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How you can increase your strength Part 1

Wie Du Deine Kraft steigern kannst Teil 1

Do you want to get strong? This expert guide will teach you how to increase your strength. Learn how to optimize your training sessions and diet for maximum strength gains!

This guide will teach you the following:

  • What the differences are for beginners between training for muscle gain and training for maximum strength
  • Which 7 exercises are the cornerstones for building strength
  • What is the fastest way for beginners to build strength
  • How often you should test your maximum weight and the best way to do it
  • How to improve the form of bench press, squat, deadlift and overhead press exercises
  • What widely used strength-building programs and systems such as Starting Strength, Wendler's 531 and Westside are available
  • How to best structure a training plan for building strength
  • How you should warm up and what you should do to prevent injury
  • What support exercises you can use to target weaknesses in strength
  • How to use the right nutrition and supplementation to maximize your results and how to structure a meal plan


The aim of this strength building guide is to provide you with all the tools you need to build strength as quickly as possible. You'll learn about popular strength building strategies and exercises, how to improve your form on the bench press, squat and deadlift, and how to optimize your diet and supplementation to achieve your goals.

Strength-building training vs. muscle-building training for beginners

During the initial stages of training, there won't be many differences between training to build strength and training to build muscle. Both goals require a substantial increase in strength in key exercises such as bench presses, squats, overhead presses and rowing, as well as building muscle.

While experienced exercisers need to focus primarily on training in the lower repetition range (1 to 5 repetitions per set), exercisers who have just started training and want to build strength should focus on a repetition range of 5 to 10 repetitions per set for most basic exercises.

Definitions and common terms

The following is a list of definitions of common terms that you will find in most articles dealing with building strength and in descriptions of training programs.

  • Intensity: Intensity is often seen in the context of "high-intensity training". In strength training, intensity is the percentage of your maximum weight for one repetition (1RM weight) that you are working with for a given exercise.
  • Volume: Volume can represent the number of sets per training session, the number of repetitions for a specific exercise with a given weight or the total number of repetitions multiplied by the weight used.
  • Periodization: Periodization involves a cyclical change in intensity and/or training volume using specific cycles to allow for better recovery and continuous gains.
  • Overtraining: The term overtraining refers to stressing a muscle, the central nervous system or ligaments and tendons beyond their ability to recover effectively.
  • Unloading: Unloading represents a planned period of rest or lighter training to reduce symptoms of fatigue or overtraining while maintaining current strength levels.
  • Max Effort (ME): Max effort in this context refers to heavy (intense) training days during which a trainee works up to a 5, 3 or 1RM weight for a specific exercise. Maximum effort days can be considered as training days with maximum weights.
  • Dynamic Effort (DE): Dynamic Effort training days focus on speed training, which stands for performing an exercise with approximately 50 to 60% of the 1RM weight using fast/powerful repetitions. Dynamic effort training sets often consist of single repetitions for deadlifts, 3 repetitions for bench presses and 2 repetitions for squats. Training days with dynamic effort can be regarded as training days with maximum speed of movement.
  • Training days with high repetitions (repetition effort, RE for short): On training days with high repetitions, the focus is on performing sets with a higher number of repetitions in the range of 6 to 12 repetitions. Each set is performed until muscle failure or at least close to muscle failure.
  • Support exercises: The function of support exercises is to target weak points and increase the strength of key muscle groups so that the body becomes as strong as possible as a unit.

Basics of strength training

Define your goals

Before you choose a training program and put together a solid nutrition plan, it's important that you first define your goals. Take a minute to think about your long-term goals and write them down. Try to keep these goals realistic, but still challenging. 200 kilos on the bench press may be possible in 5 years, but certainly cannot be achieved by 99.99% of the population within 6 months.

Once you have defined your long-term goals, it's time to think about your short-term goals. No small step is too insignificant. Think about where you want to be in a month, in 6 months and in a year.

And remember that the key to achieving your goals is to maximize your efforts. Strong bodies are built with "one extra repetition at a time" using small but consistent steps.

The 7 primary natural strength exercises

If your goal is to build strength, a good starting point is to analyze what the human body is good at. We are designed to perform certain movements and exercises with ease using multiple muscle groups and maximizing leverage ratios.

