training.

This is a phenomenon in „traditional“ fitness studios, because they train almost exclusively on machines and no complex movement patterns are performed. All movements during the exercises are preset and stabilized by the machines (which is absolutely NO advantage if this should sound like it).

While performing fundamental movements this is bullshit. Since the glasses are small at the beginning of the training, the weights will also be small. If you’ve mastered a fundamental movement, you have to load it. If there are no weak links and you avoid complete muscle failure, you will be stronger than you can imagine.

I hear this question more often;„What to do if you are not a competitor? How can you quickly improve your stamina if this is your goal?“

Beside the fact that you get more endurance when you train your maximum strength, there is another possibility. Move light to medium weights faster. Explosively performed movements are particularly well suited to improve maximum strength and work capacity.

Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Is there a catch? Sure. Training for maximum strength is exhausting.

After reading this article, you know what you need to focus on to get a big glass. Now all you have to do is…

Start doing it.

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