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What are the Best Exercises for Strength?

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.

Six-Week Strength Training Workout Plan

This three-workout strength programme focuses on the three lifts that are involved in powerlifting competitions – the squat, deadlift and bench press. Improving your ability in these big moves will make you stronger, leaner and more muscular because they involve moving heavy weights and use every major muscle group in your body.

And that’s not all. This and other strength training workouts can reduce your chances of getting injured playing sports or doing other activities. Danish researchers who conducted meta-analysis on 25 different studies, involving over 26,000 participants and almost 3,500 injuries, concluded that strength training can reduce incidence of injury by more than two-thirds and according to the researchers 50% of over-use injuries could be prevented with adequate strength training – so more time with the bar means less time on the treatment table.

How To Do These Workouts

Each workout focuses on one of the lifts, starting with a relatively light exercises designed to mobilise your target muscles. You then perform the key lift before doing an “assistance move”, which will help iron out weak spots in the main lift. The final two moves focus on one of the other powerlifts so that you train that exercise twice a week.

Follow the sets, reps and rest instructions for each move to get the maximum benefit. Do each workout once a week for six weeks, aiming to increase the amount you lift each time. And make sure you make a note of how much you lift in each session to keep yourself motivated.

Diet Tips

Follow this six-week plan to the letter and you’ll be taxing your body hard, so it’s crucial that you help it to bounce back by following a healthy diet. That means limiting how much alcohol you drink and how many takeaways you order, as well as making sure you eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day, starting to replace refined carbs with complex carbs, and making sure you’re eating enough protein (1.4-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day when training this hard). The good news is that it’s very easy to get enough protein through your diet rather than relying on supplements, and the additional micronutrients and other good stuff you get in food like lean meat and vegetarian proteins well help your body cope with the strain you’re putting it under.

All this means that you need to put as much time and effort into preparing healthy meals at home as you do in the gym. If you’re new to the kitchen and could do with a helping hand while you develop your cooking ability, you can try recipe boxes or meal delivery services. You pay a premium for the convenience, but they tend to be far healthier than ready meals – and some meal delivery services offer consultations with nutritionists to design meal plans that support your efforts in the gym.

How To Warm Up For These Workouts

This training plan is not for beginners, primarily because you’ll be using heavy weights throughout the workouts. That also means you need to consider your warm-up carefully, because for the best results you’ll need to be ready to lift big from the start of your workout, rather than half-arsing the first couple of sets while your body grinds into gear. In addition, those heavy weights means the risk of injury to a cold body is all the greater.

In your warm-up, it’s crucial to target the muscles you’re actually intending to use in your workout, rather than just doing five minutes on a cardio machine getting your heart rate up. If you’re not sure what to do, start with this stretching warm-up routine, which will limber up all the key muscle groups you might be using, and then go into some workout-specific drills.

The easiest way to go about this is to run through a circuit of the workout you’re about to do using very light weights or an unweighted bar, or even no weight at all. That way you’ll be sure to prep the muscles you’re intending to test.

Workout 1: Squat

1 Kettlebell goblet squat

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 45sec

Why If you focus on touching your elbows to your knees then it’ll build the mobility you need for full-depth squatting, as well as flexibility in your groin and ankles, which makes it an ideal warm-up move.

How Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest, and squat down with your back straight and chest up. Descend until your elbows touch the insides of your knees, then put your weight on your heels as you stand back up.

2 Back squat

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 60-90sec

Why Squatting with big weights will build full-body muscle thanks to the huge growth hormone hit it prompts. It works not just your legs, but also your core, back and everything else below the bar.

How Hold the bar on your traps and stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out slightly. Keep your back straight by looking at a spot on the floor about 2m in front of you, then sit back and down as if you’re aiming for a chair. Lower until your hip crease is below your knee. Keep your weight on your heels as you drive up.

3 Bulgarian split squat

Sets 2 Reps 8 each side Rest 60sec

Why This variation of the squat will target your quads – a key muscle group involved in heavy squats. It also works your legs independently so that you are equally strong and stable on both sides.

How Start with your back foot on a bench and your front foot approximately 60cm in front of the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the knee to lower towards the floor, keeping your torso upright, then press back up to the start. Make sure that your knee is in line with your ankle and that your front foot is far enough forwards that your knee doesn’t travel in front of your mid-foot. Complete all the reps on one side, then switch.

4 Snatch-grip deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why Because your grip’s wider in this move, you’ll need to move the bar through a larger range of motion, increasing the growth hormone hit.

How Hold a barbell with your hands roughly double shoulder-width apart. Push through your heels and keep your chest up as you drive your hips forwards to lift the bar.

5 Kettlebell swing

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why This full-body move engages all the muscles of your posterior chain – the ones involved in a deadlift.

How Swing the kettlebell between your legs with both hands, then pop your hips forwards to drive it up to head height, keeping your arms relaxed. Let the bell swing back into the next rep and don’t bend your knees much.

Workout 2: Deadlift

1 Kettlebell sumo deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why This version of the deadlift is a good way of drilling a movement pattern where you engage your hamstrings and hinge at the hips to perform the move. You’re using a fairly light weight so it won’t fatigue your muscles before you get to the heavy deadlift sets in the next exercise.

How Taking a wider stance than in a regular deadlift, place the kettlebell between your legs. Start the move by straightening your legs without changing the angle of your torso. Once your legs are straight, push your hips through to straighten up.

2 Deadlift

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 60-90sec

Why The deadlift is arguably the most effective whole-body strength and muscle builder. It also focuses on your posterior chain – the muscles on the back of your body, which often end up undertrained but play a key role in promoting good posture and keeping you injury-free.

How Set up so you grip the bar with an overhand grip , hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Initiate the movement by loading your hamstrings and straightening your knees. Once the bar is past your knees you can straighten up fully.

3 Romanian deadlift

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

Why After your heavy deadlift sets this is an ideal way of developing the hamstring strength needed to improve your deadlift. It’s technically a lot easier than the deadlift so you’ll be able to go reasonably heavy even when your muscles are tired.

How Hold a barbell with an overhand grip just outside your thighs. Hinge at the hips to send the bar down the front of your thighs, ensuring that the bar stays close to you throughout the lift. Lower until you feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings, then straighten back up, contracting your glutes at the top of the move.

4 Incline bench press

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why Setting the bench to an incline will mean you need to reduce the weight, but it’ll hit your chest from a new angle.

