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Six tips for improving strength

Yes, you can get stronger and fitter healthfully without going to the gym or even breaking a sweat.

Everyone wants to be stronger. But few of us have the time or inclination to spend hours sweating in the gym — and is that even necessary or effective, anyway?

According to Dr. Phil Maffetone, it’s not. His new book Get Strong! details how to improve your strength using very basic exercises and minimal equipment from the comfort of your own home or office. No need to change into workout clothes, join a gym and commute there, or stick to a complicated workout plan or schedule.

At the basis of the program is performing one to six repetitions of a strength exercise using weight that is about 80 percent of your maximum. The minimum rest period between sets is three minutes but can be longer, even a day or more.

This method was developed by Dr. Maffetone through his research and work with Olympic weight lifters, who seek maximum strength while minimizing bulk. In other words, improving strength does not necessarily mean bigger muscles. In fact, the opposite is often true.

It’s a difficult concept for many to grasp, but real strength gains come from training the brain to employ more muscle fibers rather than increasing the size of the muscles. Too much bulk can actually be detrimental for endurance athletes.

While many so-called strength programs involve hours of endless sets, isolating muscle groups, cycles of soreness, and a gym membership, MAF strength training requires none of that.

Here are six tips to help you get stronger — starting right now if you choose.

  • Use your brain. There’s some truth to the old joke that your brain is your strongest muscle. The MAF strength-training approach increases the brain’s ability to contract more muscle fibers, producing more strength from less bulk.
  • Start out slow. Minimally, even one single rep executed properly will kickstart your journey to getting stronger. Why wait? You can begin right now.
  • Choose your weight wisely. Ideally you want to use an amount that is about 80 percent of your one-rep maximum. To determine this, instead of attempting a max lift, play around with adding weights until you find the amount that you can comfortably lift about 6 reps before reaching undue fatigue.
  • Recovery is key. It is paramount that you rest at least three minutes between sets. You can rest more — an hour, an afternoon or a full day, but you must take at least a three-minute break.
  • Just pick it up. One of the best total-body weight-lifting moves is to  simply pick up a barbell from the ground and lift it to your waist. This is called a “deadlift” and brings a lot of muscles into play throughout your entire body. However, it must be performed correctly. Seek out specialized instruction if you have any doubts.
  • Take your workout to the kitchen. The battle for more strength is partly won in the kitchen. If you’re eating junk food, stop that. Instead, eat real foods, including quality protein, healthy fats, and natural carbs if you tolerate them.

MAF Strength training is the no-sweat healthy approach to gaining strength. For more in-depth detail about this program, including diagrams of additional strength moves, check out Get Strong here.