You may see big muscles as a sign of extreme strength, but you have to build more than massive muscles to achieve maximal strength. You also have to train your neuromuscular system, comprised of your muscles and central nervous system. By lifting heavier weights, you train your body to recruit more muscle fibers, allowing your body to overcome external resistance, whether it’s a toddler or a boulder.
Things You'll Need
Warm up with at least five minutes of light activity. Walk, cycle, jump rope or perform dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are slow and controlled stretches that move through an exercise's full range of motion. Dynamic stretches may include stretches such as arm circles, leg swings and walking lunges.
Lift heavy weights. The weights should be heavy enough so that you can only lift up to five repetitions before your muscle fatigues, recommends the National Academy of Sports Medicine. If you can perform more than five repetitions using proper form, increase your workload during your next sessions. The American College of Sport Medicine suggests increasing weight only between one and 10 percent to prevent overtraining.
Rest between three and five minutes. This waiting period replenishes the muscles’ energy supplies, allowing for optimal muscle adaptation. It also helps you maintain form by reducing fatigue, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Perform between two and six sets of these exercises, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine. Stick to the lower end of the spectrum at the beginning. Increase the number of sets performed when they become too easy. Don’t increase the number of sets and the amount of weight lifted at the same time.
Cool down and stretch. Static stretches help return the muscles back to their optimal length, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Stretch the muscles used during your workout. Each muscle should be stretched to the point of tension then held for at least 20 seconds.
Recover from each training session. Your body grows stronger during rest. The American Council on Exercise recommends at least two days of rest following high-intensity workouts. For example, if you perform upper-body weight training on Monday, wait at least until Wednesday before you train that muscle group again.
Work with a spotter or personal trainer to prevent injury since you will be using heavy weights.
Tips & Warnings
- Because of the time it may take to finish your workout, you may want to break up your routine into separate upper and lower-body workouts on alternating days.
- Slowly increase the intensity of your training program.
- To avoid plateaus and improve results, change your training goals approximately every four weeks. For example, after focusing on strength, you can focus on building muscle mass.
- If you experience any pain, stop your training and contact a health care provider as soon as possible.
- Never hold your breath while weight training.
- This type of exercise is not for beginners. To prevent injury, work to improve not only your strength but also your muscle stability and endurance first.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Resistance Training for Health and Fitness
- BrianMac Sports Coach: Weight Training
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; National Academy of Sports Medicine and Brian G. Sutton (Editor)
- American Council on Exercise: Recovery: The Forgotten Training Variable
- BrianMac Sports Coach: Dynamic Stretching Exercises
- Photo Credit Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images