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How to Get Stronger – 3 Key Exercises

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“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee

Every man wants to be physically strong but not every man knows how to get stronger. Physical strength comes from subjecting yourself to uncomfortable feats of consistent physical resistance and endurance over a period of time. Naturally, men are gifted to be physically strong. Thanks to all the testosterone and Growth Hormone we produce. Unfortunately, we aren’t living in the era of Pyramids where men developed strength just by living their normal lives performing daily activities. In the millennial era, building strength has become a lifestyle for individuals and there are men out there building careers just by building strength when physical strength is an innate trait of a man.

Today, we have a variety of approaches to building strength and I am going to talk about how you can gain maximum strength using just three key exercises. These three powerful exercises can help you in building massive amount of strength, which can be carried over to other exercises as well.

The Overhead Press

The overhead press was once an Olympics competition lift but now it is easily overlooked. The overhead press tests an individual’s strength and endurance. In the overhead press, you push the weight vertically up, against the force of gravity. To an absolute beginner, performing an overhead press can result in a huge blow to his morale. However, with practice and patience, you can quickly gain an incredible amount of strength in your overhead press movements, which can then be carried over to your horizontal push exercises like the classic bench press.

Why is the Overhead Press Difficult to Perform?

Since we know that pushing anything against the force of gravity requires a lot of effort. With the overhead press, we are not talking about small load like 10-20 kg, we are dealing with heavy loads (50-100 kg). I know it sounds frightening at first, but with consistent practice, you can easily press 100 kg overhead.

How the Overhead Press Builds Strength?

To understand what leads to strength gains and how to get stronger, you must first understand compound lifts. Compound lifts are exercises that involve multiple muscles or muscle groups to perform the movements. Our body is meant to work synergistically, which means different muscle groups support each other to perform a movement. For example, when you walk, your quads, glutes, calves, abdominal muscles, and postural muscles work together to help you in standing erect and walking with balance. Now, with years of practice, you have nearly perfected your walk and now walking is second nature to you that requires no additional effort. If walking had still been difficult, you would have gained tremendous strength and muscle mass by now.

When synergistic muscles work together, they grow. Similarly, the Overhead Press is a compound exercise, requiring you shoulder muscles, postural muscles, abdominal muscles, and lower back to work together to push the weight against the force of gravity.

It is normal for your body to feel weak when introducing overhead press to your workouts but with time, your body will start adapting, growing and getting stronger to perform the movement effectively. Remember, your body is an adapting machine. As a result of adaptation, the body also builds up a lot of strength.

The Deadlift

Not only is the deadlift a phenomenal exercise but it is also a famous lift in powerlifting competitions. There are individuals, who can deadlift about 300-400 kg. With practice, even you can lift at least 200 kg. Trust me, 200 kg is a big number. If you are starting, it is recommended that you start lifting lighter weights and slowly progress toward more challenging weights. Just like the Overhead Press, the deadlift is a compound movement, which engages your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, forearms, lumbar spine (lower back), lats, traps, abdominal muscles and rhomboids. Bang for the buck!

Why is the Deadlift Difficult to Perform?

Any movement that our bodies cannot perform easily, puts stress on to it. When the body is subjected to stress, it tends to get stronger and adapt. The deadlift is a movement that you have been performing for a very long time. However, you haven’t been doing the movement to lift heavy load. Hence, the muscles have adapted just to perform certain basic actions like picking up something off the ground, tying your shoelace, etc. However, think about a scenario, where you had to lift a car, lift a fallen tree, a big stone unless you have the strength to do so, you wouldn’t be able to do it. Even if you try doing it, you are more likely to injure yourself.

How the Deadlift Builds Strength?

As mentioned earlier, the deadlift involves multiple muscle groups to perform the maneuver. Also, when synergistic muscles work together, they tend to get stronger. The stronger the muscles, the stronger you are. