Muscular strength refers to the overall energy a muscle can exert in a single effort. A measurement of strength is often applied when bench pressing or squatting, but improving your muscular strength takes commitment and hard work. The challenge to your muscles is to lift progressively more weight over a period of time to build your strength. This can be accomplished through various methods of training. Exercising with free weights, machines, barbells and dumbbells is a good and effective place to start increasing your muscular strength.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training improves muscular strength by gradually building up your muscles, tendons and ligaments, and bone strength. By challenging your muscles with increasing weight and repetitions, you stress them, increasing their size and causing hypertrophy. Significant increases in muscle fiber hypertrophy begin to appear after 16 workouts. While your muscles increase in size, your increase in strength is due to the resistance in training, which develops more efficient neural pathways to your muscles. Additional benefits include increased bone mass, which helps prevent osteoarthritis.
The Sport of Powerlifting
The sport of powerlifting is designed to test a weight lifter’s absolute strength through explosive movements with heavy loads. The fundamental exercises are the squat, bench press and the deadlift that require pushing, pulling and squatting, which are the core forms of powerlifting. Improving your muscular strength through powerlifting will require a workout plan that focuses on lowering you repetitions and training with heavy weights.
Compound exercises are multi-joint exercises that rely on the coordinated actions of several muscle groups to build muscular strength. An example is the squat because it uses your hips, knees and ankles, putting increased strain on your quads, gluts, hamstrings, back, abdomen and a multitude of small stabilizing muscles. Strength-training compound exercises should range from eight to 12 reps and use heavy loads. Bench press, military press, rows, squats and deadlifts are common compound exercises. Three to five sets are commonly performed.
Body-weight training forces you to use your own body weight as resistance. Upper-body exercises include pushups, pullups, chinups and dips. Improve your chest and biceps workouts by performing four sets of 15 to 20 reps for each exercise. Lunges and squats are popular lower-body exercises, and situps and crunches will strengthen your core.
- Fit Day: The 5 Components of Physical Fitness
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- Strong Lifts: Strength Training: Key to Building Muscle & Losing Fat
- ACE Fitness: Fit Facts -- Strength Training 101
- University of New Mexico Exercise Science: Resistance Training: Adaptations and Health Implications