If you’ve always struggled to get strong muscles, here are three great and simple moves you can do to start building some serious strength!
Many people get so frustrated that they just can’t seem to build strength, size or muscle definition. I hear this complaint a lot more from men than I do from women. We are all born with basic genetics that determine our shape and size; we can alter this code slightly with our lifestyle choices, but it’s a fact that not all men were made to look like the ‘Incredible Hulk’ in the same way that not all women were made to be skinny. Many men naturally have a lean frame and find it hard to put on muscle.
My advice is to make the very best of your natural physique by building lean mass and getting strong without worrying too much about actual size. I think it’s best to have strong, functional muscle that enhances your daily life rather than bulk or size that simply slows you down.
Fat does not turn into muscle
I love going into the gym and listening in on the many conversations about exercises, size, muscles and diet. The gym is a place where you can learn so much but also hear some common myths being circulated. One crazy conversation I’ve heard a few times is incredibly muscular guys recommending eating tons of junk food calories to gain size and then turn it into muscle. The fact is, it just doesn’t work that way! The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind when I hear such talk. Gaining healthy weight and size is not just about putting a large number a calories into your body. They have to be the right calories at the right time or you may end up just gaining unhealthy weight.
I understand that the 300 lb. bodybuilder in the gym may admit to bulking up on everything, including the kitchen sink, but you have keep in mind that they’re also training three to four times harder and longer than the average man. Another thing we don’t see is that their internal health may be paying the price for eating too much junk food. So before you head to eat all of the junk food you can find to gain some extra weight, try eating a balanced diet with adequate protein combined with my three must do strength moves.
Moves to get strong
They may sound old school, but these moves are effective if you want to get strong! My top three moves that I recommend for building strength and muscle definition are:
This is one of the hardest but simplest moves to master. The underhand grip chin-up is also effective for building upper body and core strength. By simply changing your hand position, you can put emphasis on various muscles in your back, shoulders and arms. Your body weight alone is enough to build incredible muscular strength but you can also use a weighted belt to add additional resistance. If you can’t manage to do a single one, have a buddy assist you or use the assisted machine in the gym.
If you’d really like a challenge to get strong, I suggest doing variations of pull-ups. You can try doing wide grip pull-ups, where your hands will be placed further apart on the pull-up bar. This will contribute to creating a V shape in your back. You may also consider a close grip chin up. This move will involve your bicep muscles more than a traditional chin-up. And if you want to challenge your core, try doing a few pull-ups with leg raises. Once you reach the top of the pull-up, raise your legs in front of you so they are parallel to the floor, then lower.
Perform five sets of pull-ups and/or chin-ups in each workout to build upper body strength. Or, get creative and come up with your own pull-up circuit. Once you master the technique you can watch your strength improve each week.
This is a great functional exercise for building both upper and lower body strength. Hold weighted dumbbells or a sand bag and walk for 20 paces in a lunge style walk. Put the weights down, rest for a few moments and then repeat. I like to do six sets of walking weighted lunges for building leg strength. Be sure to keep a strong, neutral back alignment and use a weight that isn’t too heavy to allow you to use good technique.
Push-ups are the ultimate total-body move for building strength! There are a number of ways you can perform a push-up—you can add in a challenge or make it easier if you’re new to fitness. Try to do push- ups at least a three times a week. Typically 3-4 sets of 20-30 is a good number.
Building strength and gaining muscle doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do have to be conscious of certain things. Try not to have caloric excess and make sure you get a sufficient amount of protein in your daily diet. I understand that gaining weight for some people is not easy but don’t resort to gaining unhealthy weight. It’s better to take your time with quality nutrition and functional exercises.
How many pull-ups can you do? On my last test, I was up to seven good ones, that’s three more than I could do on January 1st, but 22 less than I could do ten years ago. I’m determined to get stronger with each day, so join my quest with me and share your experiences in the comments section!
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.