I bet that if you were to ask your fellow gym goer how they would reccomened getting strong it would go like this:
” First off, bro you need to eat a lot! gotta eat big to get big, and lift to failure, really feel the burn and break down the muscle tissue”
This is fine…if getting big is your thing. and believe me when I say this: getting big doesn’t require a ton of skill. just a huge appetite, enough volume, and a sh*t ton of calories
However, if you’re an avid reader of my blog then you probably understand that my advocation is rather unorthodox to say the least, in that I believe you can and should incorporate strategies to stay lean while simultaneously getting stronger. Who wants to give up their goal physique after achieving it by covering in excess body fat to feel strong? not me.
The Positives of staying lean and strong outweigh the negatives
• Clothes fit way better
• Facial aesthetics are prominent i.e. jawline
• Great insulin sensitivity ( get away with eating more)
• More attraction from the opposite sex
Mainstream fitness advice never covers this
Surely there must exist a strategy that can allow me to reap the feel good reward of a balanced physique with an ideal body fat while getting stronger! and there is.
Mainstream advice has got it twisted in that, they ensure the only way you can physically possible gain strength is to eat in a caloric surplus, bulk, lift till failure and perform the ” big three”
Bruce lee, olympic athletes and rock climbers display some of the most outstandingly brilliant physiques to date with incredible power! and they never incorporated bulking to build the threshold of their strength and functionality because they viewed the excess weight as a halt to their athleticism. Excess adipose tissue that comes from unnecessary bulking periods just slows you down inevitably.
Heres a few examples of the above mentioned individuals physiques:
1. Bruce had incredible muscular density, granted he was a bit undersized but he had excellent proportions and was every example of relative strength.
2. Rock climbers have to utilize various muscles at a continuos and enduring rate which is basically calling upon full muscle contraction for brutal amounts of time.
The result? Greater, and stronger muscle control and a dense physique to match all while remaining totally functional.
3. Olympic gymnasts are obviously on an entirely different level of eliteness within the confines of their training, however that doesn’t mean we can’t replicate some of their training concepts into our own.
The largest priority these athletes have, is remaining as lean as entirely possible, while keeping and using as much muscle as possible. Excess fat is just excess weight slowing you down. Also, the ability to master their body and make further strength progress is a key factor in their physique development.
Yet you never really hear magazines, informercials, and the alike mentioning the impact body composition has when you pair a caloric deficit ( well structured diet) with strategic and progressive tension.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather be on the leaner side while generating tremendous strength and being perfectly capable of the varying degrees of athleticism than having to pursue endless bulk cycles, excess body fat, and countless time waiting to ” enhance my physique” sorry.
Understanding the Central nervous system for strength
This is where the magic of avoiding failure comes into play. We often neglect the importance of gaining a fundamental understanding of the human body as a whole which leaves us oblivious to the fact that strength is generated by the ability to send electrical pulses to the working muscle and generate power from the central nervous system.
” Nerve impulses that originate in the central nervous system cause muscles to contract. Both neurons and muscle tissue conduct electrical current by moving ions across cellular membranes”
You have to look at the central nervous system and its ability to fire like a battery, if you continuously drain the life of it, you’ll have to charge it back up again before you get optimal power for whatever it is you intend to use it for, in this case progressing on your lifts while staying lean.
However, if you just use partial amounts of its energy, you’ll probably have more juice out of it to use it for days on end, instead of wasting it all in one shot. An example: picking a weight you know you can lit for 8 reps and only going to 5 reps. Mind you, upon this style of lifting you want to truly work on generating a very strong contraction by calling upon the central nervous to fire harder and harder which ultimately leaders to a dense muscle by mastering full muscle contraction allowing us to continuously gain strength while we avoid the negative feedback loop associated with failure by avoiding it.
In a nutshell this is the type of training for folks who dig being lean year and want to increase strength without size.
