Whenever I think of maintenance work in a program, my mind automatically shifts to “gun show” exercises.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because, for years, I would lift something really heavy, think I was done, then automatically start doing bicep curls. Boy was I wrong. The more I dove into reading about powerlifting and strength sports the more I realized what good maintenance work was. Here are some things I would have you consider if you truly want to get stronger.
Utilizing Muscle Groups
There is a common theme that many people follow when it comes to “getting stronger” and that is that you can’t use the same muscle groups in consecutive workouts. The only time I would say that holds merit is when talking about heavy deadlifts. It is absolutely ok to use the same muscle groups from workout to workout. Notice I’m talking about muscle groups, not muscles. I’ll use some of my powerlifting programming as an example.
When heavy deadlift day is over, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see some sort of deadlift or hinging motion for a week. On the contrary, the last thing I want to happen is for that movement pattern to go unused for an entire week. So I may program a lighter load and use a 1 leg pattern or timed exercise. That way we are still stimulating those muscles to work, they don’t get cold, are ready to go and are even, potentially, stronger by the next week of heavy deadlifts.
The One Leg Options
Using two legs to do any lower body exercise is easy. The only thing that can truly make things like squats and deadlifts harder is more weight. That being said, the more weight you load on a bar and lift, the more stress on your body and more importantly, your spine. And guess what, YOUR BODY NEEDS REST! The best part? You can “rest” your body and spine and still do a strength training routine. How? Train with one leg.
If you are trying to have a stronger squat, programming things like step ups and split squats, both loaded or unloaded, as maintenance work on days you aren’t squatting heavy are a huge help. The same goes with deadlifts and 1 leg deadlifts. By programming these 1 leg variations, you may be using a bit lower weight, but you are allowing your body to strengthen the same large muscle groups while cutting the amount of spinal strain in half. Pretty clever, eh?
The largest mistake I see when people talk about wanting to get stronger is their exercise selection. Not from the stand-point of choosing the wrong exercises, but instead by choosing too many. There is a fine line between overloading with exercises and reps and overloading weight progressively and not only making muscles stronger, but by making connective tissues like ligaments and tendons stronger.
If your goal is true strength, you may find it hard to believe that I’d want you to rest more, choose fewer exercises, and keep track of the loads you use. Choosing too many exercises and breaking down muscle tissue may work for muscle growth, but before long you’ll find yourself hitting a strength plateau that leaves you scratching your head wondering why.
Strength is something you can’t chase with more exercise. You absolutely must chase it with rest. In addition, to get stronger, you must be willing to lift heavier weights. In the words of Eddie Hall, “In order to be above average in strength, you must be willing to do what those with average strength won’t” (I’m paraphrasing of course). Maintenance work should push you toward your goal. If your goal isn’t to have the world’s largest biceps, it may be time for a program overhaul.
And, if you have questions about fitness, nutrition, hunting or simply want to connect, shoot us an email at email@example.com. We look forward to connecting with you!
Nick Lape has a degree in exercise science and is the lead trainer for Fit To Hunt