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Advanced methods for increasing strength

Advanced methods for increasing strength

Strength is becoming more and more fashionable! If you have passed the beginner level and want to increase your strength even more, try one of the advanced training methods presented here.

Muscle strength: "the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to generate strength." This is Mel Siff's definition of muscle strength in his book, which is the basis of all "Supertraining" strength training. Maybe you know of some methods for increasing strength, such as negatives or progressive loading. But there are many more methods than that. 

There are many types of muscle power : relative, absolute, limit or reactive force, to name a few, but all are based on neurological factors. 

Factors that contribute to the increase in power (strength) include adaptations or desensitization of sensory receptors, the rate of muscle tension, intrinsic skeletal factors and the rate of coding - refers to increased activation rate and synchronization of motor units (muscles and nerves that are controlled).

All of this comes from using heavy weights to workouts. A beginner, and even an intermediate, may see improvements in strength from lower weights, but eventually more advanced techniques will be needed to continue to progress. 

All the training methods in this article are based on handling heavy weights to increase the stress - and thus the adaptations - placed on the central nevos system.

There is no single repetition pattern, percentage of maximum force or density that increases to maximum force. There is something that works best for you at some point. Fortunately, you have a choice and what to try, the methods here being proven by time and science that it works. 

1) Loading in waves

Introduced at an NSCA conference in 1991, and made known in 2003 by coach Charles Poliquin, when he promoted his 1-6 training system, this training system consists of groups of 3 sets, each set being heavier (used an increasing weight), but fewer repetitions are made - similar to an ascending pyramid. After it is finished, the wave starts again but the weights are adjusted so that set 4 is heavier than set 1 (the table below will help you understand the principle more easily).

The number of sets can be adapted to become a relatively short session or a heavier one with more waves.

Set reps Weight
1 10 30 kg
2 8 35 kg
3 6 40 kg
4 10 35 kg
5 8 40 kg
6 6 42.5 kg

2. The ratchet system

It is similar to the one above - you use waves - the difference being that you manipulate the repetitions, increasing them from one wave to another. This is done by blocks of two sets each in which the weight remains the same only the repetitions are manipulated.

Set 1 potentiates your nervous system and prepares it for set 2. Set 2 is much harder and requires maximum effort to achieve muscle exhaustion. 

The breaks are relatively small, 90-120 seconds, to reduce potentiation.

Set Weight reps
1 75%
2 85%
3 90%

3) Contrast loading

It is a method similar to method 1-6, in which you contrast sets with very heavy weights and sets with lower weights. It increases the potentiation and the total volume of the training, at the same time being also in the training sphere for the increase of the strength. 

Do a repetition with an almost maximum weight (90-95% of the maximum force), and contrast it with a weight of less than about 6 repetitions (70-80% of the maximum force). 

6 repetitions is just a suggestion - the idea of ​​the easier set is to go to exhaustion. Potentiation and / or fatigue will determine if you do more or less repetitions than 6. 

Set Weight reps
1 90%
x6 +/-
2 92.5%
x1 x6 +/-
3 95%
x6 +/-

4) Cluster training

Cluster sets allow you to do a greater number of repetitions with a higher weight by using short rest breaks during the set. Basically you will do more repetitions with a higher weight. 

Such training methods are very old and have existed for decades. There are different variations but they are all based on the same principle. 

A classic approach to cluster sets is to take 85% of the maximum force (5-6 repetitions) and do 3 mini-repetitions until a total of 12-15 repetitions is obtained. Between the 3 mini-repetitions there are breaks of 15-20 seconds, enough to put the weight on the support and to take your breath away. Repeat the cluster sets (the cluster set is the total sum of the 3-repeat minisets) 2-3 times.

It is important NOT to run out of 3-repeat mini-sets, because you will decrease the productivity of the cluster set by pre-synaptic inhibition .

85% of the maximum force is only indicative, you can choose what percentage you want, but it should be difficult. See the table below for different strategies.

% Maximum Strength Repetitions on the mini-set Total repetitions Rest between mini-sets
85% 3 12 20 seconds
85-87.5% 2 8-10 20-30 seconds
87-90% 1 5-8 30 seconds


As you can see there are several protocols for increasing strength, which use variations with high weights. Try as much as possible to determine which ones are good for you and if some work better for you than others. You will probably need them all at some point. 

All the methods here increase both neural fatigue and mechanical tension which allows excitation / recruitment and then fatigue of strong muscle fibers, which are normally under-used in volume training. The more muscle fibers you recruit, the more pronounced the effect of training.

All the methods here are advanced, they already require a solid foundation of strength and a good execution technique to bring benefits. They are not suitable for beginners or those who are not willing to invest intensity and discipline in training!