How Lie on a bench set at a 45˚ incline, holding a bar over your chest with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the bar until it’s touching your chest, then press it back up.

5 Press-up

Sets 3 Reps To failure Rest 60sec

Why The classic go-anywhere chest builder will also work your core, as well as teaching you to hold full-body tension.

How Get into a press-up position with your hands just wider than shoulder width. Keeping your abs braced, lower until your chest touches the floor – keeping your thighs off it – and then press back up.

Workout 3: Bench Press

1 Dumbbell bench press

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why Using dumbbells for this classic chest builder emphasises your pecs more than the barbell version, because the dumbbells move slightly inwards throughout the rep and also go through a greater range of motion.

How Lie on a bench with your feet on the floor directly underneath your knees. Hold the dumbbells above you with arms straight, then lower them to your chest. Then drive your feet hard into the floor and push the dumbbells back strongly to the start position.

2 Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 60-90sec

Why It’s a classic for a reason: a properly executed bench press (your feet should be pressing into the floor) will tax your whole body and allow you to use heavy weights to maximise upper-body development. Ensure your form is correct to avoid injury and maximise growth.

How Grip the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and squeeze your lats together to create a pressing platform before you take the bar out of the rack. Watch the ceiling, not the bar, to ensure you’re pressing in the same line each time. Lower the bar to your chest, aiming to brush your T-shirt without bouncing. Press up powerfully, pause at the top, then do your next rep.

3 Diamond press-up

Sets 3 Reps 8-10 Rest 60sec

Why This press-up variation places extra emphasis on your triceps, while slightly changing the stress on your chest to hit it from a different angle.

How Get into a press-up position, placing your hands close together so your thumbs and index fingers touch. Keeping your body in a straight line with your abs braced, lower until your chest is just above the floor, and then press back up.

4 Front squat

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why Shifting the bar in front of you moves the emphasis to your quads but also makes the move safer – you’ll be less likely to tip forwards and endanger your lower back.

How Take the bar out of the rack so it’s resting on the front of your shoulders and your palms face upwards. Squat down, keeping your chest up, then drive up through your heels to stand.

5 Dumbbell jump squat

Sets 3 Reps 5 Rest 60sec

Why This explosive move will activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres, priming your nervous system so you get maximum muscle fibre recruitment. The rep count is low because this is about quality of movement rather than exhausting your target muscles.

How Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Squat down, then explode up to jump as high as you can. Land softly and go straight into the next rep.

Photography Ben Knight

9 of the Hardest and Best Exercises from Real Trainers

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Lunge Jumps + Standing Lunge Hold

Hard? Yes! Effective? Yes! This lower body combo will have your glutes firing and your lower body feeling the burn!

How to do it: Start in a split stance with your hands down, torso upright, and back knee bent at 90 degrees. Front knee is aligned with front heel. Explosively push off front foot, bringing lower body off the ground. While in mid-air, switch the positioning of feet. 
Allow back knee to bend as you land softly with opposite foot now forward. After 20, land softly in a split stance. With hands on hips and torso upright, lower hips by bending back knee to a 90 degree angle. The front knee should stay aligned with front heel, allowing majority of weight to drop through the heel of the foot that is forward. Hold that position for 30 seconds, then and hold that position for 30 seconds. Switch legs and hold lunge for another 30 seconds, then finish with one more set of lunge jumps.

– Jessica Wilson, owner of Wilson Fitness Studios in Chicago

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Deadlift

One of the exercises I find most difficult are dead lifts because they challenge your body more than almost any other exercise, which in turn yields the best results. Not only is this a move that occurs in every day life (picking up your kids, for example), but it also helps to improve your muscle density and strength-and revs up your metabolism for weight loss. (This is a great move for people with knee problems. See more with 10 Knee-Friendly Lower-Body Toners.)

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hinge at hips and lower chest to ground, grasping the barbell placed in front of shins. Explode up by pushing heels into the ground while thrusting hips forward. Maintain a flat back and tight core as you perform the exercise to avoid lower back injury. Pause at top, then lower barbell back to ground and repeat.

-Evan Kleinman, Tier 3 Equinox Personal Trainer

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  • By Rachael Schultz

Full Body Shock: An Intense Full Body Workout

Our bodies are able to work as a series of independent parts but it’s built to work as a single cohesive unit.

While that is true, the last 40-50 years have seen the fitness industry focus on individual muscle training.

For bodybuilders this makes sense because each area is supposed to stand out and you don’t want one area to overpower another but eventually we all hit that dreaded plateau where we start doing everything we can think of and still not get anywhere.

This is why we need to occasionally go back to doing what our bodies were meant to do…work at once.

Full-body routines can occasionally shock the muscles because they will be working differently than the norm.

Instead of doing a few different workouts with each area being targeted once a week, you can follow this plan every other day for 4 weeks and hit each muscle group three or four different times each week.

From Head to Toe

We’re going to start at the top which is our shoulders and work our way down until we finish with the calves.

We’re going to work each area in two different ways for two different purposes which will be explained in their sections.

Shoulders: Lateral Raise & Arnold Press

The shoulders can help you appear wider and if they are properly developed then they can give your physique a powerful look. For the width, the obvious choice is lateral raises. You can do them standing or seated.

As for the power, no name in bodybuilding is more powerful than Arnold so Arnold Presses make sense here. The twisting motion can allow you to hit all three heads of the delt so nothing is neglected.

Related: The Total Package Full Body Workout Program

Back: Neutral Grip Pulldown & T-Bar Row

There are two movements that you need to develop a complete upper back. They are pulling up or down and rowing. For the pulling portion, neutral grip lat pulldowns are great because the neutral grip can help you blast your lats while keeping bicep and shoulder involvement to a minimum.

When it comes to rows, the T-bar version is a great one that you can use. It’s a simple lift you can go heavy on but thanks to the fixed pattern can be a controlled one.

Chest: Incline Dumbbell Press & Cable Crossover

Much like the back, the chest is trained in two different ways. You can press or you can fly. Obviously for this program we’re going to do both.

Incline dumbbell presses allow you to work each side independently. This move is also a free weight, compound lift so you can build some serious muscle with it.

Cable crossovers will help you isolate the chest and really target each pec that’s working. Focus on getting good contractions with each rep to pump some blood into the chest.

Biceps: Barbell Curl & Hammer Curl

Before we go any further down the body we should knock out some arm work. For biceps we’re going to keep it as simple as possible with barbell curls and hammer dumbbell curls.

