Building muscle and strength is a goal for many gym goers. If it's your goal, you likely know that packing on muscle requires plenty of "time under tension"— the time during which resistance forces your muscles to work harder to boost muscular strength, endurance, and growth. However, there's much more involved to increase muscle strength than simply lifting weights and consuming protein shakes. We've rounded up four foolproof ways to boost muscle strength every day, no weight lifting required.
While you still need to "do the work," aka resistance training, several other lifestyle factors play critical roles in your body's ability to grow muscle and get stronger. We chatted with Dan Johnston, CPT, certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, who shares his strength-building wisdom with four sneaky (and practical) ways you can tweak your lifestyle to optimize your strength gains and get the most out of your workouts.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits (and avoiding unhealthy ones) can boost your muscle strength in many ways. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, your lifestyle significantly influences your muscle strength. The researchers looked at over 200 healthy adults and found that those who abstained from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption while engaging in leisurely physical activity daily had higher muscle strength. These findings are relevant since muscle strength declines significantly as you age. On average, overall muscle mass and strength decrease by 3% to 5% every 10 years after the age of 30, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
"While working on building muscle strength is your best way to build strength, just like cooking more often would make you a better chef, there are certain ways you can make your strength training more effective," says Johnston. Now, let's dive into Johnston's top tips for enhancing your strength and preventing the dreaded decline in muscle mass as you age.
Get a great night's sleep.
You may have heard many people in the fitness world say, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," but this way of thinking is anything but helpful for your health, including muscular strength. Research shows that consistently lacking high-quality, restorative sleep can cause a reduction in muscle mass and strength. Conversely, better sleep quality and longer sleep duration are associated with increased muscle strength.
"Ensure you do what you can to get a great night's sleep. If that means putting the phone away an hour before bed, cooling your room down, investing in a weighted blanket, or having a snack before bed, make sure you do that to be more productive for the next day," says Johnston. "Being well rested and ready to go is an excellent way to ensure you dominate your workouts and are more focused throughout the day."
Plan your rest days.
Remember to take rest days to help prevent burnout, reduce injury risk, and avoid overtraining. Making time to rest and recover is crucial to optimizing muscular strength. That's because hardcore workouts (e.g., lifting weights) break down muscle tissue, according to the Unversity of Colorado Boulder, while rest allows your body to recover, repair, and build new muscle tissue. However, not allowing rest days or breaks in your workout routine can ultimately hinder your progress, causing fatigue and overtraining.
"Knowing how to manage your stress levels and the type of activity or intensity and duration of that activity is important in your ability to recover and allow your body to be more prepared for your next training session," says Johnston.
Don't neglect mobility training.
Improving your mobility is an easy and effective way to help boost muscle strength without lifting. By increasing your mobility, you'll gain a wider range of motion which can enhance your form while exercising, allowing you to progress faster and get stronger over time.
"By working on your ability to get more comfortable in extended ranges of motion, you can increase your ability to produce force from those ranges of motion," explains Johnston. "This allows whatever movement you're working on building strength in to feel smoother and more comfortable."
Eat in a calorie surplus.
Nutrition is a fundamental component of any fitness goal. And when it comes to growing muscle and enhancing strength, eating in a caloric surplus is a must. However, that doesn't mean it's a free-for-all and you should eat to your heart's content.
"Allowing your body to feel like it has energy for whatever demands you're about to place on it will allow you to perform better," says Johnston. "Also, your body needs to be able to build new muscle, so by eating more than usual (a caloric surplus of around 200 to 300 calories [per day] is fine), you allow your body energy to grow muscle."