The 7 primary natural strength exercises that the body is good at performing are as follows:

  • Horizontal Press: Pushing a weight away from the torso. An example of a horizontal pressing exercise would be bench presses.
  • Horizontal pull: The pulling of a weight towards the body. An example of a horizontal pulling exercise would be barbell rowing.
  • Vertical press: Pushing a weight away from the body overhead. An example of a vertical push exercise would be shoulder presses.
  • Vertical pull: The pulling of a weight from an overhead position towards the body. Examples of vertical pulling exercises would be pull-ups and lat pull-downs.
  • Squats: Bending the hips and knees with the torso semi-erect, as if you were reaching for something lying on the floor in front of you. An example of a squat variation would be classic squats with a barbell in the neck.
  • Pulling a weight off the floor: Moving a weight off the floor in a position of maximum leverage (knees bent and hips flexed). An example of such an exercise would be deadlifts with a barbell.
  • Carrying a weight: Holding a weight in one or both hands and walking or running with that weight. An example of such an exercise would be the farmers walk (

There are many other exercises that the human body is good at performing, such as jumping and shoulder raises, but most of these exercises are derivatives of the 7 exercises mentioned above. This means that if you increase your strength in most or all of these 7 primary exercises, your body will be able to perform almost any task with strength.

The primary strength building exercises

Most strength training workouts are very similar and include a core group of several exercises. These exercises are all variations of the 7 primary natural movements.

  • Squats and front squats
  • Bench press and close grip bench press
  • Shoulder press and push press (standing shoulder press with momentum from the legs)
  • Deadlift and Romanian deadlift
  • Barbell and dumbbell rows
  • Power cleans and variations of the Olympic weightlifting exercises

There are also several other exercises that can be very helpful for a beginner looking to build strength quickly.

  • Pull-ups with a wide grip and palms facing away from the body
  • Pull-ups with a narrow grip and palms facing towards the body
  • dip
  • Plank
  • Abdominal exercises with additional weight such as sit-ups with a weight plate or cable crunches
  • Glute-ham raises
  • Good mornings
  • Side bends
  • Farmers walk

It should be noted that this is not a complete, all-inclusive list. A full list of high quality exercises can be found under the heading "Exercise List of Supporting Exercises" in one of the following parts of this article series.

The fastest way for a beginner to build strength

It's not uncommon for a beginner to fall into the trap of looking for a magic strength building workout or a magic strength building system. In this context, you should always remember the following: there is no magic training system. The key to fast and consistent progress is to follow these essential rules:

  • Stay consistent: stop looking for excuses and skipping training sessions. If you want to increase your strength, then you need to get into the gym and train week after week.
  • Stick to the basics: Stick to a basic program. Simplicity works very well for strength training in the beginning. Training evolution or complexity is something you will need in the future - but not now. Get strong with the basics. Most popular strength-building programs have a minimalist structure that uses the same effective strength-building exercises.
  • Eat enough: To maximize your efforts in the weight room, you need to make sure you're eating right. Eating too little or eating too much junk food can severely hamper your progress.
  • Make a plan: You can't come to the weight room without a plan. Plan when and how you want to increase the weight on the bar. A strength building program requires a progression plan. No training session should be done without a plan or a specific goal.

The 4 big exercises - Plus 1

At the core of most strength building programs are classic squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and bench presses. Power cleans are also frequently used. Squats, deadlifts and power cleans are considered posterior chain exercises. A posterior chain exercise works almost every muscle on the back of the body from head to toe including the back, gluteus, hips, hamstrings and more. Squats and deadlifts are considered the most effective strength building exercises.

Shoulder presses and bench presses are pressing exercises. Pressing exercises work the shoulders, chest, back and arms (to varying degrees). A properly structured strength building approach will aim to create some sort of balance between bench presses and overhead presses so that shoulder girdle health can be maintained.

Do I need a weightlifting belt?

Is a weightlifting belt necessary? This is a popular and often heatedly debated question. Although there are good arguments on both sides, most experienced exercisers choose to perform heavy workouts using a weightlifting belt.

Here are some pros and cons of using a weightlifting belt:


  • A weightlifting belt can help support the spine.
  • A weightlifting belt can increase self-confidence


  • A weightlifting belt can result in slight changes in exercise form. When using a weightlifting belt for the first time, don't start with heavy weights straight away. Work on your exercise form with a weightlifting belt using lighter weights first.
  • A weightlifting belt that is too tight can impair blood circulation and/or cause changes in blood pressure.

The role of the central nervous system

Although it is the job of muscle tissue to move heavy weights, the central nervous system (CNS) also plays a crucial role in this process. In many ways, the CNS acts like a source of energy - when it becomes active, you will begin to recruit more and more muscle fibers.

