The Best Strength Exercises
The best strength exercises should be simple, hard and effective. When most people go to the gym, they try to make things more complicated than they should be. For example, “muscle confusion” is a term thrown about in the fitness industry. It can seem appealing to make things more complicated – but does more complicated mean more effective? What about the greatest return on our investment for our time in the gym? Does being complicated give the biggest bang for our buck?
In fact, the simplest training program that yields the greatest strength return is the most effective. The three criteria for strength help us determine which exercises make up a simple, hard and effective training program.
To review, the three criteria include exercises that use the most muscle mass, with the most weight over the greatest effective range of motion.
These criteria lead us to the squat, bench press, deadlift and press.
The squat involves sitting down and standing up. It uses the powerful muscles of the posterior chain to generate hip drive – our power to stand up out of the bottom. Proper depth on the squat occurs at just below parallel – when the crease of the hip drops below the top of the knee. Proper depth is NOT parallel, ass to grass, butt to ankles, or anything else. The squat is simple, but very hard and can be loaded with extremely heavy weight.
The deadlift is the act of picking a heavy load up off the floor. It trains the back muscles to get very strong and resistant or less vulnerable to injury. Deadlifting does not make our backs more vulnerable to injury, which is a common misnomer in the fitness industry.
The press, otherwise known as a strict press or military press, involves shoving something up over our head and shrugging to lock it out. It trains many upper body muscles including the deltoids (shoulders), rhomboids and trapezius. The bench press is performed laying down on a flat bench. It allows us to move the most weight possible with our upper body.
The squat, deadlift, press and bench press are the best exercises for strength, and should make up the majority of your programming throughout your lifting career.