The 4 Best Ways to Maximize Strength

By: Josh Bryant 

Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” General Patton’s words need to describe your attitude when training for elite levels of strength. This isn’t a shoving match outside of an SMU frat house, this is a knife fight in the alley behind Hotel Montecarlo in Ciudad, Juarez. The following four methods will take your strength to the next level and require nothing beyond a power rack and barbell. If you provide me the attitude described I will provide you the methodology to take your strength to the next level.

Implement Dead Squats & Presses On the negative portion of squatting and on most pressing movements, you store elastic-like energy because of the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). The SSC helps you lift the barbell out of the bottom position. So once the free lunch is over and it’s dinner time i.e. you have to finish the rest of the lift, it’s up to you and your force generation capabilities. If we eliminate the negative portion of a squat or bench press and do it in a bottom up style—it’s a helluva a lot harder! Enter dead movements. Dead movements are one of the best ways to overload the bottom portion of a squat or bench press variation. To perform dead squats set the pins in a power rack from one to three inches of parallel; the taller you are the higher the pins because taller lifters have a longer eccentric and hence a more powerful pop out of the bottom

  Go to 1:13 in for a video demo

For the dead bench press start anywhere from chest level to two inches off your chest, the longer the arms the further off your chest you start.   

Video All About Dead Benches By starting in the bottom position, you prevent using the elastic assistance and are forced to overcome inertia (which is much more difficult) and start in the stretched position. Only perform dead movements for single repetitions, performing multiple reduces that elastic-like free lunch. Because of all the help generated from the negative portion of the lift is gone, you are training your body to achieve greater motor unit activation (MUA). This will increase starting strength with the ability to instantaneously recruit more muscle fibers and next you will increase your rate of force development (RFD) by producing muscular force much faster! I have used dead movements of some sort with virtually all my world record-setting strength athlete clients; if they are good enough for them what do you have to lose by giving them a shot!

Dead benches helped Peter Edgette become the youngest to bench 600.

Practice Perfect Technique Any breakdown of technique is a breakdown of tension that should be put into moving the barbell! And the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice and more practice! You will not get there practicing at some second-rate dive in a drunken stup or—


you will get there with purpose-driven, perfect practice. Displaying strength is a skill, because of this you must view every single set and rep as technical reinforcement. Not only do we want to develop the skill of strength, we want the desired training effect. My first powerlifting mentor, Steve Holl, would say when squatting high, every inch of depth would equate to an additional 40 pounds on the squat. In other words, squatting two inches high you forfeited nearly 80 pounds of training effect. If you consistently change your range of motion you forfeit any prayer of strength salvation and have no way to quantitatively track the amount of work you are doing! Knock off the idle chit chat between sets and quit focusing on updating the nine people watching you on Facebook live, use every warm-up, rep and set for what it is–a chance to build the skill of strength.  

Jeremy Hoornstra makes every bench press look the sameMovement Intention

Bodybuilders talk about muscle intention—this means feeling the muscle you are working.  An example would be if you are performing a concentration curl, you focus on intentionality feeling the biceps do the work. For strength, I am going to introduce a concept I call movement intention.  This simply means when performing a core barbell movement on the positive portion you concentrate on moving the barbell from point A to point B as explosively as possible. Even with heavy weights that move slowly by default, we still want to have the intent to squat the bar as explosively as possible. The same holds true with lighter weights. Continually performing sets with maximal force production workout after workout accelerates (pun intended) strength gains. Remember, force = mass x acceleration. Every time you lift a submaximal weight, you can still produce maximal force. Maximal force produces adaptive overload that gets you stronger. Lifting moderate weights with maximum force provides many of the strength-training benefits of using maximal weights.  The flip side is lifting a maximal weight with the intent to move it as quickly as possible has the benefit of explosive strength. Strength gains, in a large part, adapt to your Central Nervous System’s (CNS) intent to move the barbell explosively.  This little nuance yields some huge dividends over the accumulation of years of training.

Muscle intention and movement intention in detail.

Prioritize Strength If your weekend is defined by two steppin’ and long neckin’ you are sacrificing strength gains! You need to structure your lifestyle to one that is conducive to gaining strength.  I mean structuring your lifestyle with proper nutrition, adequate sleep, supplementation, the right training environment and yes, this will require sacrifice. If your deadlift has plateaued for a year, place it on a day with the most favorable training conditions.  If every Thursday is mandatory overtime with heavy labor, don’t deadlift that day. Do what is most important first in the workout, Joe Weider called it “Muscle Priority” training principle.  Research shows that you will perform best on what is done at the beginning of a workout. Prioritize strength training and gains will become your new purgative, otherwise you can keep spinning your wheels in strength-training purgatory. 

Final Thoughts Strength is a skill, without proper prioritization you will never make it to the big stage or, more importantly, reach your maximum potential. Use these four strategies coupled with the right attitude to take your strength beyond your wildest dreams. Time to hit the pig iron! Josh, in conjunction with ISSA, will be offering a free strength training seminar in Long Island, New York on August 5th. Spots are limited, sign-up by clicking HERE.