The Four Pillars of Strength Athleticism

So you want to get #strongAF? Good. I can help. But if you really want to get strong, you need to understand how to get strong…and for most of us, that means executing the basics consistently. Like any other skill based pursuit, “blocking and tackling” is the key to success. There are four real basics, or “pillars” of strong that you need to execute well to meet your goals. These pillars are Programming, Nutrition, Recovery, and Conditioning.

  • Programming

Programming is not the same as working out. Programming is a method of working out that has specific structure and goals. Of course, I recommend the Nephilim Barbell Program, but there are other programs that also work. The key to a good program is that it must include at least three aspects: cardio or GPP, strength training, and bodybuilding or rep work. I have seen the best results from conjugate programs – these are programs that try to raise multiple aspects of strength performance simultaneously. Regardless, the key here is to follow the program. Have a written plan with sets and reps and percentages or other objective measures of improvement, and stick with it.

  • Nutrition

Nutrition is the key to everything. I avoid the word “diet” because it has the connotation of restricting calorie intake. The Nephilim Barbell Program is famous for not making a big deal out of nutrition. My guideline for nutrition is simple: eat everything as close to nature as possible. Obviously you need to cook your animal products, and some slight processing like butter is ok. But things like bread and pasta are out of bounds, let alone pop-tarts or hot-pockets. However, there are three simple things you can control in your nutrition that are key to your strength development. First, water. drink a gallon a day. I drop some lemon slices in mine daily, to increase vitamin C. Second, protein. There is emerging research on optimal protein intake, but the old guide of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight daily works. Third is timing. Your best bet for protein is to divide your daily dose into three equal portions and stagger them throughout the day. The other thing about timing is to take in the right nutrition before, during, and after your workout. The Nephilim Barbell Program has some more details on this, but you don’t have to get too fancy. Just eat 30-45 minutes before your workout, and as soon as you can afterword without puking.

  • Recovery

The primary component of recovery is sleep. Get 8 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. You may find this impossible – I know I have for much of my career. If so, try to get some catchup sleep on your day off, and take steps to improve your quality of sleep. Recovery also includes things like body tempering, managing stress, and ice baths. But really, recovery is predicated on sleep. Treat it as seriously as your gym time.

  • Conditioning

Conditioning is just what it sounds like – conditioning your body to thrive in certain environments. The primary component is general physical preparedness, or GPP. This is often abbreviated as “cardio”, which is partly true. GPP includes improving one’s cardio-respiratory condition – but it needs to be geared toward your specific goals. If you are a strength athlete, things like sled pulls and sand bag carries will improve your cardio-respiratory homeostasis, while also driving forward your brute strength goals. However, conditioning has another key component that is often overlooked: that is “prehab”, or conditioning your body to accept the abuse that you heap upon it in the name of insane strength. This includes stretching and mobility work. i follow a kung-fu stretching routine every day, and can say that in 20 years of lifting, I’ve never had an injury. I credit proper hydration and flexibility to that.

So, go out armed with this knowledge, and don’t overcomplicate your training. Execute these four pillars, and you will see results.