The barbell curl forces you to lift with your hands supinated so you can maximize that peak. Hammers are great because you can target your brachialis as well as your forearms. These two moves are as basic as they come but they’re also effective.

Triceps: Overhead Extensions & Rope Pushdowns

For the back of the arms we’re going to go in opposite directions. First we’re going to go up with two arm overhead extensions. You can use a heavy dumbbell or a barbell, whichever you’re more comfortable with.

Then we’re going to push down, as in rope pushdowns. The rope will allow you to separate the ends so you can put an extra squeeze on the long head of the muscles.

Core: Crunches & Hyperextensions

Notice I didn’t say abs. For our midsection area we’re going to do one movement for the abs and one for the lower back. For the abdominals you can do the basic crunch. Squeeze your abs hard and force your air out to really contract them before going back down.

Next, head over to the low back bench for hyperextensions. This is a simple movement but don’t fly through the reps. You can still get hurt easily if you’re not careful. If you feel it’s necessary, hold on to a weight for extra resistance.

Quadriceps: Leg Press & Leg Extension

I know, squat is king. But for this plan we’re going to stick to machines. So you got the leg press and leg extension. For the leg press, pay attention to your range of motion. Moving the sled four or five inches isn’t going to do anything productive and it will increase wear and tear on your knees.

When you start your leg extensions, make sure you squeeze the quads for a good contraction at the top. Hold it for a count of 1 before lowering the weight back down.

Hamstrings: Stiff Legged Deadlift & Leg Curl

Hamstrings are the lower body muscle that never seems to get enough love. People will throw one in after three or four quad movements. So for this program, make sure you really focus on the back of the legs.

Start with stiff-legged deadlifts. Instead of doing them on the floor, place a plate or step where you would normally stand so you can get extra range of motion. This longer stretch will burn but you will see the rewards for yourself soon enough.

Related: Death by Deadlift – An Explosive Deadlift Challenge

Next, perform leg curls. The version you do can be up to you because I know not all gyms have all three (lying, seated, standing). Regardless of the version you choose, make sure you perform negatives. Since you can’t watch your hamstrings work, these negatives will help you feel them working.

Calves: Standing & Seated Calf Raises

There are two portions of the calf muscle. The gastrocnemius is the visible part of the calf you see when you flex. You need to do a standing calf raise to target this area.

The soleus resides under the gastrocnemius and is active when the legs are bent so seated calf raises are going to serve your needs here.

The Workouts

There are two different workouts here for you. Workout A is your basic plan with straight sets that should take you around an hour to do. As the reps go down, the weight goes up.

Workout B is supersets which are going to be more intense. Remember to adjust the weights you use according to how you feel. For both workouts, keep rest to a minimum.

My advice would to be to start off with workout A for 4 weeks and then progress to workout B for another 4 weeks.

Workout A
Workout B – Supersets
Exercise Sets Reps
1a. Lateral Raise 3 12
1b. Arnold Press 3 12
2a. Neutral Grip Lat Pull Down 3 12
2b. T-Bar Row 3 12
3a.. Incline Dumbbell Press 3 12
3b. Cable Crossover 3 12
4a. Barbell Curl 3 15
4b. Hammer Curl 3 15
5a. Two Arm Overhead Extension 3 15
5b. Rope Pushdown 3 15
6a. Crunches 3 20
6b. Hyperextensions 3 20
7a. Leg Press 3 15
7b. Leg Extension 3 15
8a. Stiff Legged Deadlift 3 15
8b. Leg Curl 3 15
9a. Standing Calf Raise 3 20
9b. Seated Calf Raise 3 20

Full body workouts

Whatever fitness goals you have in mind, it’s important to recognise that it takes both time and commitment to achieve them. That’s true of losing weight, becoming a better runner or building muscle. This plan from trainer and fitness model Shaun Stafford requires you to commit to four workouts a week for six to eight weeks, which is no small thing, but the rewards you gain from that effort come in the form of increased strength and size all over your body.

You also get peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing in the gym, because the plan hits your whole body but works different muscle groups in a sequence that allows for the necessary recovery time to see results. Each workout contains two compound moves, followed by a tri-set and then a bonus set of one last exercise. All the info on sets, reps and recovery is provided to make it as clear as possible, although that’s not going to make actually doing the exercise any easier – this is one that’s best suited to more experienced gym-goers on the lookout for a new routine, rather than first-timers.

Before we dive into the details of the plan, here’s Stafford’s advice on how to follow it to get the results you’re looking for.

Who is this programme for and how much weight should you use?

“This programme will be effective for anyone who’s looking to increase size and strength,” says Stafford.

“In terms of weight selection, it’s trial and error at first. Always go lighter than you think you need to and build up over the first week. If you can complete the sets and reps with near perfect form, don’t be afraid to crank it up.”

How long should you follow the programme for?

“This programme should be performed for six to eight weeks for optimal results,” says Stafford. “You can add in some active recovery work to keep your cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. Lower-intensity cardio and yoga are great additional sessions if you feel up to it.”

Each workout has a “bonus” set. Are these optional or key to the session?

“The bonus sets are crucial to the workout – they often contain moves that target the little muscles that support and maintain joint health and function,” says Stafford. “Just because they are at the end does not mean you can skip them if you are tired! Finish the workout for optimal results.”

How To Do This Workout

Tackle each of these four workouts every week for six to eight weeks. Each workout is broken down into three sections: two compound moves, followed by a tri-set and finally a bonus set. When it comes to the tri-set in each workout, only rest after completing a set of every exercise in the tri-set.

How To Warm Up

It’s important to make sure you warm up properly before each and every workout you tackle on this training plan. Not only will doing so ensure you’re primed to perform in the workout, preparing your body will also make it less likely that you’ll succumb to injuries during the training plan, because your muscles aren’t going into heavy lifts cold.

To warm up properly you need to activate the muscles you’re actually going to use in the workout, which is why spending five minutes on a cardio machine isn’t the best idea ahead of a weights session.

Instead, use this warm-up routine created by Yasmin Saadi from The Fitting Rooms gym. It starts with a series of seven stretches that mobilise the entire body. After that you should go through some workout-specific warm-ups. The easiest way to do this is to do the exercises you have lined up for your workout but with very little or no weight, because that way you’ll be using the muscles you expect to test during the session, but you can also do more stretches that target the relevant muscles.

When you’re short on time it’s always tempting to skip the warm-up in favour of spending time on the workout, but it’s better to shorten the workout itself and ensure you’re doing it properly than go in cold and knock out sloppy sets while your muscles warm up.

