Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Three Ways to Train for Strength

by Robb Rogers M.Ed., C.S.C.S.,
Middle Tennessee State Head Strength & Conditioning Coach

There are only three ways to train for strength. You can add load (resistance), add reps (volume), or add speed to the movement. We are going to explain how to do all three within one training session using one exercise. Generally this type of training is utilized using big lifts that call on many large muscle groups. These lifts are the core or traditional power lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift).

Adding load to the lift is a very traditional way to strength train. After each set, weight is added to the bar in order to increase the resistance. As the sets pile up, so does the weight. The reps will stay the same or go down as the load increases. For example:

A
 
B
Reps  
Load
  Reps   Load
10 @ 50%   10 @ 50%
8 @ 60%   5 @ 60%
6 @ 70%   5 @ 70%
4 @ 80%   5 @ 80%
3 @ 85%   5 @ 80%
2 @ 90%   5 @ 80%
Total Reps 33
Average Load 72.14%
  Total Reps 33
Average Load 70%

A second way to gain strength is to add reps or sets to the training program. This adds to the overall work done in the training session. For example:

A
 
B
Reps  
Load
  Reps   Load
10 @ 50%   10 @ 50%
8 @ 60%   5 @ 60%
6 @ 70%   5 @ 70%
4 @ 80%   5 @ 80%
3 @ 85%   5 @ 80%
2 @ 90%   5 @ 80%
10 @ 70%   5 @ 80%
5 @ 80%        
Total Reps 43
Average Load 72.14%
  Total Reps 45
Average Load 72.5%

The third way to train for strength is to add speed to the movement. Now, the bar is moved as fast as possible through the concentric (up) phase of the motion regardless of the load involved. The bar may not look as if it is moving fast or even faster than normal but the athlete is attempting to move it as quickly as possible. The workout stays the same in terms of sets, reps and load, but the quality of effort is much greater, as is the effect of training.
Is it possible to do all three of these training techniques within the same exercise?

ABSOLTUELY! The key is to do as few repetitions as possible as you warm up to the movement and work up to the heavi er loads. As soon as you get up to the “work load zone” then start to train with “speed”. At the end of the workout, do a burnout set with the same load as you trained with quick and heavy. At this point if you need to cheat on the burnout set, cheat and take the muscles past the point of no return. Just remember to have great spotters and good technique. Here’s an example:

Example A
 
Example B
Zones
Speed
Reps
Load
Speed Reps Load Speed
warmup 5 @ 55% moderate 5 @ 55% moderate
5 @ 65% moderate 4 @ 65% moderate
5 @ 75% moderate 3 @ 75% moderate
        3 @ 80% moderate
workload 5x5 @ 80% as fast as possible 8x3 @ 85% as fast as possible
burnout 10@ 80% cheat if necessary 6 @ 85% cheat if necessary
Total reps 50
Average Load 75%
  Total Reps 45
Average Load 80%

As your training progresses and the quality of your efforts are better; you will be able to move up on the training scale. In other words you will be able to go heavier, longer and move weight faster during the workout for better effort quality. This will create a better quality of training and in turn a stronger you.