Strength is Skill

The pursuit of strength is an endeavor that can take many many years, but there is no better feeling than being able to effortlessly pick things up or put objects over your head struggle free.

Depending on who you speak to you will hear lots of differing opinions of how to build strength, however if you look at lots of older strength books and methodologies you will notice to common theme is set around 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps for effortless gains in strength and while there will be some differences from person to person in terms of over all sets (sometimes as high as 20!), they all say you should want to feel like you have maybe one or two potential reps left in the bag.

Training for strength is thought by some as constant struggle to get an extra rep, but you will often find that the really strong people would rather feel like every rep is easy and stop feeling they have a couple left in the bag, even if the weight is heavy. This style of athlete does not like grinding reps or excessive form break down as this leads to fatigue building up much faster than they would like which means more times is needed to recover.

Across the world there have been many great strength athletes but it’s the Russians, Bulgarians and their neighboring countries who have produced the majority. Why is this?

They believe that to lift a lot you need to lift a lot and often, but not to the point of form breakdown and excessive fatigue. They see strength as a skill that needs to be practiced regularly and thus the set their sets/reps according to this ethos.

Achieving easy strength requires time, patience and most of all perfect practice (or as close to perfect as possible). Grooving the movement so that it is effortless requires lots of repetition and consistency on your core movements (Squat, Bench, Deadlift for Powerlifters and the Clean & Jerk/Snatch for Weightlifters), you can add in various accessory movements to help balance the body as these are essential but if your goal is strength then lots of easy reps at sub-max weight is what you need.

Here are a couple of rep ranges to consider:

3×3, 3×4, 3×5
4×3, 4×4, 4×5
5×4, 5×4, 5×5
5-4-3-2-1
1-2-3-4-5
5-3-2 x2

There are lots of options but if you’re thinking about practicing your lifts daily then the above rep ranges will do just fine. You would load the bar with 80%+ (after warm up sets of course) and you would aim to never miss a rep while making sure they were all smooth and without any grinding.

Alternatively you could set a daily working rep range of 15-25 and hit those numbers however way you want. Just hit all the reps with good form and always leave a couple of reps in the bank. It is true you will have days where you feel exceptionally strong, if that is the case then you are more than welcome to try for a new rep pb or even a single rep pb, but be careful not to leave your best numbers on the gym floor, these are better suited to the comp stage.

Training in this manor will not only help you cement solid form in your movements it will also help you learn your body too. Meaning that you will know when you’re ready for a big lift and can go that little harder and when to back it off slightly.

If you start to feel overly tired then drop the volume (sets/reps) but keep the weights at 80%+, or scheduled in a rest weekend/week.

Strength is a skill, now go and start practicing.

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