Workout One: Chest And Shoulders

1 Bench press

Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Brace your core and press your feet into the ground, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

2 Dumbbell overhead press

Stand tall holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Keeping your chest up, press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start.

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

3A Lateral raise

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Stand with dumbbells by your sides and palms facing each other. Lean forward slightly, then raise the weights to the sides, leading with your elbows. Slowly lower them back to the start under control.

3B Front raise

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your body with straight arms. Keeping your chest up and arms straight, raise the weights in front of you to shoulder hit. Lower back to the start.

3C Reverse flye

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Bend forwards from the hips with a light dumbbell in each hand, palms facing. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.

4 External cable rotation

Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Set the cable at a low height and, using a split stance, retract your shoulder blades. Hold your arm so that your elbow is level with your shoulder and your forearm is parallel to the ground. Pull the cable so that your elbow stays still but your forearm ends in a vertical position.

Workout Two: Legs

1 Front squat

Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Stand tall holding a bar across the front of your shoulders with elbows up. Keeping your core braced, squat as low as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

2 Glute-hamstring raise

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Adjust the glute-ham developer (GHD) so when your feet are secured, your quads are resting on the middle of the GHD and you can lower your torso over the end. Position your body above your knees at right angles to your lower legs, with your arms folded across your chest. Brace your core and slowly lower your torso over the edge of the GHD, until your body forms a right angle at your hips. Return to the start position explosively by contracting your hamstrings.

3A Prone hamstring curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie face down on the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. With the pad against the back of your lower calves, raise it by contracting your hamstrings. Return slowly to the start.

3B Hack squat

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie on the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. Lower until your thighs are at right angles to your calves, then press back up.

3C Dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Standing straight, hold dumbbells just in front of your thighs. Brace your core and slightly bend your knees to activate your glutes. Hinge from your hips without rounding your back until you reach the limit of the range of your hamstrings. Hold briefly, then return to the start position.

4 Seated leg extension

Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Sit in the leg extension machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. With the pad on your shins, use your quads to lift the weight. Return slowly to the start.

Workout Three: Back And Biceps

1 Bent-over row

Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Hold a barbell using a shoulder-width overhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly, then bend forwards, hingeing from the hips and keeping your shoulder blades back. Pull the bar up towards your sternum, leading with your elbows, then lower it back to the start.

2 Neutral-grip pull-up

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Hang from a pull-up bar or handles with palms facing each other. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your lower chest touches the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

3A Preacher curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Sit at a preacher bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand grip. Curl the bar up to the top, pause and squeeze, then lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully straight.

3B Dumbbell spider curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Bend down and rest your elbows on your thighs, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight. Curl the weights up, squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower back to the start under control.

3C Narrow-grip EZ-bar curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold an EZ-bar using a narrow, underhand grip with your arms extended. Curl the bar up towards your chest, keeping your elbows in to your sides.

4 Cable face pull

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a double-rope attachment on the high pulley with straight arms. Pull the handles to either side of your head, then return to the start under control.

Workout Four: Triceps And Abs

1 Triceps dip

Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

2 Hanging leg raise

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Start in a dead hang, holding a pull-up bar with your legs straight and your knees and ankles touching. Keep them together as your use your lower abs to raise them, then lower back to the start under control.

3A V-sit

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie on your back with your shoulders and legs raised off the floor. Keeping your arms straight, raise your torso so that your chest meets your knees at the top of the move. Lower under control.

3B Reverse crunch

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie with your head and shoulders flat on a mat, your thighs vertical, knees bent at 90° and arms by your sides for support. Curl your knees towards your chest and hold. Contract your abs to lift your hips off the mat. Lower slowly to the start.

3C Russian twist

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Start at the top of the crunch movement but with your feet off the ground. Keeping your abs braced, rotateto one side then the other to complete one rep.

4 Diamond press-up

Sets 2 Reps To failure Rest 60sec

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond. Keeping your hips up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Push down through your hands to return to the start.

Shaun Stafford is a fitness ambassador for Optimum Nutrition. For more information about their whey protein, visit onacademy.co.uk

Any veteran gym rat will tell you that there’s weight-room strong, and then there’s do-anything strong. Some guys just have that “brute strength”—the ability to move awkward, ungainly loads in positions where you often don’t have a lot of leverage. And whether you’re an average dude or a veteran shot-put thrower, “brute strength” can be the ultimate test of just how much you can do.

“Brute strength is basically pure, unthinking, animalistic strength that’s available any time,” says Robert Herbst, personal trainer, coach, and 18-time world champion powerlifter. “It’s: ‘Honey, my diamond earring rolled under the fridge,’ and you drag away the fridge, no problem.”

Just because some people just have it doesn’t mean you can hone it, with the right training routine. “The thing about brute strength is that it has to be available, but you can’t be gassed after one rep—you have to be able to do something else,” Herbst says. “Twenty thousand years ago, you’d kill the mammoth, butcher the mammoth, then bring the mammoth pieces back to camp, so you have to have some endurance—that’s raw, brute strength.”

You also can’t always train at max levels to get and stay at peak brute-strength condition. In fact, as with any program, you need to start easier, with relatively low weight and higher reps (6–12), to get the form down pat. “Your form will deteriorate under max weight, so you have to get it right first,” Herbst says.

Next, you work in the five-rep zone at 65–75% of your max, going for up to eight sets, with a minute rest between to build your strength endurance. Do that for six weeks for a really solid base. “Then it’s time to get literally strong,” says Herbst. “To do that, you have to use near-max weights, doing singles, doubles, or triples, with sufficient rest that you can actually do that—it could be 7–10 minutes between sets, so you’re 90% recuperated from the last set.”

Herbst recommends incorporating the following seven exercises into your brute-strength program. But take note: “You have to suffer to do this!” he says. “You have to make your body adapt. If you want to be in the brute-strength club, you have to walk the walk,” he says. After a successful training cycle, you have to deload for a couple of weeks to come back stronger than ever.

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Top 10 Best Weight Training Exercises

Here is my top 10 list of the best weight training exercises.

The selection of exercises to build muscle mass is critical in achieving success in the gym.

If you want the very best muscle growth potential then you need to be performing the right exercises, period.

Even if you follow a strict muscle building diet and take all the right supplements, if you aren’t doing the right movements in the gym then you simply won’t get any results.

