One Trick To Gain Strength Instantly!


Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a seminar with three great strength coaches, Scott Caulfield, Joe Hashey, and James “Smitty” Smith of the Diesel Crew. In addition to picking up a bunch of great little tips and tricks from some of the best minds in the business, it was also great to connect and network with them and some other great coaches. I don’t know about your industry, but in the strength and conditioning world it’s a lot of fun to go to these seminars and hang out with some like-minded people.

Joe Hashey and I at the Accelerated Strength Seminar in Lebanon, NH

One of the things that we talked a lot about was a simple, simple fix to a strength problem that I see guys mess up every day in the gym. They’re not tight enough when they lift.

Think about it for a second. When you are getting ready to perform a set, or when you’re in the middle of a rep, how are you holding your body? Sure, you’re holding onto the bar, but are you really holding onto it? Most people aren’t, and they’re losing a lot of strength by not staying tight. Don’t believe me? Let’s try a little experiment that I got from Smitty a while back.


Look down at your hand. Now squeeze it into a fist just as hard as you can. Now squeeze it even harder. Did you feel the tension in your hand? What about the tension that traveled all the way up your arm, into your shoulder, and into your back? Think how much easier it would be to perform a lift if you had that type of tension to work with?

Keeping tight doesn’t just apply to gripping a bar, although it often starts there. No matter what exercise you’re doing, whether it’s a deadlift, squat, bench press, or chin-up, they’re all improved if you keep your whole body tight. If there’s an area of your body that is loose then your strength and power will leak right out. Learning how to hold yourself tight will instantly help your form and allow you to push bigger weight.

As a starter, here’s some tips to keep in mind when you’re performing the big lifts:

On the Deadlift: When you’re in the bottom position keep your upper back tight and your shoulders pulled down. A loose upper back will cause you to be pulled forward when you try to pull the bar off the ground.

On the Squat: Actively pull the bar into your body. Imagine that you’re trying to bend the bar around your chest. This will keep your upper back tight and keep you from getting pushed forward by the weight.

On the Bench Press: Pull your feet back and lock them into the ground so that there’s some tension in your quads while you lift. Not only will this keep your butt on the bench where it belongs, but it will help glue you to the bench and transfer power from your lower body into your upper body.

On the Chin-up: In addition to the obvious need for a tight grip, it’s important on the Chin-up to really tighten your abs and hips. This will give your lats a firm hold to pull from and pull you up.

Once you learn the basics of strength training, improvement comes from time under the bar and focus on the small details. Learn to focus on keeping your body tight and your strength will improve dramatically.

Having a strong grip is a big part of being a man and it also is one of the keys to being athletic. To learn how to integrate grip training with a complete 3-month program, check out i>The Athlete Reborn!

Pings on One Trick To Gain Strength Instantly!

November 10, 2011
June 6, 2012

Comments on One Trick To Gain Strength Instantly! Leave a Comment

November 23, 2010

Noah @ 5:24 am #

Pavel teaches to squeeze the non-working fist during one handed over head presses. It works like a champ!!!

November 24, 2010

Isaac @ 8:21 pm #

Sure does, Noah. Pavel’s book is where I was first exposed to the idea, too.

November 29, 2010

Shane @ 3:52 pm #

Good points on the chin ups. I do this myself but don’t think about teaching this to my clients. Most people probably do this exercise with little thought on tightening the abs. Good reminder, blog by the way. Shane

Isaac @ 11:11 pm #


Thanks for stopping by and the kind words, man! The little things definitely add up. I know what you mean about doing things yourself but not always mentioning it to clients. Those of us who are more in the game or come from an athletic background tend to do a lot of things naturally that we don’t even realize we’re doing and a lot of clients don’t.


May 29, 2012

Frank DiMeo @ 11:16 pm #

Good solid training advice!

May 30, 2012

Isaac @ 9:40 am #

Thanks, Frank!

With your martial arts background, I know you understand how learning how to tighten the body can drastically alter the effect of an exercise and expression of power!

Kathryn King @ 12:26 pm #

This is really helpful. I’ve always been taught that when I’m running, I should try to keep as relaxed as possible — hands, arms, face, everything except for a tight core. I’m sure I’ve been bringing at least some of that “stay relaxed” habit to strength training. Thanks for the advice!

June 5, 2012

Isaac @ 12:01 pm #

Definitely, Kathryn. It’s important for distance runners (and sprinters, too, actually) to stay loose to not waste energy and to let the body hit appropriate position. For lifting, you want to create a strong a launch pad as possible.

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