Five Most Important Lifts for Strength

Most people want to be stronger, but not many actually live like it. Did you know overall body strength is the best indicator of our life span? The stronger you are as you age the longer you live. The forms measured range from single leg step downs, to grip testers and even the ability to hang from  something supporting your own body weight. When it comes to performance there are none quite as jaw dropping as human strength, speed is a close second. Strength can be shown in a short amount of time in front of a large crowd and it is always obvious at the capacity of the individual to anyone who witnesses it. The bottom line is that strength is cool, attractive and also applies to almost any aspect of our lives. If you want my personal advice, build as  much strength as you can through the length of your life. This doesn’t mean that we ignore conditioning or building endurance, speed and agility but that we never give up on trying to get stronger through our entire life. 

We see people in gyms all over the world trying to build strength, or at least they think they are. We see people at the pec deck machines, “yes/no machines' , preacher curl apparatus, tricep extension and many, many other single joint exercises/ machines. But are these people pursuing strength? Are you? The answer is yes, they could be, you could be. But the more direct answer is if you hope to be strong these are likely a poor choice of movements to use to do it. Our bodies respond to multi joint, compound movements the best in order to gain strength, size of muscles and optimize hormone response. While there isn’t a wrong way to build strength (do what works for you), I do know there are a handful of exercises that you should be incorporating regularly if you want to have raw capacity that carries into all aspects of life. 

After 16 years of coaching in both the private and sports profession and 21 years of training as an athlete here are my top 5 movements to build strength!

  • Squat
  •     When you focus on good form  for this movement it may be the best one for any human that walks the earth. Heels down, knee’s tracking toes, tall chest, butt back, hip crease below the top of the knee (full ROM) then it’s a great way to build strength. You don’t always have to load the body so it can be done as a body weight squat or air squat. The principle is to use good form, train full range of motion and load the body overhead, on the back or in the front rack. As you pursue strength it’s important to remember that you have to be consistent and also steadily and patiently load the body with more weight, time or reps over periods of 3-8 weeks. 

  • Deadlift 
  •     People have a love/ hate relationship with this lift but it should be all love/ love. There is no bad or dangerous movement, just bad movers. Get coaching, watch yourself do the movement by filming yourself and don’t go overboard with the weight. Learn great technique and understand why we do it to begin with and you’ll see its fruits. 1 heavy deadlift day a week can do the trick and just like any other movement, steadily increase reps, time or loading and you get great gains. 

  • Standing Strict Press
  •     This is the overhead press and can be done with DB’s, KB’s or a barbell. I encourage the standing press vs. seated press due to the fact that you engage your legs and abs and erectors much more. When we incorporate the total body in our movements we reap great benefits when it comes to calorie expenditure and results. This is a great movement for training the upper body and developing strong stable shoulders and big strong triceps. 

  • Bent Over Row
  •     This can be done with DB’s, KB’s or a barbell. This is an amazing movement to train the upper and mid back muscles as well as the biceps. Due to the loads you’ll be able to move, you’ll see greater benefits to your biceps from this movement vs. a less loaded, more directly focused bicep curl, believe it or not. For years I didn’t do a single bicep curl and got to the biggest and strongest arms I’ve ever had by simply doing push ups, dips, pull ups and bent over rows for upper body strength. Believe it or not the stronger you can make your back, the stronger your chest and shoulders can become. Often when we brace on a bench or even when standing we have to create stability through our posterior (back) muscles and it helps perform better with our “show muscles”. 

  • Bench Press
  •     Yes, I know you were waiting for it and here it is. Chest, triceps and shoulders are all getting stronger when use the bench press. This movement can be simulated with push ups and dips too, but since we are talking about “strength”, I had to include the bench press specifically. This movement can be done with DB’s, KB’s or a barbell. The goal here, like with most movements, is to create variance over time, be consistent with exposure, and add weight, reps or time under tension to continue to see progress! Need help with strength training or hitting goals you have? We have a program that can help take out the guesswork and create the strongest version of you that has ever existed.