You may notice that all these exercises are what’s called compound exercises. Compound exercises spark the most growth in the your muscles because they are very taxing on the body and they work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

So here you are, the 10 best weight training exercises that have been proven time and time again to spark major muscle growth all over your body. If you want to get massive then look no further than these:

1. Deadlifts

If you had to choose only one exercise to perform in the gym it would have to be the almighty deadlift. No other exercise puts as much strain and pressure on your body as deadlifts do. They will work you from head to toe and are regarded by many as one of the best muscle building exercises of all.

When you perform deadlifts you are working so many muscles, including your whole back, neck, traps, glutes, hamstrings, quads, biceps, forearms, and your abdominals. There’s no other exercise out there that is as good a strength tester as deadlifts. The big bonus you get out of doing deadlifts too is you will stimulate the release of anabolic hormones such as testosterone, and you will spark growth in all areas of the body.

2. Squats

You could say the Squat is just as important and powerful as the deadlift. I mean, they aren’t called the “king of all weight lifting exercises” for nothing. Just like deadlifts, Squats will work you from head to toe and spark massive muscle growth all over your body, not just your legs.

There’s no substitute for heavy Squats, and including them into your muscle building program is common sense. Most people will avoid them because they are hard work and put a lot of stress on your body, but if you perform them correctly you have nothing to worry about and you will reap the major benefits of squatting every week.

3. Chin Ups

Next on the list of the best weight training exercises are chin ups. Chin ups are great upper body muscle builder, and stimulate almost every muscle from the traps down to the abdominals. You would be a fool to not include some sort of chin up exercise into your routine.

4. Bench Press

The bench press is the greatest of all pressing exercises for building muscle, especially for the whole chest area. It also works your shoulders and triceps.

Using a barbell for your bench press allows you to lift the heaviest weight and therefore stimulate your muscles more. The bench press is a great test of upper body strength and is regarded as one of the best muscle building exercises.

5. Military Press

Also known as front press, overhead press, or shoulder press. The military press works your shoulder muscles like no other exercise can, and is crucial if you want huge, boulder-like shoulders. There are a few variations to the military press, and it can be done seated or standing, and either with a barbell or dumbbells.

6. Bar Dips

Another very effective upper body builder, especially the arms. Bar dips on a parallel bar are great to stimulate the triceps, chest, and shoulders. Be sure to add weight somehow to increase resistance, for example with a weight belt or by holding a dumbbell with your feet (can be awkward but works well if done correctly).

7. Bent Over Rows

One of the best weight training exercises to build your back and lats is the bent over row. This exercise can be done a number of ways, such as palms up, palms down, wide grip, close grip, and with an ez bar. Whichever way you choose, bent over rows are very effective at building the thickness and strength of your overall back, and also building your lats for that V look that most weight lifters are after.

8. Good Mornings

Although not as common as other exercises to build muscle mass, good mornings are a very effective compound movement that works great as one of the staples of your mass gain routines. Good mornings will mainly work your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, and are known to help improve your squat and deadlift to break through plateaus.

9. Pushups

Yes, pushups are still one of the best muscle building exercises. They are great for beginners who are starting out to gain size and strength, and once you can do them easily enough you can add weight and/or do harder variations of the pushup to keep seeing strength and size gains.

10. Bicep Curl

Last but not least, the bicep curl. People put too much emphasis on their biceps and usually overtrain them considering that many of the above exercises will work your biceps too. But you still need a direct bicep exercise in your weekly routine, and bicep curls are the way to go. Again, there are many different variations to the bicep curl.

So there you have it, the best weight training exercises of them all. Make sure to incorporate the majority of these killer movements into your weight lifting routine and you will see the best gains possible.

Building Muscle / Weight Lifting Exercises / Best Weight Training Exercises

Want to get strong like this smurf but don’t how to start?

In this Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training (part of our Strength 101 series), you’ll have both the confidence to start getting strong with resistance training AND a plan to follow.

These are the exact strategies we use with our Online Coaching Clients to help them start strength training, and I’m excited to cover everything you need.

Let us help you start strength training! Learn more:

We’ll be digging into the following:

  • How do I start strength training or resistance training?
  • Which strength training program is right for me?
  • 5 best strength training workouts for beginners.
  • How much weight should I lift?
  • The 9 best strength training exercises.
  • How to know you’re doing an exercise properly (form checks)
  • Strength training for weight loss.
  • “Just TELL ME what strength program I should do.”

By the way, we’ve combined this article along with the rest of our strength articles into a “Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know” guide.

Grab it free when you join the Rebellion by putting your email in the box below.

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!

  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

How Do I Start Strength Training?

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.

You’ll look back years from now and thank “Past You” for starting strength training today.

And I promise, you WILL strength train today.

After all, strength training or resistance training doesn’t need to be scary or overcomplicated!

Strength training really comes down to two things:

  • “Movement of any weight against “resistance”(including your body weight) – Doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone, forcing them to rebuild stronger to prepare the next challenge.
  • Progressive overload: doing slightly more than last time (lift heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will have constantly have to adapt and rebuild themselves stronger.

That’s it.

This means if you drop down and do ONE knee push-up right now, technically you’ve done a strength training workout.

It also means if you then do TWO knew push-ups tomorrow, then you are officially following a strength training routine.

In other words, YOU CAN DO THIS.

Now, there are many different “strength training” and “resistance training” paths.

Like a “skill tree” in a video game (with branching paths and progressions), you can progress up one path, and mix and match movements from others depending on the situation.

These paths depend on your goals and what equipment you have available to you.

Here are the types of strength training:

BODYWEIGHT TRAINING

Bodyweight training is simply doing an exercise in which your own body is the “weight” you are “lifting.”

Duh.

This is the BEST place for anybody – regardless of weight or age – to start their strength training journey.

Why is this the best place to start? Two big reasons:

#1) You always have your body with you (unless you are a ghost, in which case, this is awkward). This means you can work out ANYWHERE with bodyweight training:

  • Our Beginner Bodyweight Workout Routine in your living room.
  • Our Hotel Workout in a hotel (obvi).
  • Our Park Workout in a…well, you get the point.

#2) Using your body for resistance training is the most “human” thing ever! By learning to push and pull and hang and squat and lunge, you are doing what your body is literally designed to do.

By getting strong with bodyweight movements, you’re making yourself antifragile and less injury prone.

Bodyweight training isn’t as easy to ‘scale’ the difficulty as some of the other strength training methods (“put more weight on barbell”), but you can get REALLY strong with just bodyweight training.

