Strength Is Never A Weakness: How To Get Strong & Train Injury Free

Welcome to an article with a difference! We have the pleasure of having Andrew Richardson first explain how to get strong, then I will briefly explain what corrective exercises are,

Starting strength

You have decided to get stronger, fantastic news! However you are not too sure how to go about doing that. Plus you don’t know if your friend’s advice is the best in the world. Not to worry, I am here to help. My name is Andrew Richardson, a 3rd year Applied Sport Science student at Teesside University, head coach to the Teesside Barbarian’s Powerlifting Club and IrishPF lifter/coach. My background is working with athletes and the general public, mostly athletes from rugby, powerlifting and athletics.

Before we begin this article, it is aimed at the beginner/intermediate gym goer so here are some guidelines that need to be addressed before we explain what needs to be done to get strong. The reason for the following 14 points is that new gym goers get easily led by unqualified or inexperienced personal trainers (who probably did a six-week course that they think gives them the right to play with someone’s health). Such people have little knowledge on how to train someone safely and effectively.


14 rules for a beginner

  1. You are not an elite level athlete, so don’t go looking for your favourite athletes' programmes. You cannot do them. It's their programme, not yours.
  2. You are not from Eastern Europe and have not dedicated your previous 16 years of your life to learning how to squat, bench, deadlift, clean and snatch. So don’t go and do a Russian-style high frequency programme all because a “bro” told you to do it.
  3. You do not have a dedicated team of nutritional experts, doctors, physios, strength and conditioning coaches. Most likely you are looking to put on some size for the summer, lose some weight for a dress, not trying out for the Olympics. Tailor your goals to you, don't base your goals on someone else
  4. You are not a gym beast, the alpha or the omega and you are definitely not a freak. You are Jeff, James or Jack who likes to have a social life and train to keep fit. Leave your ego at the door – ego-oriented goals will fail from day one, so make your goals task oriented.
  5. Your nutrition probably isn’t the strictest. Don’t worry that you're not trying to cut down to 6% body fat and walk on stage. You are here to get stronger and improve your physical fitness. Walking around at 6% body fat isn’t healthy. Bodybuilders are at their weakest on stage.
  6. If you have been doing three sets of 12 reps, using the same three exercises since you started, you may be wondering why it hasn’t worked. Bro training doesn’t work. Science works. Simple principles of overload, progressive overload, volume and intensity should be applied. Google them right now please!
  7. Girls! The weight room is your friend. Weight will not make you bulky, the only way weight training will make you muscly like a man is if you are taking an insane amount of male testosterone (hormone). Drop the tiny pink weights, get in and get squatting/deadlifting. You will look and feel much better for it.
  8. Weight training does not stunt growth. If this was the case, then all children who climbed trees would be under 5ft. Bodyweight training until age 16, then weight training once kids have learned the correct movement patterns is fine. Don’t use a programme until you're sure it is fine with your bodyweight. An easy example, you wouldn’t bench press if you couldn’t do a press up.
  9. You don’t need supplements. Eat well and eat plenty of good food. Supplements are only needed if you are lacking something in your diet, which is why they are called “supplements”.
  10. Taking more protein in after training will not make you bigger, you will just piss it out. In fact, your urine is probably more expensive than the water you drink. The body can only take in so much protein (or any mineral/nutrient per kg of bodyweight).
  11. There is no such thing as an anabolic window. Period. Eat after training when you can, no rushing to get home and eat within 30 minutes.
  12. Technique over weight. No one cares if you lifted 500 pounds with terrible form. You will just look like the gym idiot. Drop the weight, leave the ego at the door.
  13. Strength training will make you bigger. A stronger muscle means more force can be produced. A bigger muscle means a stronger muscle as well. Both tie into each other.
  14. Basics always win. Basics are hard to mess up, but the advanced stuff is very easy to mess up.

Now that has been dealt with, we can dive into the programming and key terms on how to get strong;

Key Terms

Training Session: What you are training on the day. Today’s training is quads and glutes orientated and will cover back squats, front squats, GHR, etc.

Microcycle: A microcycle is typically a week, due to the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the weekly calendar. Each microcycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macrocycle. A microcycle is also defined as a number of training sessions, built around a given combination of acute programme variables, which include progression as well as alternating effort (heavy v light days).

Mesocycle: A mesocycle represents a phase of training with a duration of between two and six weeks or microcycles, but this can depend on the sporting discipline. A mesocycle can also be defined as a number of continuous weeks where the training programme emphasizes the same type of physical adaptations, for example, muscle mass and anaerobic capacity. The goal of the planner is to fit the mesocycles into the overall plan timeline-wise to make each mesocycle end on one of the phases and then to determine the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given mesocycle falls.

Macrocycle: A macrocycle refers to an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal competition of the year. There are three phases in the macrocycle: preparation, competitive, and transition.

  • Preparatory Phase: This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases and the specific preparation is the shortest.
  • Competitive Phase: This phase may contain a few main competitions, each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.
  • Transition Phase: This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration, as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between three and four weeks (maybe longer), but should not exceed five weeks under normal conditions and may be sports specific. It allows the body to fully regenerate so that it is prepared for the next discipline.

The Ten Programming Commandments

I believe that everyone needs to follow the ten programming commandments first, before they can even choose to write/understand a programme.

