How to Get Stronger Quicker: Exercise, Set & Rep Guide
Updated: Jan 27
Call me crazy, but I don't want things to take forever. Once I've set my mind on something I want to work my ass off and accomplish it as soon as possible. With strength training, this is a little tricky, because the process of damaging muscle and tissues and then letting them rebuild slightly stronger takes time. You're not suddenly going to wake up after a couple of weeks of training and be the strongest person in the world. But, with all that said, there are definitely ways that you can speed up the process and get stronger WAY quicker than you might have originally thought. I say this because as a professional strength and conditioning coach, it's my job to get athletes as strong as possible as quick as possible.
So, I wanted to share with you my 3 biggest pieces of advice for getting strong in a hurry.
First, Use These Exercises to get stronger quicker
Bicep curls, lateral raises and ab work might get you set for the beach, but if strength is your number one priority then it's time to start prioritising compound, multi-joint movements that recruit a tonne of muscle and allow you to lift a tonne of weight.
In my mind, the absolute foundation of strength. The back squat builds immense leg strength as well strength in your hips, glutes and core.
Variation 1: Front Squat
For a more upright option that really targets your quads and builds a strong upper back, whilst sparing your lower back, try out front squats.
Your heaviest lift, the deadlift works your hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors like no other movement. Variation 1: RDL's
Romanian Deadlifts allow you to control the bar from the top down, getting a great stretch on the hamstrings under load, perfect for an intense muscle and strength stimulus.
A staple exercise for upper body strength development, building loads of strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps.
Variation 1: Press Ups
The humble press-up (or push up) is an awesome alternative for the bench press if you don't have access to weights. You can play around with leverages to make them more challenging.
I consider this exercise less important than the bench press (as the bench press till hits your shoulders really well) but still a fantastic addition for strength in your shoulders, triceps and upper back.
Variation 1: Pike Press Ups
This lesser-known press up variation raises your hips to place extra emphasis on your shoulders. You can also progress it into handstand press-ups if you're strong enough.
A fantastic pulling movement that builds strength in your lats and upper back, whilst also building isometric strength in your supporting lower back and hip muscles.
Variations: Seated or Prone Rows
Seated or prone rowing variations are still great back developers but don't require stabilisation from the lower back or hip musculature, making them a great choice for days when your back is too tired to do barbell rows.
Chin-ups are a vertical pulling movement that builds great lat and upper back strength, as well as strength in your biceps, forearms and grip.
Variations: Banded or Machine Chin-Ups
If chin-ups are too hard, try using an assisted chin-up machine, or attaching a resistance band or two to the chin-up bar.
Second, Use These Loads, Sets and Reps to Get Stronger Quicker
Loads (Intensity): I recommend you do most of your strength training between 75-90% of your 1 rep max.
Sets: I recommend you do most of your training with 3-5 sets per exercise. Sometimes slightly more, sometimes slightly less (for example during a peak or testing week)
Reps: I recommend doing most of your training using sets of 3-6 reps. You can occasionally go slightly higher or lower, but this range will give you the best bang for your buck.
Third, Follow These Recovery Rules to Get Stronger Quicker
Your ability to gain strength is mainly limited by your recovery time. If you can fully recover faster, you can train more often, apply more load, and get stronger quicker. To do so, you'll need to follow these rules...
Sleep: 8+ hours per night, ideally 9+. Yes that's a lot of sleep. And yes you can still get stronger on 7 hours of sleep per night. But you want to get stronger as fast as possible right?
Eat: Building strength is easiest in a caloric surplus, i.e. when you're eating more calories than you burn each day, and are gaining weight. This speeds up recovery and increases adaptation immensely.
Drink: To optimise your recovery you need to aim for 2.5-3 litres of water every single day, and even more than that if you're training or live in an especially hot climate.
Relax: Your body doesn't really know the difference between stress from training and stress from work, life and relationships. This is why elite athletes try to live as simply and carefree as possible. To improve your recovery take plenty of downtime, don't overwork, and maintain healthy, positive personal relationships.
Frequently Asked Strength Questions
How fast can you increase your strength?
As a beginner you can increase your strength every single workout (which is awesome) as an intermediate you can increase it every week or couple of weeks, and as an advanced strength athlete you can increase your strength every month, or every few months.
How many weeks does it take to get stronger?
As I mentioned just above, you can get a little stronger in as little as a single session. It's really all about how much stronger you're talking about.
How to become physically stronger without a gym?
You might have noticed that a couple of my exercise variations above were bodyweight exercises, that's because you can get incredibly strong using bodyweight training. In fact, that's pretty much all that gymnasts do and they're some of the strongest athletes on the planet.
*Fun fact, I once coached a squad of talent pathway gymnasts, and the girls would frequently compete to see who could do the most press-ups in 1 minute. The winner got 72! And she was 12 years old.
Use exercises like press-ups, pull-ups, dips, pike press-ups, single-leg squats and jumps, and you'll get a tonne stronger, incredibly quickly.
How to get stronger as a teenager?
Honestly, you follow exactly the same advice I've given above. Use good technique, and if possible train with an older lifter or coach.
How to get stronger as a woman?
Simply put, you follow exactly the same advice I've provided above. The only thing you might need to do is perform a few extra sets of upper body exercises. I've found over the years that women tend to require a bit more upper body work to gain strength there.
1) Get yourself into the gym and start putting this stuff into action.
2) If you want more actionable tips, advice and programmes for strength, consider joining my weekly mailing list.
MSc Strength & Conditioning
Tutor/Educator for British Weightlifting