For example, you can start with knee pushups, then go to regular push-ups, then elevated push-ups, then even up to things like handstands and handstand push-ups.

You just have to know HOW and WHEN to scale up (we can help there too).

Let us create a bodyweight training program for you!

DUMBBELL TRAINING

Dumbbells are a great first step into the world of weight training and strength training:

  1. Most gyms will have dumbbells, even if it’s a basic gym in your apartment complex.
  2. A set of dumbbells doesn’t take up a lot of room, which means you can have a pair at home without a large footprint.
  3. Dumbbells make it easy to add difficulty to a bodyweight movement: holding dumbbells while doing lunges, for example.
  4. Dumbbell exercises can be less intimidating than barbell training for some, and are a step towards barbell training.
  5. Dumbbells have an added stabilization challenge, and will point out muscle imbalances pretty easily (“oh my right arm is stronger than my left arm.”).
  6. You can scale easily. Once the 10 pound weights become too easy, pick up the 15 pound ones!

KETTLEBELL TRAINING

A kettlebell is essentially a cannonball with a handle on it. They come in any weight imaginable, they don’t take up a lot of room, and can be used in dozens of ways for a great compact workout.

Our 20-minute kettlebell workout has 8 simple exercises you can do with just one weight.

Although there are “adjustable kettlebells,” you’ll most likely be working with a single kettlebell, and then adjusting your movements for “progressive overload” (making the workout slightly more difficult each time).

If you are a member at a gym, they’ll probably have multiple kettlebells that you can use to level up.

BARBELL TRAINING

Regardless of sex or gender age, if your goal is to get strong quickly, use 20 seconds of courage and get comfortable training with a barbell (I’ll help you, I promise):

  1. “Progressive overload” is easy – you simply add weights to either side of the bar, allowing you to progressively lift more and more weight each week.
  2. It’s much easier to go heavy safely – especially for lower body movements like the squat and the deadlift.

The biggest downside to barbell training is that in order to train at home, you need to have purchased a squat rack, a barbell, a bench, and enough weights for your house or garage (which can be an expensive investment, especially when starting out!).

If not, you definitely will need to join a gym.

WHICH RESISTANCE TRAINING PATH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Not sure which path to pick? You’re not alone – this stuff can be overwhelming. Check out our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. We get to know you and your goals, will check your form via video, and make adjustments based on your progress!

Let us build a strength training workout for you that fits your busy life! Learn more:

Which Strength Training Program is Right for Me?

So, what’s the best workout program to start as a beginner?

Realistically, it’s the one that you will actually do.

Barbell training might be optimal in terms of building pure strength quickly, but if you don’t see yourself actually getting to the gym regularly – or you’re too self conscious to enter the free weight section (for now) – no problem!

Start with bodyweight training.

Conversely, bodyweight training might seem convenient and easy to start now, but if you can’t motivate yourself to work out at home, you might be better off joining a gym.

So let’s get you a workout program!

As we cover in our “How to Find the Perfect Workout Plan (for you)”: MOST beginners will be best served by following a “full body” or “total body” routine, 2 to 3 times per week, with a day of rest in between each workout.

This full body workout will have 4-5 big compound movements.

A compound movement is an exercise that recruits LOTS of muscles simultaneously and forces your body to work in unison.

An example would be the barbell squat, which recruits every muscle in your core, butt, and legs to work together to lift the weight.

This is WAY more efficient – and effective at building pure strength – than doing 5 different isolated leg exercises.

Why do 5 exercises when 1 exercise will get you better results in 20% of the time?

To answer your next question, let me tell you about how many sets and reps you should do as a beginner! As we explain in our “how many sets and reps” guide:

  • Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength.
  • Reps in the 6-12 range build equal amounts of muscular power, strength, and size.
  • Reps in the 12+ range primarily build muscular endurance and size and also cardiovascular health.

Many beginner strength programs will encourage you to keep things simple and just do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise in an effort to optimize progress as a beginner interested in strength gains.

I personally encourage people to aim for a weight that they can lift for 8-10 reps. This gives you a chance to really work on your form and lift safely!

The max lifts will come later, my friend. You gotta learn to walk before you can run!

“Staci, which workout plan is best for me?”

It depends on your goals!

If your main goal is general fitness and fat loss, doing a circuit training workout will likely help you reach your goals (make sure you see our section below for “strength training for weight loss”).

If your main goal is to get stronger and/or put on muscle, following a more traditional, pure-strength style gym workout is going to get you there faster.

TRUTH BOMB: ANY strength training workout will help you reach nearly any goal provided you do two things:

  1. Eat correctly for your goals too. How you eat will account for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to weight loss or bulking up.
  2. Increase the difficulty of your workouts. This is that “progressive overload” stuff we were talking about earlier. Doing 1 more bodyweight squat, lifting 5 more pounds, or completing your circuit 10 seconds faster than last workout. By forcing your body to constantly adapt, your muscles will never get complacent and have to keep burning extra calories and rebuilding themselves stronger.

Depending on your current situation, and how quickly you’re looking to cut through the “trial and error” and get expert guidance, I might have an interesting solution for you.

We have a pretty killer 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program here at Nerd Fitness. You’ll work with a coach that will build a workout program for your body type and goals, check your form to make sure you’re doing them safety, and even help plan out your nutrition too.

We help busy people transform from newbies to strong badasses! Learn more:

The 5 Best Beginner Strength Training Programs

“Alright Staci, are there any ‘out of the box’ beginner workout programs I can start following now?”

Yup! Let me share with you some of our suggestions:

Here are 5 resistance training workouts you can follow TODAY. Pick the level that you feel most comfortable with, and then level up when you feel ready:

#1) BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT:

Our Beginner Bodyweight Workout has a variety of rep ranges to promote endurance, strength, and cardiovascular health.

Complete one set of each exercise and then moving directly onto the next exercise:

  • 20 body weight squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
  • 15 second plank
  • 30 jumping Jacks
  • Repeat for 3 rounds

Want to stick with bodyweight training? When you’re ready to level up, check out our advanced bodyweight training circuit.

Otherwise, you can move onto weight training when you feel comfortable!

