How to Use Supplements to Increase Strength
Working to increase strength is an ambitious goal with countless health and physique benefits. The approach to achieving such a goal is like building lean muscle mass or gaining weight. Instead of focusing on the physique, we’re focusing on fueling and strengthening the muscles to turn you into a hulked-out version of yourself.
For building strength, it’s great to start with a long-term goal and then set several short-term goals to meet along the way. It’s essential to progressively overload the muscles without pushing too hard and injuring yourself, leading to setbacks and failure.
Building Strength: Where to Start
There are seven natural strength movements in which the human body is efficient.
These building strength movements are:
- Horizontal Push – pushing a weight away from the torso; example: bench press
- Horizontal Pull – pulling a weight towards the torso; example: rows
- Vertical Push – pushing a weight overhead; example: military press
- Vertical Pull – pulling a weight towards the torso from above; example: lat pulldown
- Squat – bending at the hips and knees with a semi-upright torso; example: barbell squat.
- Lift from the Ground – picking a weight up off the ground from bent knees and hips position; example: deadlift
- Carry – holding a weight in one or both hands while walking; example: farmer’s walk
Before you set short and long-term goals, set a baseline. Determine your one-rep-max for each of these movements.
How to Determine Your One-rep Maximum
Assuming you’ve been lifting for over a year and a half, your muscle-mind connection should be strong enough to handle your maximum weight. First, you must allow your body to recover fully before attempting to lift your max weight. Don’t bring a banged up, sore body to the gym on a one-rep max day. Bring a spotter with you, plan to perform three exercises per day, and warm up your body with a dynamic warm-up plus several lift-specific warm-ups.
It helps if you have a reasonably accurate prediction of your maximum weight for each lift. If your spotter needs to assist you, drop the weight for the next set and after a rest, try again. You can add weight up to five times, but after that you need to stop for the day because it won’t be an accurate calculation, and you risk injury.
Once you have performed a lift that took every ounce of strength you have, you’ve got your one-rep max. As you increase strength with a workout program, plan to retest your one-rep max every six to twelve weeks, but no more.
Create a Workout Plan to Increase Strength
Workout plans designed to increase strength are often centered around the seven movements mentioned above and involve performing lower reps (typically 6-8) at 60-80% of your one-rep max. Hiring a professional fitness trainer is a great way to get a customized plan, but you can create your own with a little bit of research.
Unlike other fitness goals, building strength requires a very planned workout program. You should know when and how you’re adding weight and to which exercises. You should also perform each move with impeccable form—another reason it’s beneficial to hire a trainer.
There are several methods to choose from when adding weight to the bar:
- weekly progression: adding five to ten pounds to a specific lift each week
- lift specific progression: adding small increments of weight to a specific lift every time you perform it
- goal-driven progression: adding weight to a specific lift when you can reach a “rep goal”
Get to Work on Increasing Strength
Like other fitness goals, working out is only part of the equation.
You need five things for all fitness related goals:
- progressive overload on the muscles
It is impossible to reach any goal without consistency. Your body requires fuel to build muscles, rest to recover, and an intensified load on your muscles to increase strength. It’s also important to understand that many fitness goals take time to reach safely. Increasing strength is a marathon, not a sprint.
Eat to Increase Strength
Adequately fueling your body is essential for increasing your strength. Aim to consistently eat in a small calorie surplus, consume plenty of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, and about 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
An excellent way to ensure you’re hitting your nutritional goals to increase strength is to include a mass gainer supplement in your diet. You can also use other supplements like creatine and essential amino acids to meet your goals.
Supplement to Increase Strength: Mass Gainer
Mass gainers are an effective way to increase your overall calorie intake and do so in a nutritionally balanced way. Unlike standard protein supplements, mass gainers contain a good ratio of carbohydrates and fats, not just protein.
Mass gainers typically contain anywhere from 500-1500 calories and include high carbs, high protein, and lower fats. Often, mass gainers’ packaging breaks down the nutrition by the scoop, so it’s easy to customize for your goal.
Mass Gainer Supplement Recommendation: Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass Gainer
Two heaping scoops of Serious Mass Gainer contains 1250 calories, 50 grams of protein, 250 grams of carbohydrates, 4.5 grams of fat, and vitamins and minerals. Serious Mass also includes proven ingredients to assist your strength gains, like creatine and glutamine.
Supplement to Increase Strength: Creatine
Creatine is one of the most widely used and studied sports supplements on the market and has been for quite some time. While some people wrongly believe creatine use is dangerous, multiple studies show creatine is safe and effective to increase strength.
Creatine is naturally plentiful in our muscle cells and provides energy for work. We get some creatine from red meat, fish, and chicken, and our body manufacturers the rest. Supplementing with creatine improves athletic performance and increases strength.
Creatine is included in the mass gainer we recommend for increasing strength, and it’s also found in plenty of pre-workout formulas. If you prefer to follow a dosing protocol for creatine, you will want to take it individually.
Creatine Supplement Recommendation: PVL 100% CreaPure Creatine
One-hundred percent pure, nano-micronized creatine, PVL is Informed-Choice certified and banned substance tested to ensure you’re getting only what you intend. This product is unflavoured and mixes easily with your protein shake or any other beverage.
Supplement to Increase Strength: EAAs
Lastly, to increase strength, you must allow your muscles to rest and properly recover between workouts. A great way to support your muscles’ recovery is to include an amino acid recovery supplement like BCAAs or EAAs.
BCAAs and EAAs are both amino acid products to assist in muscle recovery. BCAA products contain only the three branched-chain amino acids, while EAA supplements contain all nine essential amino acids.
EAAs are the best choice for muscle recovery when the goal is to increase strength. This is because EAAs are a complete protein supplement, including all the amino acids needed to synthesize protein within the body. Use an EAA supplement during your workout, after your workout, and even on rest days.
EAA Supplement Recommendation: HD Muscle EAA-HD
This EAA supplement includes a pure, clinically backed blend of all nine essential amino acids designed to increase protein synthesis, decrease muscle catabolism, reduce muscle soreness, and increase cellular energy. This product helps you optimally recover between sessions in the gym.
Like any fitness goal, increasing your strength is a big undertaking. By focusing on a planned workout at about 60-80% of your one-rep max, strategically and consistently increasing the weight on your bar, and eating to fuel your muscles, you will be able to crush your goal. Be patient, be consistent, and supplement like a pro.