Ive used this method for the last 5+ years with incredible results. On paper it sounds like bro science, in actuality, it works gangbusters.
its solely one of the greatest tips for enhancing my physique that I’ve ever used and I have to credit Rusty Moore of visual impact for bringing such a revolutionary way to train into the limelight.
Whats Cns fatigue?
Cns fatigue occurs neurally as a byproduct of excessive volume from both muscular damage and cns demand, if your body can’t adapt to whats being placed on it, extra recovery is under way in order resume as fresh as you were before you began. Ever train so intense, you felt hungover, groggy, fatigued, or just not ” right” the next day? this can be a fine indication of that. Practically all forms of stress placed upon the body can tax the system beyond its capacity to adapt.
however by avoiding failure and generating strong contractions, we can bypass this setback in our training, recruit myofibilar hypertrophy ( density) and begin mastering weights without the setback of fatigue, and yes you can introduce progressive overload perfectly fine training this way.
Strength requires patience, especially if you want to stay lean, and continue getting stronger. The end result is a someone with a content physique that can continue getting stronger without increasing excess size which occurs when a muscle is damaged.
Various training routines work, but burnout eventually occurs
Routines like the ones you find in fitness magazines, reverse pyramid training, supersets, and drop sets have their place but eventually deliver a plateau due to needing days of rest to recharge and remain as adequate and fresh as you were prior to that training session.
but if you avoid failure by 1-2 reps we can send a positive feedback signal to continue getting stronger on almost every single lift, the result is that weights that once felt heavy begin to feel incredibly light due to building a healthy relationship with our central nervous system, and utilizing its greatest potential.
Progressive overload still needs to remain a highlight of your training, except the only difference is now instead of trying to force your way up to the 6th rep, you will rack it short of failure, and try again on your next training sessions. The results will be incredible.
When you avoid failure magic starts happening
When we avoid failure, those weights that were serving us a hot plate of pleateu begin to feel light in our grasp, its as if we had been drinking holy water mixed with bcaas and the blood of Conan, but its not. We are simply becoming conscious of the major breakthrough the central nervous system has in the ability to fire harder and harder each and every time we don’t take it to a failing rate.
Imagine performing an incline press right now, you’re going to pick up 90lb dumbbells and push to absolute failure with a typical routine like 3 sets of 8-10 reps, Normally you would be pretty damn fatigued after 3 working sets, but if we choose 90lbs and go to 5 reps which would be 1-3 reps short of failing instead of the above motioned 8 reps to failure, were signaling positive signals back to our cns to get stronger because we aren’t draining it, so on the next working set, we can easily bump up to 95lbs while feeling immensely stronger due to saving our cns some energy, so the result is the ability to keep increasing weight so as long as we avoid the compete failure of a working muscle!
It sounds incredibly complex on paper, but in actuality this one principle works insanely well.
Who is this type of training for?
Anyone that has reached their physique and is truly content with size, definition, and musculature can adopt these philosophies with great success.
Theres absolutely nothing wrong with reaching contentment within the physique department, in fact I
receive a lot of emails regarding the various aspects of maintaining a hard earned physique without adding anymore size, and I would have to say this is probably one of the most successful tips.
If you’re not content with size and want to continue achieving hypertrophy, then this routine probably isn’t for you as the the overall volume, sets, and intensity are too low to provide a substantial increase in size.
Theres a reason I can bench 225 upon incline, pull 100 lb pull ups, 160lb military press weighing only 160 pounds dry, and I owe it to avoiding true failure.
• Keep a strong emphasis on progressing within your lifts, but avoid failure if you know you’re going to struggle for that last 2-3 reps.
• Focus on contracting that working muscle, instead of just bouncing heavy weight around
• The central nervous system is like a battery, if you can manage to unitize it without draining it, you can keep making significant strength gains whilst staying lean
• This type of training equates to tremendous relative strength
• Get strong in a caloric deficit
Stay strong my friends,