#2A) BEGINNER NERD FITNESS DUMBBELL WORKOUT

If you are just getting started with dumbbells and you’re looking for a beginner workout program to follow, this is our Level 3 Gym Workout, “Dumbbell Division”:

  • 10 goblet squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 dumbbell rows per side

I knew you’d ask, so here is Goblet Squat video explanation (from the Nerd Fitness Academy):

And here is our video on how to do dumbbell rows:

#2B) BEGINNER NERD FITNESS KETTLEBELL WORKOUT

Our Beginner Kettlebell Routine is a workout you do anywhere you have room to swing a kettlebell.

So, probably not in a phone booth or a closet or a bathroom stall. But other than that, pretty much anywhere else.

Complete 3 Kettlebell Workout Circuits:

  • 8 Halos (each side)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 8 Overhead Presses (each side)
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings
  • 8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
  • 6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)

#3) BARBELL TRAINING: 2 DAY WORKOUT SPLIT

As we cover in our “how to train in a gym” guide (where we take you from “lost sheep” to “barbell badass”), this routine is a much more focused weight training, strength building workout that gets your feet wet with barbell training. Click on ANY exercise to learn how to do it properly.

NF BEGINNER BARBELL STRENGTH WORKOUT: DAY A

Do 3 rounds of:

  • 10 barbell squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 bodyweight rows

NF BEGINNER BARBELL STRENGTH WORKOUT: DAY B

Do 3 rounds of:

  • 5 barbell Romanian deadlifts
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 dumbbell rows per arm

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER POPULAR STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAMS?

#1) “Starting Strength” is considered the gold standard beginner barbell weight training program by many. We highly recommend you pick up the actual book if you are serious about barbell training – it’s one of the most important training books you can ever read.

#2) Strong Lifts 5X5: A solid workout program that starts you out very slow, with just the barbell, and helps you master form before you get too heavy. It also keeps things VERY easy with “do 5×5.” Strong Lifts has been around for a long time and is a solid program.

#3) Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1: This program allows you a little more freedom to do exercises that you enjoy, or work on personal weaknesses, because you choose some of the assistance work.

Note: You can modify any of the barbell training programs to be done with dumbbells, if that’s what you have at home!

Lastly, you can always write your own workout plan! I wrote my own workouts for a decade and it taught me a LOT about training and health.

We do have our own 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program where you’ll work with a coach that will build a strength training workout program for your body type and goals, check your form on each exercise via video, and even help you plan out your nutrition too.

If you want to learn more about our coaching program, you can click in the box below: Want step-by-step guidance and form checks? Learn more:

How Much Weight Should I lift?

We have a FULL resource on how to determine your starting weight for lifting, but I’ll give you the gist here.

The simple to learn but tough to implement answer: lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have NO fuel left in the tank at the end.

And then, try to lift sliiiightly more than last time.

How much weight should I start with?

  • If you are using dumbbells or a kettlebell, always err on the side of “too light” versus “too heavy.” You want to learn the movement correctly and build correct form.
  • If you are training with a barbell, ALWAYS start with JUST the bar, no matter the exercise (By the way, a standard barbell weighs 45 pounds).

“How fast should I add weight to the bar?”

Here’s what we teach all of our coaching clients: add the minimum amount of weight each week you can, even if you THINK you can lift more. It’s better to finish a workout full of momentum and say “I can do more!” than defeated and saying “that was too much, crapola.”

Think of it this way, even if you are adding just 5 pounds per week to the bar, within a year you would be lifting 300+ pounds!

So go SLOW. Team NF’s Steve even bought little half pound weights and increases many of his lifts by just 1 pound per week. It’s a big part of how he transformed (jokingly) from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

And if you are looking for this content in easily digestible form, make sure you download our free Strength 101 Guide when you join the rebellion below:

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!

  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

The 9 Best Strength Training Exercises to Learn

If you’re new to all this “strength training” stuff, hopping into a program and going from zero to sixty might be a recipe for failure.

Instead, be patient, and take the time to learn these movements first.

I’m going to share with you the 9 best strength training exercises that every beginners should master (scroll down for full video and explanations!):

  • 1. Push-up: uses every push muscle in your body (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • 2. Bodyweight squat: uses every muscle in lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, core)
  • 3. Bodyweight row: works every “pull” muscle and helps prepare you for a pull-up!
  • 4. Pull-up or chin-up: the best “pull” exercise in history! Everybody should have a goal to get their first pull-up.
  • 5. Bodyweight dip: advanced “push” movement that targets your push muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) in a different way than push-ups.
  • 6. Barbell squat: the best bang for your buck on muscle building. recruits nearly every push muscle in your whole body, and great core workout.
  • 7. Barbell deadlift: the favorite exercise of every coach at Nerd Fitness. Uses every “pull,” leg, and core muscle in your body.
  • 8. Barbell benchpress: as basic and powerful as they come. Uses every “push” movement in your upper body and can get you strong as heck!
  • 9. Barbell press: press the bar above your head! targets shoulders and triceps more than chest.

Click on any of these exercises to get a FULL explanation of the movement, step-by-step:

1) The Push-Up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for push muscles (your chest, shoulders, and triceps):

2) The Bodyweight Squat: This exercise serves a dual purpose: it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first!

3) The Inverted Bodyweight Row: Until you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength: your back, biceps, and forearms.

4) The Pull-Up and Chin-Up: Once you can support your bodyweight above the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training routine should be without pull-up or chin-up work! (Click here if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up yet?)

5) The Bodyweight Dip: As you start to get stronger with push-ups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider doing dips – warning: these are very advanced, but incredible strength building exercises.

And now we’re into the best weight training exercises:

6) The Barbell Squat: Probably the best exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body. It also burns crazy calories and makes life better. This is a MUST:

7) The Barbell Deadlift: Maybe the best exercise of all time. Actually no, it IS the best exercise of all time. It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.”

This is a very technical lift, so make sure you read our article on how to do it with proper form:

8) The Barbell Press: Press a barbell above your head. This recruits all of the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms in order for you to lift the weight over your head.

As a bonus, you need to really flex and brace your core, which gets those muscles working too.

9) The Barbell Bench Press. Lie on a bench, and lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and the press it back up towards the sky. Repeat! And get strong.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: commit to trying ONE of these movements in the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has lifted or trained before, and try your best.

And if you want somebody to help you put these into a workout program, teach you HOW to do these movements properly, and have the confidence to know you’re training correctly for your goals…

Let us create a workout program that fits your busy life!

How to KNow you’re doing a strength training movement Properly (Form Checks)

Always start out with just your bodyweight and make sure your movement is correct!

If it’s a barbell movement, use a broomstick (or PVC Pipe).

