Strength Development 101:
4 Ways to Build a Good Base of Strength
By: Samantha J, CPT

Strength Development 101:
4 Ways to Build a Good Base of Strength
By: Samantha J, CPT

Let me just say this from the start, strength gains aren’t linear! They don’t occur without the highs and lows of training. Whether you’re an athlete, professional bodybuilder, etc, everyone is bound to fall into some type of plateau or a training period where they feel like they haven’t been progressing as much as they should. It’s all a part of the process and that’s okay! Today, I’m going to talk about some effective ways to curve these plateaus, as well as some effective methods to develop a good base of overall strength for anyone who’s looking to get stronger! Let’s Dive into Strength Development 101!

Now, if you’re reading this article, it’s probably safe to say that you are well familiarized with exercising. You’re looking to reap as many benefits as possible from the work that you’ve put into the gym, and I’m here to make sure that you can continue to see those results. But not without a few challenges of course. Here are my top 4 ways to develop strength and bust through those plateaus!

1. REST and Active Recovery

You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Now I know that this one sounds a little cliché’ but it’s absolutely the truth. Our muscles grow whilst they are being repaired, that’s why it’s so crucial to rest when needed. As we talk about rest, I want to be sure that you understand exactly what rest is and how to implement it into your schedule, in the correct way. Here are a few things that I swear by that you can do when you’re looking to give your body the break that it needs. Each of these things can help aid with recovery if done correctly.

  • Sleep (8 hours if you can)
  • Water and Food (Lots of Protein in particular, as it helps to repair those damaged muscles)
  • Mobility Training and Walking (Active Recovery)


When we are sleeping, our body gets the opportunity to divert its’ energy to other things such as repairing our muscles for growth and fighting off infections, which is why it is IMPERATIVE to get a good night’s rest when you’re trying to increase your performance. While sleeping, our bodies release protein-building amino acids that help aid with recovery, as well as increase our blood flow, bringing nutrients and oxygen along with it.

(I heard that Lebron sleeps like 12 hours a day, hmm I wonder why)

Water and Food

I cannot stress this enough, drink water and eat plenty of protein to help with recovery, as protein is a staple when it comes to repairing your muscles. After all, you want to keep your body hydrated and full so that it has enough energy to repair the body as needed, while also preparing you for the next strenuous session. Also, because the body tends to burn calories well after a good weightlifting session, you’ll want to constantly replenish those calories so that you’re able to maintain your energy throughout the day. Take it from me, a rigorous training method without a solid diet is NO BUENO! You NEED water and good food if you want the body to keep on pushing through those workouts.

Active Recovery; Mobility Training and Walking

I’m sure you hear often that mobility training is a waste of time! Well, I’m here to tell you right now, that statement is bullshit! Sure, you can trudge along, half-assing your workouts if you want to, but did you come here to get strong? Or do you just want the easy way out? I thought so, let’s continue. Sometimes, complete rest isn’t a good option; that’s where active recovery comes in. Active Recovery is just what it sounds like, you’re still being active but not exerting as much energy during the workout as you normally would. Instead, you’re taking it easy by doing something trivial such as walking or mobility training. This type of recovery works to increase blood flow which in turn, provides the body with oxygen and the nutrients that it needs to recover.

  • Want to learn more about active recovery? Stay tuned for our next article.


You’ve probably heard the term “Progressive Overload” a hundred times already, but I guarantee that many people still don’t understand what progressive overload actually means. A lot of people who think about progressive overload, think about it as a way to continuously increase the weight on the bar every day of the week, until they are passed out somewhere, not seeing any real gains and wondering what they’re doing wrong. You don’t have a plan to increase your load, that’s what you’re doing wrong. Let me break it down to you for a sec.

For one, progressive overload doesn’t just refer to how much weight you’re adding to the bar. It can also be measured by:

  • # Of Reps and Sets
  • Level of Intensity or Perceived Exertion
  • Speed of Movement

# OF Reps and Sets

Before you add weight to the bar, try playing with the number of reps and sets that you do during a workout, and progressively overload your sets.

