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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Get stronger without weights or getting bulky?

'I want to get stronger'.

Oddly enough I seem to hear this more from girls than blokes.

Well I've been using an old technique which gets far too little use - the girls and the guys using this are getting much stronger, much faster and with no added bulk.

These are the latest guinea pigs following my Intense Conditioning 12 week program. The aim is to sky rocket stamina, endurance, strength and power all at the same time - and it's working.

This is what James said (bear in mind he has been dropping body fat at the same time)

"I started with my pair of 16kgs but after the first set of Jerks I switched to the 20kgs. I still knocked them out.

In the past, I would have done 3 dips then moved on to the next exercise. This morning I knocked out all the sets and reps like I was fresh"

Being strong doesn't mean you need to be bulky.

Many blokes are so obsessed with just getting bigger so they LOOK stronger, that they forget that, when it actually comes down to it and they are being challenged on a sports field or in an arm wrestle with their 9 year old sister, size often counts for nothing.

Don't get me wrong if you want to be superstrong (like powerlifter strong), then you're going to have to get bigger.

However, there is a oft forgetten way to increase strength and power which doesn't require any of the following:

- A gym which is deliberately kept rusty to keep girls out
- A squat rack covered in chalk
- Steroids
- Vein popping weights and chains

This is great news for those of us who just want to be functionally strong.

I'm like you - I want to be lean, strong and fast without looking like (or training like) a bulky bodybuilder.

By this I mean I want to...

...jump higher
...jump longer
...jump higher for longer faster fast for longer (yes improving your 10k requires increases in strength and power endurance not just another Sunday pavement plod) able to perform lots of pull ups and be capable of lifting heavy weights

What is this secret?

Well as usual it's not so much a secret but more of a forgotten art.

This art form is the use of isometric contractions.

Isometrics come in various shapes and forms but essentially they are defined as 'creating tension without any change in the length of the muscle'.

Not all tension is good!

Isometrics are a great addition for those who want to increase strength without adding muscle by having to do heavy weight training such as 5 x 5 reps of deadlifts or squats, or for those who don't have access to the equipment they need.

This training essentially involves creating near maximum tension in a muscle without moving the joints in question.

This can be done either by simply tensing them on the spot or trying to move an immovable object.


Trying to push over a brick wall

Trying to perform the action of a dumbbell shoulder press against the resistance of a partner who is stronger than you

Why do them?

Isometric contractions enable you to focus on creating maximum tension in the muscles you need to be stronger, such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes for those looking to jump higher.

This will improve the firing patterns from your brain to your muscle enabling you to recruit more of the muscle fibres.

The result is a stronger you!

How do you do them?

All will be revealed soon but my favourite method focusses on being able to generate explosive power.

It goes something like this...

For the chest

Use this to improve push up and bench press strength and punching power if you do marital arts, boxing etc.

Push with 80% of your maximum effort against a wall with both hands for 3-5 seconds.

Your elbows should be at about the angle they are at the bottom of the push up (the hard bit where you struggle the most!)

Make sure you have a strong split leg stance so you don't fall back.

Rest 10 seconds.

Repeat the wall push.

Straight away perform 8 explosive push ups off the floor. If you are just learning to do push ups you would just do normal push ups as fast as possible.

Wear proper attire when doing brick wall isometrics please!

For the legs

Use this to increase your vertical jump.

Isometrics are a bit harder to do with the legs without certain equipment but a great way is to sit in a wall squat (back against wall with knees at ninety) holding two weights.

Sit for 60 seconds creating as as much tension as you can in your legs and bum.

Immediately perform 8 jump squats getting as high as you can.

Perform 4-5 rounds of each exercise.

If you do this once or twice per week in addition to your usual training you will soon find yourself getting a lot stronger in all the exercises you find hard!

Remember all athletic performance requires stress and now you can't use the excuse of a lack of equipment!



Indy Boot Camps said...

Great blog Jon. I learned what a Bloke is in the process!

Keep Rockin It!

Tod Esquivel

Jon Le Tocq, Storm Force Fitness said...

Cheers Tod!

Will keep donig what I can for you guys!


Kelley Moore said...

This is great and thanks for the examples of how to incorporate them. I'm working on getting stronger and trying to get leaner and I am finding that lifting heavy (which is what I understand I should do) really is creating some bulk in my quads. I can tell because my pants are tighter there, and I don't want that! k

Jon Le Tocq, Storm Force Fitness said...

Thanks Kelley,

I'll do some more on this in the coming weeks!

One session per week on single leg squats and one on the iso-jump squat combo will sort you out!

Keep me updated!

Chris - said...

Isometrics are great, at increasing strength at the exact joint angles trained IMO they have fairly low levels of transfer to other areas though.

I do really like seeing someone pushing more bodyweight functional exercises as a whole though. Not that I mind the "chalk covered squat rack".