Updated: Nov 18, 2019
So you have been training for a while yet not seeing the results you thought you would. There are a number of reasons this could be. Here are my top 5 reasons how you could be sabotaging your strength.
You lack grip strength
So you want to do pull ups, chin ups, muscle ups or heavier deadlifts but no matter how strong you feel you just cant do it. Well this might not have anything to do with your muscle strength and everything to do with your grip strength.
Think about it, if your grip strength doesn’t allow you to even do a dead hang from the bar how can you expect your grip to stay strong enough to lift your body up to the bar? Similarly if you are trying to lift great amounts of weight from the ground, gravity is going to want to pull it back down, its science. You need a strong grip to stop the bar slipping from your hands before any of your other muscles even come into play. Focus on your grip strength next time you try to lift heavy, change your grip to a mixed grip (like me in this picture) and see how much heavier you can lift.
However remember the mixed grip is a solution to a weak grip, it is not a cure. The cure is to increase your grip strength. Simple ways to do this is to work the double overhand grip (the standard grip for deadlifts) for as much of your deadlift session as possible, perform static holds at the top of the movement and practice dead hangs from an over head bar, aiming for 30 second hangs to begin with and increasing from there.
You're doing it wrong
Correct technique and form is vital in increasing your strength over time. Sure with incorrect technique you may be able to lift heavier, but this does no mean you are getting stronger.
If you are not completing the exercise correctly then you are only cheating yourself and your gains. If the weight is too heavy your form will suffer and in turn your true strength will suffer. Don’t sacrifice form for weight and don’t let your ego stop you from decreasing the weight and getting the technique right. Remember, partial reps are only going to give you partial results.
Without correct technique you are also at a greater risk of injury. If you’re willing to spend hours in the gym hundreds of dollars on gym fees and supplements then I strongly recommend you invest in a personal trainer or strength coach to teach you how to exercise correctly and safely.
You sell yourself short
You dont train to failure. You finish your reps or your workout with fuel still left in the tank. Training to failure can enhance metabolic stress, which has been proven to lead to hypertrophic gains - aka - helping you gain size and strength. Not training to total failure or not lifting heavy enough for your rep count, will not recruit all the muscle fibers, therefore reducing your potential for improving your strength and muscle size.
You're already there, you're already in pain, so you may aswell be sure you reap the full rewards from it. Don't sell yourself short. I always say, if you can still move at the end of your set, then its not the end of your set!
You ruin your workout
I believe there is no such thing as over training, there is only under recovering. What you do outside the gym to refuel and recover is critical to your growth and strength.
Your recovery strategies, what you eat and when, the quality and quantity of your sleep and your lifestyle stressors all determine how much you’re going to benefit from your training program. Too much stress, eating crappy foods and having a lack of sleep are all going to cause problems to your mind and body, delaying and at times eliminating any potential gains you might see from all your hard work in the gym.
You neglect your weaknesses
This is one of the the biggest factors when it comes to increasing strength. We’ve all seen it or made jokes about it, you know, the ’that person who skipped leg day’ jokes. Well it’s true, just like comfort foods, we all have comfort exercises or muscle groups and we like to stick to training them each time.
The problem is, although we are comfortable doing it, nothing great ever came from comfort zones. There is minimal growth in this technique and also greater risk of injury as your weaknesses will only get weaker.
The ultimate way to train is to train your weaknesses, step outside your comfort zones and push your limits. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Learn to train what you hate and reap the rewards both physically and mentally.
Being strong is more than just lifting a heavy dumbbell. Train for overall strength, both physically and mentally. Give your training everything you have and watch your strength increase faster than you thought it could.