It’s pretty simple right? For size, go for high volume; for strength, go with low-reps and heavy weights; for cutting, go with high-reps and lower rest.

If it was that simple, every gym-goer would have the physique of a Greek God.

When it comes to strength training, it’s especially easy to hit a plateau in your performance. That’s because for intermediate and advanced lifters, sometimes the cookie-cutter “basic rules” won’t cut it. It’s a good idea to think outside the box to push through plateaus of any sort. Here are four tips that will boost you out of your rut. 

No. 1: Gain Weight

dont bulk too long

If you’re seriously focused on your performance and are looking to increase your strength, then you’re going to accomplish that a lot faster by upping the weight. It’s simple physics — your body will produce more force when it has more mass. You won’t be the next Sumo wrestler, but a bodyweight increase of 10 pounds can create a notable difference in your force output and strength in big lifts. Once you get more muscle and improve your strength, it will be easy to shred any added body fat.

No. 2: Squat More

The squat is the most all-inclusive of the “Big 3” moves. It transfers strength to other movements and produces a beneficial hormonal response for testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) levels. Therefore, increasing the amount of times you squat weekly will be a huge factor in how strong you get. Take a page out of the Bulgarian method books and ramp up your low-rep squat sets up to a daily max. Do this at the end of your other workouts — the ones that don’t involve squats. You’ll be training heavy without enough volume, which will make you sore. By doing this, your nervous system will be stimulated, allowing your body to feel close to your max load several times each week. Remember, this is an advanced training tool; if you’re a beginner, it’s not for you. Use your discernment for what feels like a comfortable daily max – based on your physiology and how you’re feeling, it should change daily. Check out the video for more information. 

No. 3: Warm Up the Right Way

You’re selling yourself short if you’re completing a couple of light sets to get the blood flowing before your heavy workout sets. As we know, training is supposed to stimulate muscles. What we do before our hardest sets is the make-or-break factor for when it comes to how much strength we’ll have in the tank. Keep your warm-up sets progressive as you approach your work-sets in weight. You don’t have to do sets of 10 every time. Remember, you’re training for strength, so do three to five reps with your lighter warm-up sets, and two to three reps with your heavier warm-up sets. Trust me, you won’t get too tired.  Here’s a simplistic idea using a work-set weight of 315 pounds as an example.

Example Warm Up

  • Set 1: 135lbs – as many reps as needed
  • Set 2: 185lbs – 5 reps
  • Set 3: 225lbs – 3 reps
  • Set 4: 255lbs – 3 reps
  • Set 5: 275lbs – 3 reps
  • Set 6: 295lbs – 2 reps

Work Set 1: 315lbs – 3-5 rep max

Rest as long as you feel necessary. I’ll repeat this for emphasis – you’re not lifting your max weight for max reps, so your muscles won’t get fatigued. In the example above, 315 pounds would be this lifter’s five-rep max. That means three reps at 275 pounds should technically be the weight he can lift, close to 10 times.

No. 4: Choose One Strength Move Per Day

Deficit Deadlift

If you’re in a strength training phase, then you’re likely training the big lifts – squat, overhead press, deadlift, and bench.

When it’s time to train each day, let the volume of your workouts be focused towards one of the above lifts — not two or three. An inefficient way to train, which will lead to disappointment in terms of performance is by attemptng to train to a three-rep max in the bench press followed by PR attempts in the deadlift. Your central nervous sytem won’t be able to handle it, and you won’t get stronger — leaving you with no improved PRs over time. After training with a big strength movement, let the rest of your workout be comprised of assistance exercises. If you choose to complete other big lifts, let the rep range stay out of a strength training zone.