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What is Muscular Strength and How to Improve Strength

In this article we discuss the definition of muscular strength, what are the benefits of strength and how to improve your muscular strength.

Improving muscular strength has many health benefits. People who exercise using resistance training regularly sleep better, have better libido, improved metabolic rate, and are at lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems and obesity. Strength training also helps to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of developing type-II diabetes.

What is Muscular Strength?

Our muscles are made up of tiny fibers, which contract upon receiving signal from our nervous system. The combined contraction of our muscle fibers generates force, which enables us to the move objects around us. Muscular Strength is the term used to define how much force our muscle fibers are able to generate by contracting when signaled to do so by the brain.

A person who can generate more force through his/her muscles can move a heavier object and hence is stronger.

Generally, higher the number of muscle fibers one has, higher will be the force generated and hence stronger the person. However there is a factor of neurological efficiency also coming into picture here. A person might have bigger muscles; however if the neural signals activating the muscles are not efficient the force generated will be weak. This explains why some people have big muscles but are still not very strong. We have done a separate video on this topic, you can check it out in the link above.

How to improve strength
The good news is that strength can be improved, and also relatively quickly, compared to other physiological adaptations. It is never too late to improve strength, you can improve strength even in your 70s, 80s and beyond. By challenging the body to move something that it finds difficult will always leads to strength adaptation. This is how we get stronger. By lifting weights or performing some form of resistance training we can improve our muscular strength at any age.

Exercises to improve strength fitness
Although any form of resistance training improves strength, there are certain exercises, which are better than other when it comes to building muscular strength. Three major exercises, which are considered pinnacles of strength are, the Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press. These exercises are used as a gold standard when it comes to mention how strong anyone is.

Although being great at improving strength, these exercises must also be treated with utmost respect as performing them incorrectly may cause serious injury. We will do a separate video series later to describe how to perform these exercises safely. It is highly recommended that you should consult with your physician and a physical health trainer before you start performing these exercises. If you are not able to perform them right now, it does not mean that you can never attain muscular strength. There are other great alternative exercises you can start off with.

You may start off with core strengthening exercises such as the Plank, Side Plank, Glute-bridge, Supermans. These are great exercises for building a strong core, which will translate into great posture and ultimately to major strength exercises. Other great exercises, especially if you do not have access to a gym, will be Push-ups, Bench Dips, Pull-ups and Air Squats.

Sets and reps for strength
There is some debate within the scientific community around exactly how many reps and sets are necessary to improve strength. What is clear is that performing any sort of resistance exercise leads to improved strength in most people. Exercises must be done three times per week, minimally, to have a sustained and long lasting effect. At beginner stage we recommend not to focus too much on the sets and reps and just perform resistance training and ensure that you can lift heavier and heavier as you make progress. At higher levels, athletes should be performing high loads for low reps to optimize strength gain.

A lot of people, especially women, who desire to stay slim and elderly who think it is dangerous, ignore strength training. This is a big mistake as muscular strength is an absolute must for anybody who aims to be fit. Strong muscles translate into strong and healthy joints. Healthy joints will keep you more active and hence healthier overall.

Authors: FD Bulsara and Rahul Yadav