I Googled "how do get stronk" and was led to an article by wikiHow. As somebody who has been an athlete his entire life, weight trained consistently for over a decade, and studied extensively into dieting and nutrition, I thought I'd give my thoughts on their thoughts so that you can form your own thoughts.
Jokes aside, the article opens up with some solid advice: When it comes to getting stronger, weight/resistance training is by far the most effective means. This is because weight/resistance training leads to muscle hypertrophy (i.e., muscle growth). The following are wikiHow's suggestions for making steady muscle gains while remaining safe.
Part 1: Weight Training for Strength
This section focuses on how to build a solid foundation in weight training. Much of it is tailored to beginner lifters, but there are some key disagreements I have with their suggestions that can mean the difference between staying mediocre and becoming an elite strength athlete.
1. Plan a Strength-Building Program
Before we dive into wikiHow's lifting suggestions, here's a shameless plug to my free powerbuilding program. The article states that to build strength, you'll need a resistance-training or weight-training program. They break this down into two subcategories:
- Free-Weight Exercises: These exercises are your typical barbell and dumbbell exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, cleans, etc. The article then mentions machine exercises, which should be used to supplement your free-weight exercises. I would add that free weights are what you need to focus on if you truly want to get strong.
- Bodyweight Exercises: I agree with the article when it says to start with bodyweight exercises. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, burpees, running, etc. are all great exercises to gain a baseline level of strength, endurance, and balance. Think of it as your foundation. From here, you can consider moving to more serious weight training.
2. Start Slowly
Again, I agree with the article when it says to ease your way into weight training. They suggest learning exercises by staying at a light weight and doing high reps. For example, you can learn how to do barbell squats with just the bar at first. You need to get familiar with the exercises before you can push any serious weight.
I disagree with the article's statement that you can get good strength gains with two to four workouts of 30 minutes per week. That simply isn't enough, unless you want to make progress at a glacial pace. Three to four days per week is a good place to start, and train for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Their suggested one to two minutes of rest between sets is rather short for weight training. I would suggest two to three minutes.
3. Use Proper Form
Yes, form is important, but strict adherence to "proper form" sets a lot of lifters back. For beginners, the article is correct in saying to start with lighter weights. However, everybody's form is going to be a little bit different, especially at heavier weights. You should strive for good form, but don't be afraid of minor form breakdown.
The article says to watch yourself in the mirror, which is not good advice. This will train you to turn or tilt your head out of position, and not pay attention to what you're doing in the moment. Instead, focus on your cues and record your lifts to analyze between sets or after your workout.
The article makes a good point when it says not to hold your breath. Bracing is not the same as holding your breath. They suggest to do easier variations of exercises if you can't perform them (such as pull-ups or push-ups), which is the same as lowering the weight.
4. Stop Short of the "Point of Failure"
The article defines the point of failure as the point when you can't do an exercise anymore with proper form. Again, this is ambiguous and, I suppose, ok general advice. You don't want to kill yourself every set. That said, many strength athletes will do "cheat reps" to knock out a few additional reps, increase volume, and maximize muscle hypertrophy. The key is finding balance between pushing yourself and not getting too sloppy with your form.
5. Choose Between Muscle Size and Muscle Tone
Everything about this section is stupid. The article claims you can do one of two things:
- Train with high weight and low reps to get massive
- Train with low weight and high reps to get toned
You should be doing both variations in your strength-building program. If you want to get legitimately strong, then high weight and low reps is essential; however, it's not smart to max out every set of every workout. A good weight-training program will incorporate both lifting styles to allow your body to recover while maximizing your lifting volume. If you only do low weight and high reps, you're not going to get strong. You won't even be "toned" unless you diet correctly.
6. Ramp up Your Workout Over Time
Overall, this statement is good advice. You won't get stronger by staying in your comfort zone. Like anything, though, progress will take time. Keep track of the weights you lift and reps you perform for different exercises, as well as roughly how many sets you do (I estimate this mentally because energy levels and other factors make lifting an inexact science). You should see progress toward heavier weights, more reps, and more volume.
7. Exercise Safely
If the article hasn't harped on it enough, here it is again: don't be dumb. For example, use a spotter if you're not sure you can execute a lift. Random gym goers will happily assist you the best they can, but you don't want to need to count on them (you can't assume everyone will be a good spotter). Additionally, pay attention to nagging injuries or excessive soreness, and be sure to incorporate dynamic stretching, warmups, and recovery efforts into your program.
Part 2: Making Lifestyle Changes
This section points out an indisputable fact that every serious weightlifter understands: it's a lifestyle. If you rely on motivation, you will fail. Developing your mind and body is a 24/7 task that requires you to change the way you live your life.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet With Protein
I'm not going to bother repeating what the article says here. I would highly recommend that you read my article on if it fits your macros (IIFYM). I discuss flexible dieting, macro nutrients, and similar nutrition topics. Here are a few very general suggestions for those too lazy to read or watch it:
- Eat at least around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day (for women, the minimum is closer to 0.6)
- It's easier to gain strength in a caloric surplus
- To lose weight, all that matters is being in a caloric deficit
2. Eat a Calorie Surplus Each Day
As mentioned above, it's easiest to gain strength and size when in a caloric surplus. You can do the same while maintaining your body weight and even while losing weight (although, this requires expertise and is not sustainable). The article's suggested surplus of 300 to 500 calories per day is very high. Instead, do what they say when they suggest to gain an average of 0.5lb to 1lb per week. As for meal timing, it isn't as important as hitting your daily calories and protein.
3. Balance Your Workouts With Rest
This section is good. They state how working out breaks down your muscle tissue, so it needs time to recover. For beginners, they now say to workout three to four times per week. They also say to switch the muscle group you're training each workout (it amazes me how many people do "full body workouts" every training day). Alternating muscle groups (such as chest and triceps one day, and back and biceps the next) is the best way to balance your workouts with recovery.
Furthermore, sleep is certainly important. The article says to aim for seven to nine hours per night. I usually get about seven. If you can, training when you feel loose and rested is ideal. Unfortunately, that gets harder as you get older and take on more responsibilities.
4. Consider Cardio for Endurance
I agree with this section rather strongly, as many strength athletes neglect their cardiovascular endurance. Completing even minor amounts of cardio throughout the week will help you do more lifting sets, which increases your volume and, ultimately, your strength. You shouldn't overdo it, but some can be useful. The article says it's a good way to warm up, but I disagree. Perform dynamic stretches to warm up for your lifts and stay fresh, and knock out cardio after or separately.
5. Don't Overtrain
Now, I must strongly disagree. It's very difficult to actually "overtrain." If you do the same lifts every day like an idiot, then maybe you will. Any program that alternates your lifts by muscle group will make it almost impossible to overtrain. People often use soreness as an excuse to not workout. The keys here are to learn the difference between soreness and injuries, and warm up properly before your workouts. If you think you need to take an extra day off, go in anyway and stay light. If you still feel off the next day, then perhaps you do need extra rest.
6. Be Patient and Consistent When It Comes to Fitness Goals
To conclude, the article reiterates to remain patient and consistent. Again, progress will take time and lifestyle adjustments. You should see progress over the course of a few months, but many of your goals may not come for years. Have fun, be disciplined, and GET STRONK!