3 Ways Get Stronger without Adding Weight

You need to challenge your body in order to get stronger. One of the most common ways to get stronger is to add a little bit more weight each training session or each week or month to your lifts and movements. Check out last week’s post, Why You Are Not Getting Stronger HERE.

Eventually, you can’t just keep adding and adding weight to the bar or your hands and continue to make positive progress. Progress isn’t linear and eventually you will plateau. When this occurs, you need to adjust your training variables so that you can continue to challenge your body without adding more weight.

1. Slow Eccentrics

Slow Eccentrics consist of the slow lowering portion of a movement. For example, when going down into the squat, instead of just dropping down into the bottom position, you would go slower into that bottom position. Typically Slow Eccentrics are timed. They can range from 2 seconds to 5+ seconds.

Slow Eccentric Reverse Lunges

Slow Eccentric Goblet Squats

When performing slow eccentrics, we typically advise people to time themselves on a clock so they don’t rush the eccentric portion of the movement. By going slower on the way down, this can be a great way to build strength when you can’t continue to add weight to the bar. It will also make the movement significantly harder. Take our word for it.

2. Pauses

Another adjustment to your training that you can incorporate is pauses. Pauses mean exactly what they sound like, stopping in the range of motion for a split second or for multiple seconds.

Front Squat with a Pause

Mostly any movement where you have to lower the weight and then eventually lift it back up has a point where you can incorporate a pause into it. Pauses can also be great if you are having difficulty in certain points in a lift. For example, if you are having trouble coming out of the bottom of a squat, decrease the weight and incorporate pauses at the bottom portion of the lift to get stronger and better at them.

Pauses can also be great to force an athlete or client to not rely on momentum in difficult portions of the lift. By pausing, you can’t bounce out of the bottom of a squat due to having to stop the movement for a second or two.

Last, if an athlete if having difficulty performing a movement with good technique, we will have them do slow eccentrics and pauses to work on owning and controlling the movement.

3. Lower the Weight and Do More Volume
Another option in addition to adding in slow eccentrics or pauses is doing more volume. What that means is instead of doing 3 sets x 4 reps on a Trap Bar Deadlift,

do 4 sets or 5 sets x 4 reps OR do more sets and more reps. By increasing the number of reps and sets, this is another great way to make a movement harder. The key with adding more volume is to maintain good technique throughout. If your technique is suffering, lower the weight and do your work sets at a lighter weight, with good technique and for more reps/sets.

Also, you may find that you can’t do more reps/sets at a particular weight, ie. 300lbs. Instead, lower the weight slightly to 285 or 290 and increase your volume at that lower weight. Even though the weight decreased, you can still do more work because of the increase in reps and sets. By also lowering the weight, you are going to build a bigger strength base so as you do more work at slightly lower weights, you are building a bigger foundation to support heavier weights down the road.

If you are having difficulty getting stronger, first check out last week’s post HERE, and then try implementing slow eccentrics, pauses, or increases in volume to help you bust through any plateaus and get back to getting stronger.

Andrew Millett