-“Training for Maximal Strength – Part I"
-“A Fantastic Biceps Exercise – Incline DB Curls”

-“Nutrition: Dinner Options”





In general, the strength of an individual is related to amount of muscle the individual has, therefore, the more muscle the stronger the individual should be, BUT how does that explain a 130lb woman’s ability to bench press 200lbs or more? Or how a handful of individuals have accomplished a bench press of over 3x’s their body weight?


The answer may lie in the nervous systems contribution to strength. That is, the connection between the command (nervous system) and the force generator (the muscles). In theory, by training to increase the strength of the nervous system, we should see a disproportionate increase in strength in comparison to the increase in muscle size.


Maximal strength may be defined as, “the heaviest load that can be lifted at a given velocity” and the most practical example of this is a 1 RM (one repetition maximum). The development of maximal strength has been suggested as a requirement in achieving maximal power and performance in explosive activities. Therefore, developing maximal strength is referred to as developing the strength “base” and is often implemented prior to “power” or explosive training in athletic training routines. 


The most important factors in training for “maximal strength” are the choice OR type of exercise, the exercise intensity (“load”), and the volume of training (# of repetitions combined with the frequency of training). Other factors that may be of importance include the technique and tempo of the lift, training to failure, the amount of recovery between sets and between training sessions, and the order of exercise. We will examine the 3 primary factors in, “MAXIMAL STRENGTH TRAINING: PART I”.


Exercise type

Remember the “specificity of training” principle. For example, if you want to improve your maximal strength in the squat, you must train in this exercise rather than with the leg press. Both the eccentric (lowering of the weight) and concentric (raising the weight) phases are important in maximal strength development.


Eccentric contractions permit the greatest intensity and highest muscle tension and results in the greatest muscle damage and DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness). Concentric contractions must also be performed because there is a greater recruitment of the muscle fibers in comparison to eccentric contractions. Perform both phases of the exercise with control for maximal benefits.


Exercise intensity (“load”)

A high training intensity (heavy load) increases the neuromuscular activation, therefore recruiting and training more muscle fibers. The training intensity should be measured by RM load rather than as a % of the 1 RM. That is, clients should aim to use a load that causes muscular fatigue within a certain range of repetitions. For example, if fatigue is met after 6 reps, then the load can be referred to as a 6 RM.


Unfortunately, training based on a percentage of a 1 RM can be significantly inaccurate. For example, an individual may be able to perform 15 repetitions in the leg press exercise at this intensity while only 6 repetitions may be possible in the biceps curl. This is a sufficient intensity for maximal biceps strength, BUT/ not for maximal leg strength. Most studies suggest a RM load of 1- 6 is optimal for maximal strength development.


Exercise volume

How many sets and exercises should be performed?

Multiple sets appear more beneficial, BUT/ remember the law of diminishing returns: 2 sets are not 2 times as effective as 1 set, etc. After an adequate warm-up (2-3 sets of 50-75% of the working weight), the first working set should be the highest intensity possible. Even with an adequate rest interval, the second working set will still be performed at an intensity lower than set #1 due to a decrease in force production capacity.


During multiple set training, the exercise should be discontinued when force production is reduced by 10%. At this point of fatigue, the exercise is not effective in recruiting an optimal number of muscle fibers. For example, if the set #1 is 200lbs for 6 reps (when training at a 6 RM), the exercise should be cut off when 180 lbs. is the maximal weight that can be lifted for a 6 RM (6 reps). 


How often can/should I train each muscle group?

Anecdotal reports suggest a frequency of 2 training sessions per muscle group each week is optimal for maximal strength.  Remember that the volume of each workout will be less than traditionally performed in most “body-building” type routines. However, this area is poorly researched and is based mostly on anecdotal reports from successful strength coaches.


The frequency of training can be reduced if strength maintenance is the training goal (for example, in-season training for athletes). The key is to maintain a very high-intensity of training. Detraining (loss of strength) occurs more rapidly than the rate of strength gain, BUT/ by training for maximal strength with low-volume workouts 1-2 times per week, strength levels can be maintained.


Workouts are low-volume (very few exercises, sets, and repetitions) and may contain only 1-2 sets for 1-2 exercises per muscle group. Extremely strong individuals may need to perform 3 of these low-volume high-intensity workouts. Also, if a body part is highly used in performance, then training frequency will likely need to be reduced on a case by case basis. 



In summary, these are the primary guidelines for MAXIMAL STRENGTH TRAINING:

·         decrease the volume of each training session

(in comparison to muscle hypertrophy training)

·         increase the training frequency of each muscle group (~3-4 sessions per 2 weeks)

·         choose the proper/specific exercises for improvement

·         train using a very high intensity

: 1-6 RM x 3-6 sets per muscle group x 2-4 sessions per week





The incline of the bench should be between 45 and 75 degrees. Sit back with the head and entire back resting against the pad and hold dumbbells (DB) at the sides with the arms fully extended. The weight of the DB’s should be less than the weight used in normal DB curls.


Begin the exercise by curling the DB’s up to shoulder level BUT/ keep the elbows stationary to prevent any recruitment of the anterior deltoid muscle. Also, keep the palms supinated (turned up) at all times to maximally stretch the elbow flexors. After curling the weight up, lower the DB’s at the desired tempo (speed of movement) and repeat for the given number of repetitions.


The incline DB curl is effective at isolating the long head of the biceps. For variation, different bench angles can be used. A lesser incline results in a greater stretch of the biceps, increases the difficulty of the exercise, and increases the muscle fiber recruitment of the long head of the biceps. A greater level of biceps flexibility will permit a lower bench setting, BUT/ a completely flat bench may be dangerous for shoulders and rotator cuffs and therefore the incline should be at least 45 degrees.





Plan and arrange this meal around training requirements and competition (i.e. a small pre-game meal OR a late post-exercise dinner). Vegetables and carbohydrates should be emphasized in addition to a high-quality source of protein. Lean meat sources should be included to provide protein and iron (lean red and white meat and fish). Reduce the intake of fried and battered dishes and increase the frequency of steamed, baked, and broiled dinners. 



                Pasta + lean meat + vegetables

                Steak + baked potato + vegetables + yogurt

                Hamburger + juice + salad + potato

                Fish + rice + vegetables + low-fat ice cream

                Chili + whole-wheat toast + milk + fruit salad






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