For Example:

If one week you’re able to get 3 sets of 10 reps, try doing 4 sets of 10 reps to build that volume as a means of progressive overloading. Once you can continue to comfortably manage your rep and set increases, then you can add weight to the bar and repeat.

Level of Intensity/Perceived Exertion

This one is relatively very easy and perhaps the simplest one of them all. You’re just simply increasing how hard you work at an exercise by manipulating certain variables that will increase the need for you to work harder.

For example, if you usually slow jog for cardio, try switching it up by adding in a couple of sprints here and there during your cardio sessions. That’ll be sure to burn some extra calories, as well as expose your muscles to a new stimulus thus providing a greater need for strength development. Another great way to progressively overload.

Speed of Movement (Tempo)

Another great technique to use that can be good for progressive overloading and building strength is to alter the speed at which you move the weight. Generally, when moving heavyweight, you’re more than likely moving slow and keeping your muscles under heavy tension which is great for strength development. However, on the days when simply can’t push as hard, it may be beneficial to change up the tempo of your workouts as your muscles will respond differently to a different type of training stimulus. Changing up the tempo will allow you to build a good overall base of strength by challenging your muscles to work differently under different circumstances. Type 1 muscle fibers are generally recruited when the work is easy to manage because easy work doesn’t require much force or intensity. However, if you want to properly train and strengthen your type 2 muscle fibers, you may want to introduce a different stimulus into your workouts, such as “Short Burst of Speed Work”. The longer you make your muscles work, the more you help them build that endurance! Either way, TIME UNDER TENSION matters.

Example: Slow Twitch Fibers (Type1) would be used for activities such as walking, jogging, low-intensity exercises

Fast Twitch fibers (Type 2), would be used for heavyweight training, sprints, etc.

3. Programming

When most people start working out, they do so with the little bit of knowledge that they have and that’s great. However, because these same people more than likely have faulty workout programming, this is where the help of a personal trainer and solid program comes in. I can not stress this enough, if you want to really gain strength and bust through those strength plateaus, you have got to have good programming. Here are my characteristics of a great program and I don’t care who’s doing what, these program characteristics are what I feel makes a well-rounded training program.

  • Variety – Doing the same workouts with the same number of reps every day, is a surefire way to lack results.
  • Frequency – The frequency in which you are completing your workouts will make a huge difference in the results that you’ll be experiencing. Your workout frequency should directly reflect your goals.
  • Mobility Work – One of the most important aspects of a well-rounded training plan. DO MOBILITY WORK
  • Rest – You already knew this one was coming =)
  • Load Management your program should have a clear understanding of load management. Know when to ramp it up, know when to back off.
  • Calisthenics There’s no way around it. Mastering your own bodyweight is the true way to build stability and a good base of overall strength. Bodyweight exercises just give you that mind and muscle connection that is unmatched when it comes to lifting weights. (Pushups, Pullups, Dips, etc)

If you are currently on a program, does your program look like this or does it at least include some of these points?

4. Show Up =)

This is the single most important point of them all because if you don’t show up, the previous 3 points won’t even matter. You can’t gain strength, feel better or become healthier if you don’t show up. You can’t apply any program principles if you don’t show up. You won’t achieve anything if you just simply choose to NOT SHOW UP, so do yourself a favor and carve out just a little time to stay consistent and get things done. If you fall off, it’s okay, we all fall off from time to time but it’s getting back up that matters. Exercise can be intense and sometimes draining, I get it. However, you’d be doing yourself a HUGE favor just by showing up and putting in the work. Whether your goal is to be the strongest person in the world or for you to be able to run around with your kid without feeling fatigued, in either scenario, showing up is the first step.

Now ask yourself, after reading this article are you ready to take that first step?

Thank you for reading, and I hope I just motivated you to get out and move =)