If it’s a dumbbell movement, use two sections of PVC or something else that is light and small to simulate a dumbbell.

When it comes to movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench press, your form is crucial. Develop good habits with lightweight and you will save yourself months of frustration later and will protect you from injury.

If you’re struggling with certain elements of a movement, don’t get frustrated! Just understand that you’ll have areas in which you can improve.

How do you know if your movement is correct?

Do regular video form checks! Record yourself and watch the video.

Alternatively, an expert reviewing your specific movement can be invaluable.

If you’re looking for someone who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on your progress, you can check out our 1-on-1 Online Personal Training!

I’ve had an online coach for 4 years and it’s changed my life.

Never wonder if you’re doing a movement properly! Get form checks from our coaches:

You could also get expert guidance in person: Look around at your local strength and conditioning gyms and see if you could hire a coach (here’s how to find a good personal trainer) for one or two sessions just to go over the basic movements.

If you can’t do either of those two options, no big deal! Videotape yourself and compare it to the videos here in the articles. You can also post your video to the form check section of the Nerd Fitness Forums.

When I started, I really liked practicing all of the movements at home because I could watch a video online at the same time as I was watching myself do it in a mirror.

Strength Training For Weight Loss

So you’re looking to lose weight, and tired of hours of cardio (me too).

And you’re wondering if strength training for weight loss – by following one of the workouts in this guide is a viable solution.

Or, gasp – will strength training make you too bulky? (SPOILER: it won’t)

Yes, Strength training will help you lose weight IF you do two key things for effective weight loss:

  • Calorie restriction: eating fewer calories than you burn every day
  • Strength training with progressive overload (picking up heavier stuff)

As we point out in our “Cardio vs Intervals vs Weight Training” article, strength training is the MOST efficient method for weight loss.

Not only that, but you can find study after study after study that shows you the benefits of strength training for weight management when combined with “calorie restriction.”

As I cover in our “Why can’t I lose weight?” article, here’s why eating a caloric deficit and strength training is SO magical when combined:

When you strength train – by picking up something heavy – your muscles are “broken down” during the exercise itself, and then they rebuild themselves stronger over the next 24-48 hours.

Guess what happens during those 24-48 hours?

Your body will divert as many calories consumed as necessary to “Rebuild Muscle!”

It also diverts additional calories to “Burn as Fuel” to handle this increased “muscle rebuilding” activity.

Which means two amazing things:

  • Your metabolism is revved up for this time period, burning more calories than normal.
  • Rebuilding muscle is a calorie taxing activity!

Not only that, but when you eat a caloric deficit, your body doesn’t have enough calories to fuel all the day’s activities. In these instances, your body will pull from your stored fat to make sure all the work still gets done.

This is the trifecta of physical transformation victory:

  • You get stronger and keep the muscle you have.
  • You burn through the fat you’re trying to get rid of.
  • You’re decreasing your body fat percent and keeping your muscle = look good naked.

In other words, strength training + eating right is the BEST path for weight loss out there! And yes, in certain situations, you can actually lose weight AND build muscle at the same time.

So how do you put this into practice? Pick one of the strength workouts in this article. Calculate your daily caloric needs. Learn about healthy eating. And start.

In other words…

Pick up something heavy, and eat a vegetable.

These are the types of things we work on with our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients: helping them lift weights confidently and eat correctly for their goals! Let us help you:

Let our coaches create a custom strength training and weight loss plan for you!

“Just Tell Me What Strength Training Program to Follow!”

Okay! Unless you are collecting underpants, you should now have a workout program you want to try out!

“Staci, this is a lot, can you just TELL me what to do?”

Okay fine.

Here are the steps again for you:

STEP ONE: PICK YOUR WORKOUT PATH:

A) If YOU ARE TRAINING AT HOME. Pick one of these 3 based on what equipment you have:

  • Beginner Bodyweight Workout (no equipment)
  • Kettlebell Beginner Workout
  • Dumbbell Division Workout (Level 3 of Gym Guide)

B) IF YOU ARE TRAINING IN A GYM: Amazing! I love gyms.

Read our “How to train in a gym” guide and go from Level 1 to Level 6 over the next month.

STEP #2: TRY A NEW EXERCISE: In addition to following a workout program, I’m gonna push outside of your comfort zone – that’s where real growth happens.

Learn ONE new movement this week.

Pick one of the exercises below and try it out!

  • How to squat
  • How to deadlift
  • How to bench press
  • How to do the overhead press
  • How to do a pull-up
  • How to do a push-up
  • How to do an inverted row

Here are 42 bodyweight exercises you can too.

STEP #3) HIRE A YODA: If you are somebody that just wants to be told exactly what to, how to train for your goals, and are good at following direction, consider hiring a coach.

I’ve been working with an online coach since 2014 and it has changed my life – and I do this stuff for a living!

  • Read our guide on “Is a personal trainer worth it?”
  • Consider the NF Online Coaching Program!

Let us help you get strong, every step of the way! Learn more:

STEP #4) JOIN THE REBELLION! If you like how we do things around here at Nerd Fitness, we’d love to have you in our community of misfits, mutants, and rebels!

Sign up in the box below and I’ll send you our free Strength 101 guide:

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!

  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

No matter what you do today:

Don’t be afraid of doing anything wrong – truth be told, the majority of the people in the gym don’t have any idea what they are doing, and are just as nervous as you are!

Muster up your 20 seconds of courage if you need to, and let me know in the comments how it goes!

What questions do you have about getting started?

So, what’s the biggest thing holding you back from starting strength training?

-Staci

PS – Check out the rest of the articles in our Strength Training 101 series:

  • Strength Training 101
  • Strength Training 101: Finding the Right Gym
  • Strength Training 101: How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?
  • Strength Training 101: How to Build Muscle Quickly
  • Strength Training 101: How to Squat Properly
  • Strength Training 101: How to Deadlift
  • Strength Training 101: How to Bench Press
  • Strength Training 101: How to Do a Pull-Up
  • Strength Training 101: How to Do a Bodyweight Row
  • Strength Training 101: How to Do a Dip
  • Strength Training 101: How to Overhead Press

photo source:Jacob: Gymn Bunny Smurf, William Marlow: Assorted Weights, Kaleb Fulgham: Dumbbells, W_Minshull: Stormtroopers in Gym, Lego Lifting, Rainstorm, Kristina Alexanderson: Teddy Love, Jason Ternus: Stormtrooper Pushups

Best exercise for strength

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