One of the most popular reasons to train with weights at home is for strength…
Indeed strength focused weightlifters are often less forgiving of commercial gyms than your out and out bodybuilder or weekend warrior.
If you want to get strong, and want none of the bullshit then our hardcore guide is for you.
The Basic Equipment
As an enthusiastic home gym owner I can tell you that I understand people not having a lot of equipment… BUT. The sites and gurus that tell you strength training is fine to do without some basic equipment are bullshitters.
You can exercise with your bodyweight all you like, go to a meet and try and outbench any powerlifter and see what happens.
That quick bit of advice shared, let’s talk about those basics.
If you’re serious about getting strong then this is literally all you need as a beginner. If you’re a little more advanced, you should consider getting a heavier set of plates.
This equipment allows you to complete all of the fundamentals. These fundamentals, also known as compound lifts are movements that exercise multiple muscles at the same time.
You can always invest in other things later such as a good pair of wrist wraps and some robust flooring for your garage gym… The bottom-line is that you don’t need all the fancy accessories to get started with your training.
The Fundamental Exercises
These are the basic strength training exercises that you’ll need to perform to get stronger.
- Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Bent-Over Row
You can perform all of these exercises with the basic equipment that I recommended.
No matter how experienced you are, there is one thing about strength training that we all have to understand… This thing is called progressive overload and it is how we get stronger.
A good strength training program accounts for this based on percentages of your 1RM (One Rep Max) instead of absolute figures e.g. 100lbs. These relative figures allow you to progressively improve and become stronger regardless of your baseline strength level when you begin.
Fortunately, there are some great training programs out there, and my personal favorite has to be Rippetoe’s 5×5. It’s proven itself over the decades, and it gets my vote because it’s a no bullshit program for people who just want to put in the work and get the results.
This training program also lends itself well to the equipment I recommended at the beginning of this article, and it’s not going to introduce you to anything but a few variations of the fundamental exercises.
Another one you can check out is 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler which is excellent if your eventual goal is powerlifting.
If you want to get strong then you’ve got to be strong mentally. This means taking no prisoners and suffering no fools, including yourself.
Some of the hardest workers I’ve met in the gym have often failed when it comes to the kitchen.
This is a massive mistake as you need to eat a LOT if you want to get seriously strong.
It’s easier than ever to get nutrition right thanks to the huge amount of supplements, smart watches, and apps that are designed to help us with tracking, managing and planning our diets. Even 10 years ago there wasn’t nearly this amount of helpful gear available.
And I’m not recommending that you don’t make use of that…
But what I will say as someone who got seriously strong at one point, is that I couldn’t have got as strong as I did as quickly as I did if I was trying to stay fairly lean at the same time.
What I’m saying is that you just need to eat a lot and expect a little bit of fat gain while you’re getting towards the strength levels you want to reach.
If you’re like me you won’t find it difficult to gain weight or eat 4,000 calories a day for that matter.
But to the hard-gainers out there, it’s going to be difficult, but you can do it. There are some great accompanying methods for gaining size and weight for strength purposes, such as GOMAD (Gallon O’ Milk A Day). These are hardcore options, but they work. So if you’re a hard gainer don’t despair.
For those of you who worry about getting fat, this shouldn’t happen if you’re training frequently enough and hard enough. That being said, if you’re gaining weight too fast just cut back a little.
Rule of thumb: Increase your calories when you’re struggling to lift more.
Here are a few ideas of some of the best foods for strength training that you can add to your grocery list.
- Beef Burgers
- Protein Powder
No matter what foods you eat you’ll want to make sure you’re eating a crapload of them…
Back when I was strength training for a competition I was eating 5 1/2lb beef burgers, fries, 4 fried eggs, onion rings and a side of ‘slaw every day for 4 months. That was just lunch.
Sleep just like diet is extremely important for recovery reasons. If you’re not sleeping well you’re not going to recover well and that makes you weak.
While it varies from person to person the recommended average amount of sleep for health is 8 hours.
So sleep for at least 8 hours and maybe more on the weekends since you’re training to be above average.
Heavy vs Relatively Heavy
There are two types of heavy…
There is relatively heavy. E.g. what is heavy to me or you.
Then there is heavy.
A beginner who finds 120lbs heavy on the bench press, is still going to be able to go and train again the following day.
An advanced lifter who is lifting 300lbs on the bench press isn’t going to be able to recover as quickly so they will need to train that body part less often.
That’s because regardless of your level, 300lbs does a lot more damage to the body and requires more recovery time.
Keep this in mind throughout your strength training career.
At some point you’re going to need to advance on from Rippetoe’s, 5/3/1 or whatever training program you’re doing.
This is mostly due to recovery, but also because progress can sometimes stall when you’re doing the same thing for a long time.
I purposely mentioned heavy vs relatively heavy before this section as you need to understand it to understand what I’m going to say next.
The most “advanced” part of advanced training is effective frequency.
Effective Frequency is finding the perfect amount of frequency for you personally.
Hint: Frequency = How Often You Train or Train A Certain Bodypart / Movement.
This will depend on things such as your diet, your sleep, your genetics, stress, health and so on… The basic point is that it is different for everyone.
Some guys can train their push movements such as bench press multiple times per week, while others can only train it once per week.
Effective Frequency is about never exceeding recovery, but still training enough to improve.
Different Frequency Programs:
As an advanced trainee, you’re going to need to start creating your own programs, which might sound frightening now if you’re a beginner, but it’s actually a lot of fun.
That being said, depending on your own effective frequency you can try some of the following.
- Total Body – Training 1 Day on 1 Day off.
- Upper/Lower – Training 2 Days on 1 Day off.
- Push/Pull/Legs – Training 3 Days on 1 Day off.
- Splits – Training different muscles on different days, with no days off between or varying amounts.
I recommend that beginners start off training total or “full” body as they won’t be able to lift heavy enough weight to require many days rest between exercising. This advice tends to hold true for both strength training and bodybuilding.
The Final Rep
The bottom-line is that you don’t need fancy equipment, programs or diets to get strong.
The biggest thing holding you back most of the time is the bullshit advice out there which is trying to get you to buy into marketing hype.
Consistency and relentless focus on the fundamentals such as compound lifts, diet, sleep, and effective frequency is all you need to get stronger than 99% of the population.