Taken from the Elite FTS Video on Programming:

  1. Consistency in your training. Don’t miss training sessions
  2. Not missing reps regularly in your training. It's okay to miss a lift in training if attempting a new max, but if you can’t do the five reps you programed to do, then you have screwed up and are lifting way too much, especially if it’s the first week.
  3. Finding out what works for you through trial and error. If an exercise works, keep it in the programme. If not, throw it out. SIMPLE!
  4. Straining with a heavy lift or straining and grinding with a lift. Learn how to handle the weights. It will be slow and hard with a new max weight, it’s not going to fly up!
  5. Avoiding programme hopping. Give yourself enough time to figure out whether a programme is working for you. Max out all gains from that programme before hopping to the next one.
  6. Form and technique are more important than programming. If your form and technique are 100% efficient regardless of the programme or programmes, you will prevent injury and keep improving.
  7. Find a good coach and crew to teach you and to provide honest critique. Don’t train with people who will pass lifts in training that would get you red lighted in competition. Get a coach who isn’t afraid to say “that’s a fail, do it again”.
  8. Build the programme around planned deloads (once you are strong enough to need them). The training cycles should be based off these deload weeks after a competition, and then work backwards from that programming the high intense phase, volume phase, etc. A deload is essentially a back-off week to allow your body to recover.
  9. Learn to regulate your volume and assess how much training to include. This is aimed at drug-free lifters, as they cannot handle the volume of a lifter on PEDs. Listen to your body and watch the volume you lift in training, as too much can lead to fatigue and/or injury.
  10. Give it everything you've got, 110% and more!!! Don’t be half hearted to a training programme. If your goals don’t excite you, then why are you even bothering? Put your soul into it and you will reap the rewards.

Simple training plan

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Work out your five rep max for squats/deadlifts/overhead press/barbell row, etc.
  2. From that, start doing higher reps low sets (four sets of ten reps).
  3. Work off four-week waves (three weeks' training, one week's deload) and repeat.
  4. Higher reps: 8-12 reps is for size and technique.
  5. Move down to reps 3-6 for 5-6 sets.
  6. Again, working off four-week cycles.

Deload weeks are when you keep all exercises and training days the same. However, the reps and sets are halved.

Example training plan

  • Week 1: 4x12 all lifts 60% of max.
  • Week 2: 4x10 all lifts 65% of max.
  • Week 3: 4x8 all lifts 70% of max.
  • Week 4: deload (50% of weight for 3 sets of 5 reps).
  • Week 5: 6x6 all lifts at 72% of max.
  • Week 6: 6x5 all lifts at 75% of max.
  • Week 7: 6x5 all lifts at 77% of max.
  • Week 8: deload (50% of weight for 3 sets of 5 reps).
  • Week 9: 6x4 all lifts at 80% of max.
  • Week 10: 5x3 all lifts at 82x5% of max.
  • Week 11: 3x3 all lifts at 87.5% of max.
  • Week 12: deload (50% of weight for 3 sets of 3 reps).
  • Week 13: attempt new PBs simple.

Hope that was of some use!

Corrective exercise as part of a strength programme

Corrective exercise is a branch of training that has only recently come into the spotlight. The aims of CE are (in my opinion) to even out imbalances created by lifestyle, sport and training. When we perform repetitive movements such as routines/programmes in the gym, we will often create imbalances (though not always, some programming/training is intuitive enough to be relatively inert). These imbalances can be in muscular strength ratios (pulls to pushes), in agonists/antagonists (as mentioned in the last article) or they can be imbalances in the use of systems (power/endurance/balance/co-ordination, etc).

If you have previously developed an injury from your training, you may well have fallen into the trap of bad programming (you may also have poor technique/bad lifestyle choices/any number of other causative factors, but we will ignore those for now). Bad programming can be programing that is too intense, not giving enough recovery or, as we will focus on, not being balanced across the body.

If you are a bench-press warrior, training heavy bench four times a week, minimal rest and maximal progression, you are almost certainly going to get into trouble. Let me give a theoretical reason as to why.

When we impose on the body a demand, the body will adapt. When we bench press regularly, our bench press muscles get stronger (pecs, triceps, subscap, teres major and many, many others). If we just strengthen those muscles over time, they will become bigger and exert more of a pull, even when at rest.




We know from previous articles that the glenohumeral joint is a shallow ball and socket joint, it relies heavily on the rotator cuff for stability. So if one side of the rotator cuff is juiced up and exerting way more pull, we can imagine that this will “pull” the humeral head out of the ball and socket joint. This is a term we call “decentration” and is an important concept in exercise rehabilitation.

All of our upper limb corrective exercises aim to reinforce glemohumeral centration, and counteract the unequal pulls assosciated with training.


Generic correctives for upper limb

Face pulls – place a thin band around a pole at around head height, then pull elbows back while externally rotating. See Omar Isuf video on how to do this:

Full row – as advised by Eric Cressy, make sure when you’re doing any variation of rows you allow your scapula to move, DO NOT lock it up! Wach Eric explain why here:

Anti-extension – go into a half-kneeling stance, place a thin theraband at around head height, then, keeping your ribcage locked down and not allowing it to extend, press the band over head. Credit Clinical Athlete:

Serratus rolls – use a foam roller against the wall, place both hands on it making a Y shape, apply some pressure into the roller, then slowly push your hands to the ceiling, make sure you are feeling your scapula rotate upwards. Credit Eric Cressy again:

These are by no means exhaustive, however, they should give you a brief into why and how we do corrective exercise. The particular exercises will be dependent on the individuals:

  • Programming
  • Sport
  • Posture
  • Profession
  • Age
  • Sex

For more information on correctives please seek the advice of a chiropractor, physical therapist, osteopath or sports therapist.

Thanks for reading, for more information on these topics please follow:

Andrews blog:

North Down Chiropractic Clinic facebook:






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