Barbell bench

There are plenty of ways you can help your body along in the quest for more strength. Some adjustments are subtle and require little more than a change in hand position. Other changes could mean a full-program overhaul if you’ve been misled into using exercise balls by an ill-informed trainer. Use these four tips to weed out any roadblocks that are standing between you and lifting more weight.


1. Vary Your Stance or Hand Position

Although true research is sparse, both anatomical and biomechanical evidence supports the need for changing both hand and foot positions, as well as seat angles, on exercises throughout your training cycles. Also by creating these variations, support musculature (read: stabilizers) will improve as will your overall length and variety of muscle movement. More angles, more fibers, and longer ranges of motion, means greater strength. And one final thought; making simple adjustments adds tons of exercises to keep your workouts both challenging and stimulating, so it is less likely for you to overtrain and/or become bored.


2. Push In A Straight Line

Whether you are squatting or bench pressing or doing heavy deadlifts and bent-over rows, forcing the barbell to track in straight line not only improves strength, but actually puts your body in the proper biomechanical alignment. While popular theory explains that a bar should travel in an arced movement pattern, physics say force is greater in a straight line. When the strongest lifters in the world have been examined in both squats and bench presses, their movement patterns were closest to a perfect straight line. When you first try this from your usual movement pattern it will feel odd, but with practice you will see your strength numbers skyrocket.

Swiss Ball

3. Get Off The Ball

In an effort to build stability, advocates of ball training have forgotten the most basic element of balance – it comes from the ground up. While balance is certainly important, strength is paramount. Using unstable surfaces and weird circus-like tricks does not increase muscle size and quality. Data reported in Dynamic Medicine from researchers at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto shows that doing presses and other supper-body and ab exercises on a ball doesn’t significantly enhance core muscle activation as compared to doing presses on a bench. Get your core work from big lifts such as the bench, squat and deadlift and feel free to occasionally mix in dedicated exercises like the plank and superman.

DB rack

4. Don’t Use Percentage Charts 

Not all the time, anyway. Percentage charts often misrepresent a true maximum and leave the lifter with either too much or too little, especially since many lifters underestimate their 1RM. Instead, just get the most out of whatever weight you’re using. Don’t leave anything on the floor. Work as hard as you can every single session. Why base your training session on something you did four weeks earlier when you can make the most out of your routine by basing each workout on the day before.