The following content is a part of our STRONG & FAST functional training program collaboration and video series led by Olympic athlete Ryan Hall. Tune in all month long for exclusive training, nutrition, and lifestyle content courtesy of Ryan Hall to help make you unbreakable.
There’s a lot more to getting bigger and stronger than simply hoisting and heaving heavy weight. Record-holding former long-distance runner Ryan Hall weighed 127 pounds at retirement six years ago. After he bulked up to 200 pounds, he then got lean at 177 pounds. Throughout his entire running career, he had been teaching his body to run at relatively slow, lower intensities for long periods of time. Think: 10, 15, even 20 miles per day.
“I'm a marathoner, I have marathon genetics,” Hall says.
To get bigger and stronger, all of that training and nutrition changed. That meant more time with the weights, eating more food, and spending less time pounding the pavement.
“The only way that I learned about all of this was experimenting with myself and trying out different stuff,” he says.
The following are five techniques that Hall found to be the most effective for getting stronger and building more muscle. And to maximize those efforts of strength training, Ryan dialed in his nutrition. Check out his tips for eating to get bigger and stronger here.
Ryan Hall-Approved Techniques for Building Strength
1. Progressive Overload
This is a very simple concept when it comes to strength training: progressively challenging yourself with more resistance over time. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology observed 83 subjects who progressively overloaded their biceps over a 12-week period. As expected, all of the subjects gained strength and mass.
2. High-Volume Training
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise observed 34 resistance-trained men following low-, moderate-, and high-volume training protocols over the course of eight weeks. While increases in strength were relatively similar in all three groups, the most amount of muscle hypertrophy (or muscular size) was found in the high-volume group.
3. Partial Repetitions
Under most circumstances, going through an exercise’s full range of motion is where you get the most results, however, there are benefits to working in partial repetitions too. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared volunteers performing full range of motion and partial range of motion exercise over the course of a 10-week progressive program. The full range of motion group showed the most gain in strength, but both techniques increased strength and muscular thickness.
4. Time Under Tension
Time under tension, or TUT, is a popular training method for the entire Spartan coaching crew. Instead of performing an exercise at one fluid tempo, you can lower into a squat slower than coming out of it. This technique can be applied to all exercises in a variety of different ways. A 2021 study published in PeerJ compared the results of two 14-week training programs for 10 untrained males. Researchers found that the males that performed longer-duration repetitions saw a greater increase in leg strength.
5. Drop Sets
A drop set is where you perform an exercise to failure, then either drop the amount of weight used and continue for another set, or switch to a digression of the movement and continue. A small study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness compared the strength and muscular hypertrophy results of eight men that completed either traditional resistance training or resistance training with a single set of drop sets. Researchers found superior strength gains in the single set of drop sets group.