Building strength

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Everyone wants a bit of strength, from lifting boxes to opening a jar lid, strength is something it’s good to have lots of.

So how can we build it?

Take a leaf out of Milo’s book.

Not the chocolate flavoured sugar milo – the Milo of greek antiquity. The legend goes that every day, Milo lifted a small calf into his arms and carried the calf a certain distance.

As the calf grew into a bull, Milo continued his training. On the first day of the Olympics, Milo walked the length of the track while carrying a full-grown bull.

Legend or not even back then they understood the principle of progressive overload: find the weight you can safely lift but still struggle a bit with.

Free weight will give your body the most adaptation.

For example, who would be stronger overall? Someone laying on a leg press machine pushing 500kg up and down a fixed sled or imagine Milo standing up with 500kg of squirming, moving calf on his back! Free weight requires you to do all the stabilisation and control a machine takes away.

Your big basic moves like squats, deadlifts and clean and press work well. Here are some tips: Keep it simple, train barefoot if you can.

The less material there is between your feet and the floor when you lift, the more muscle your body can activate. If your gym requires footwear, thin-soled sneakers or vibrams are good.

Rest three to five minutes between sets of exercise. To lift at your strongest, your body needs to regenerate as much ATP (the fuel source for muscle contractions) as possible. Take the time to feel fully recovered before you attempt any personal record on a lift.

The big muscle fibres are the strongest but the slowest to recover, so if you start the next set too quickly they will still be resting. You may as well be doing aerobics. Warm up well but don’t exhaust yourself. Leave the strength for your main lifts.

Do a specific warm up. Don’t waste 10 minutes on a rower to warm up for heavy squats. Warm up over two to three progressively heavier sets. Keep your main sets around five repetitions.

Just remember whether you’re 18 or 80 the principle is the same, make sure the last rep of whatever you’re doing is the absolute last rep your body can do. You will get strong!

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