Strength is the foundation to everything for athletic performance. Want to run faster, jump higher, or throw harder? It starts with strength. It's possible to reach the point where you are strong enough, but most will never reach that point. Strength should be a large focus of your training programs.
That being said, here’s two reasons why you may not be seeing your strength improve as much as you’d like:
1. Too much time displaying strength rather than building it.
We all have egos, and we all want to be able to sound strong when someone asks what our max bench, squat, or deadlift is, but we shouldn’t be trying to hit that number every time we train.
Most of us have to learn that lesson the hard way.
I’ve seen it time and time and again training competitive athletes. Once they hit a really big PR for the first time, they get addicted to it, and think they should be doing it every week.
It’s my job at that point to remind them that they’re in the gym to get better at their sport, weight lifting is not their sport.
I appreciate the drive to always want to be lifting maximal weights, but in the long term this is not the best approach.
Lifting your max weight is very taxing on the body and requires a lot of recovery time. If you’re the guy that’s going max-effort week in and week out on every single lift and you’ve noticed you’ve started to plateau, there’s a good chance you’re not giving your body the recovery it needs.
I typically don’t do very much percentage-based training with our athletes but working in the 75-90% range offers a lot of benefits. It’s going to allow you to make sure you have perfect form, and also add volume which is necessary for building size and strength.
I like to tell our athletes to keep most lifts at 7 or 8 out of 10 on the difficulty scale; not everything is a 10 out of 10.
In the meantime, you won’t be beating up your joints trying to hit 1 rep maxes every week.
Then when the time comes to feed your ego and hit a big lift, your body will be recovered, stronger, and your 1RM will likely be higher than it was before.
2. Lack consistency
Over the years I’ve noticed every time a high school athlete gets their license they pack on a lot of muscle and their athletic performance goes up. The reason for this is now they don’t have to rely on their parents to get them to the gym, and they become a lot more consistent.
Training isn’t a magic pill or a quick fix. You actually have to put in the work to see long term results. Don’t expect to see any meaningful improvements if you’re not consistent in the gym.
When parents ask me how often their kids should be coming in my answer is bare minimum 2x per week, but they better be consistent each week. Most of our athletes do 6 days per week.
We don’t live in a perfect world and things come up, but there’s no reason why you can’t train throughout the year if you want it bad enough.
This means you may have to train on gameday or after practice (our athletes do it all the time).
Your workouts aren’t made to destroy you. If you’re consistently too sore after your work outs and can’t play you’re going about your training process the wrong way.
I like to remind those who are afraid to lift on game day that Major League spring training starts in March and the World Series ends in October. Do you really think Major League baseball players who are running faster, throwing and hitting the ball harder than ever are going 8 months out of the year not lifting weights?
If they can lift on game days during 162 game season, there’s no reason why a high school kid can’t during a 25 game season.