How do I increase my total body strength?

The body's adaptation to a stimulus is directly linked to the variables and parameters of the stimulus. This means that if you want to increase total body strength you should focus on complex, multi-joint exercises. You could opt for a traditional 'bodybuilding' type workout wherein you break up the training for each major muscle group, but I don't think this would be the most efficient and effective way to increase total body strength.

I would recommend performing dynamic, multi-joint exercises using kettlebells, TRX, dumbbells and cable machines depending on what you have available. Examples of multi-joint exercises include variations of the squat and deadlift, KB swings, cleans and presses, pull-ups, renegade rows, etc.

The more planes of motion you are working the better. Don't restrict yourself to moving only forward and backward. Perform exercises laterally and transversely (twisting) as well. Utilize the core muscles for stabilization as much as possible. Depending on your current fitness level, the difficulty and number of exercises you are performing, I would focus on 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Be sure to practice proper form and technique. You should never sacrifice them for the sake of using heavier weight. As your strength increases be sure to vary your workouts to avoid hitting a plateau.

There is a principle titled the SAID principle, which stands for “specific adaptation to imposed demands.” This states that we will only see gains where work has been performed; meaning if you want bigger biceps, you have to train your biceps! If your goal is overall strength, create a resistance training program with 8-10 exercises that target all of the major muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, lower back, quads, hamstrings, inner/outer thighs, and calves).

Start with two sets of each exercise, at a weight that you can perform 10-12 repetitions (no more, no less). Over the next few months, first progress to a slightly heavier weight that you can only lift 8-10 times, and finally to a weight that you can only perform 5-8 consecutive repetitions. Make sure that you utilize a spotter on any exercise that may be challenging!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.