This is one of the reasons why a proper warm-up is necessary before a heavy workout. If you try to move a heavy weight before your CNS is fully activated, you will try to move that weight using fewer muscle fibers. The result will be more stress on joints and connective tissue and therefore a higher risk of injury.

You can test the strength of the CNS after each heavy training session. To do this, after you have completed your heavy workout, reduce the weight on the bar by 25% and perform a set. This set will feel incredibly light as your central nervous system is fully activated and recruiting maximum amounts of muscle tissue.

How often should I test my 1RM weight?

There is no urgent need to test your maximum weight (1RM weight) regularly on different exercises. Performing heavy single repetitions is physically demanding and requires weeks of recovery.

Instead of regularly testing your maximum weight, concentrate on increasing the weight in each training session. Push yourself and try to increase the number of repetitions and weight whenever possible while maintaining good form.

Most strength training systems will include some form of low repetition training, which will require a consistent increase in weight. Many beginner programs use sets of 5 reps and include a structured method of increasing the weight. You can use these heavy sets of 5 reps to estimate your 1RM using one of the many calculators available on the internet.

If you want to test your 1RM weight, you should do this no more than every 3 to 6 months and allow yourself several training-free days for recovery afterwards.

How to test your 1RM weight

The structure of these progression schemes is designed to help stimulate your CNS for maximum performance. Do not ignore this progression and refrain from large weight jumps. Large weight jumps do not adequately stimulate the CNS and can result in less than optimal performance. Large weight jumps also increase the risk of injury.

Rest. Follow the recommended recovery guidelines when testing your maximum weight on the bench press. This is not a sprint. If you don't have enough time to test your maximum weight for one repetition, wait until you have enough time.

Allow your body the correct amount of rest between heavy sets to recover. Some of these repetitions may seem easy and you may not need 3 minutes rest. If this is the case, then rest for at least 2 minutes and then try to perform the next repetition.

Use the following progression schemes based on your roughly estimated maximum weight. Rest for at least 2 minutes between challenging sets and 3 to 5 minutes between challenging sets if needed.

Continue until you reach a repetition that is very challenging. Only increase the weight by 2.5 to 5 kilos for the next repetitions once you have reached this point. If you fail a repetition, reduce the weight to a more realistic weight using your best estimate.

If you fail on the second attempt, stop the workout.

100-199 pounds* max weight (1RM)

  • Bar x 5 reps
  • Bar x 5 repetitions
  • 75 x 3 repetitions
  • 95 x 1 repetition
  • 115 x 1 repetition
  • 135 x 1 repetition
  • 155 x 1 repetition
  • 175 x 1 repetition
  • 195 x 1 repetition

* 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds

200-299 pounds maximum weight (1RM)

  • Bar x 10 repetitions
  • 135 x 5 repetitions
  • 185 x 3 repetitions
  • 205 x 1 repetition
  • 225 x 1 repetition
  • 245 x 1 repetition
  • 265 x 1 repetition
  • 285 x 1 repetition

300-399 pounds max weight (1RM)

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 135 x 5 reps
  • 185 x 3 reps
  • 225 x 1 repetition
  • 275 x 1 repetition
  • 305 x 1 repetition
  • 325 x 1 repetition
  • 345 x 1 repetition
  • 365 x 1 repetition
  • 385 x 1 repetition

Training for different strength sports

The structure of strength training sessions can vary greatly depending on the specific goals:

- Powerlifting: Powerlifters generally train 3 to 4 times per week and structure their workouts around bench presses, squats and deadlifts. In many cases, an upper body/lower body split is used, which includes two days of pressing exercises for the chest, triceps, back and shoulders and two days of training for the posterior chain.
- Strongman: Many strongman style workouts are very similar to powerlifting workouts. It is not uncommon to see a weekday training session based on pulls, a weekday training session based on presses and a weekend training session focused on training for specific competitions.
- Olympic Weightlifting: Olympic weightlifters are known to train 6 or 7 times per week - often with multiple workouts per day. An Olympic weightlifting workout is very technique-based and apart from squats, the focus of these workouts is on repetitions of the Olympic weightlifting exercises and their variations.
- CrossFit: Although CrossFit is not a specific strength sport, many CrossFitters focus heavily on training with variations of the Olympic weightlifting exercises. Strength endurance is also an integral part of CrossFit training.

In the next installment of this article series, we'll take a closer look at proper exercise form for heavy multi-joint exercises.


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