Now there is no doubt that particularly in the novice phase of training working out will lead to strength gains. Simple neural efficiencies from developing better neural patterns will often precipitate actual muscular improvements in strength.This is why early in your strength foray you will see very rapid increases in strength. This unfortunately is not sustainable and won't be long before these strength gains simply stop and if you continue to seek them by just working out you will be disappointed.
Now when this happens the only real way to have consistent strength gains is to undertake a planned attack through training. This training needs to be following a clear periodization strategy , have specific goals and outcomes you are seeking over a defined period of time. Utilisation of SMART goals here is a good way of ensuring your training has the right approach. By Dec 1st I will squat 200kg at X competition. This goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable (assuming you are 12 weeks out and your current 1RM is 192.5kg) Realistic (a 7.5kg improvement in a 12 week periodized schedule is reasonable) and Time bound (Dec 1st, 12 weeks from now).
There are a vast array of periodization strategies. An awesome resource for this is Bompa's book, now in its 5th edition Periodization. This is an excellent resource for those wishing to learn almost all there is to know about the theory and application of periodization. That said there are some simple principles that almost anyone can apply and all, if applied and attacked with ferocity can result in significant strength gains.
- Linear - Using %'s of your 1RM you seek to increase incrementally each week using higher volume to start with then increasing intensity (% of your 1RM) each week whilst simulatneously reducing the volume until you are lifting greater than 100% of your original 1RM.
- Undulating - A particular favourite of mine, this is where you vary the intensity (% of your 1RM) each week with various rep ranges. Wendler's 531 is a good example of this methodology. Many strength training enthusiasts, novice through to experienced have made huge strength gains on such a program. I personally can vouch to the efficacy of this program.
- Volume - Varying volume in a systematic fashion is another variable which can lead to significant strength gains. A period of "overreaching"can be good provided this period is then followed up with a limited volume period of time to allow this "overreaching" period the opportunity to be realized into genuine strength attainment. One simple example would be sticking to a "1 movement" training program. For example on legs just squat, on upper body just use Bench. This can be a low volume period and then on the higher volume period you can add in more movements or you could just do a significant number of more sets.
So remember, if you are seeking genuine strength and power, set yourself a SMART goal and implement a training plan that will enable you to realize this SMART goal.