If you’re looking to gain a tonne of strength and become A Strong Motherfucker™, it’s pretty much mandatory you get yourself someone who can coach you. A coach’s job isn’t just to get you stronger – it’s to get you stronger whilst using correct form, so your risk of injury is massively reduced. An injury could screw you up for 3-6 months, massively ruining your progress – it’s to be avoided at all costs.
A good coach also ensures you’re actually making consistent progress, and can push you when your gains start to slow down.
Before I started seeing my current coach, I was trying to figure out how to squat on my own. Despite watching literally 100+ hours of squat videos and reading countless articles, my form was always off, and my knees would hurt like hell every time I squatted. My lower back was also in pain any time I deadlifted, and it became so bad I couldn’t progress on any of my lifts. I spun my wheels for over a God damn year, adding a bit of weight, hurting myself then having to lower the weight, then trying to work up to more weight… over and over and over again, never getting anywhere.
The nutty thing is my coach fixed both those issues within the first 2 sessions, and touch wood, I haven’t had any sort of injury or issue in 2 years of seeing him.
I even talked a mate of mine into seeing the same coach, and his strength and form have both massively improved over the last year (especially his benchpress). Another mate of mine has joined a powerlifting group that meets twice a week for group support and coaching.
“You wouldn’t try and become an elite tennis player, training 5 days a week, without hiring a coach. So why the hell do guys go to the gym 5 days a week, dedicating hours and hours to it, without a coach?”Andy’s Coach
Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Strongman & Bodybuilding
If your goal is to get strong, there’s a few different training methods you can go with. Personally I’m a huge fan of powerlifting – it’s the most simple, you get the most bang for your buck when training (especially as a newbie), and it’s the easiest to keep track of progress. It requires the least number of hours in the gym – if you’re efficient, you can make massive progress with just 3 x 1hr gym sessions per week.
Powerlifting uses 3 main lifts: the squat, the benchpress & the deadlift. You might throw in a few easier “accessory” exercises (eg bicep curls, calf raises, etc) but they’re not necessary to make progress. My coach and most powerlifting experts recommend just sticking with the squat, bench, deadlift (abbreviated to SBD, or sometimes called “The Big Three”) for your first year or so – there’s no need to change things as long as you’re making progress each week.
Weightlifting, also known as Olympic Weightlifting or Oly, uses the same lifts you see when watching the Olympics – Clean and Jerk, the Snatch, etc. They’re great lifts for getting stronger but perfect form is paramount – it’s incredibly easy to injure yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t recommend it to anyone with less than 2 years experience lifting weights.
Strongman is the cool shit you see big fat guys doing – flipping tires, throwing massive kegs 10 metres into the air, picking up giant rocks and generally being badasses. Strongman gyms are a little more rare than powerlifting gyms, but if you can find one they’re awesome fun and you’ll gain a tonne of strength. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be fat to be a strongman.
Bodybuilding focuses more on building muscle (hence the name), but a side-effect is you’ll naturally gain some strength along with it. I don’t recommend it if strength is your main focus though. If you’re new to the gym, focus on strength for your first year at least so you have a nice base to work with, then transition over to bodybuilding if you desire. If you’re super weak, doing bicep curls with 5kg dumbbells isn’t going to do anything for you except waste your time. Build up some strength first, then do bodybuilding once you can lift decent weights.
There’s also Crossfit, but that’s not so much about strength – it’s more focused on endurance & overall fitness.
Finding a Coach
Finding a good strength coach isn’t that hard. Just Google “Strength Coach [name of your city]”, or “Powerlifting Coach [City]” or “Weightlifting Coach [City]”. There’s likely going to be multiple in your city, so send them all a quick copy-paste message briefly explaining your current experience levels, and your goal (hint: “to get stronger”). Whichever coach gives you the best response and gets you pumped up to train with them, go with that person (or try out a few different coaches til you find one you really click with).
You could also befriend the strongest guys in your gym, and offer to throw them a bit of cash/beer in exchange for advice and training. Notice I said strongest and not biggest – pick a guy who’s deadlifting, squatting, and benching heavy weights, as those are the best indicators of strength. Don’t just go to the guy with the biggest muscles – it’s possible to build muscle doing isolation exercises which doesn’t always translate into raw strength. The biggest guys might not be the best teachers either, especially if they don’t do any strength movements (squat, bench, deadlift).
Another option is to find a powerlifting/weightlifting/strongman/strength group in your city. Meetup.com is a good place to start, but again you can simply Google “Powerlifting Groups [City]”, etc. Surround yourself by a good bunch of people (most powerlifters are super friendly dudes) and they’ll help coach good form and push your strength levels through the roof.
So now it’s up to you to go out there and get it done – find yourself a coach and start kicking some ass in the gym. Any questions about finding a good coach? Drop them in the comments below.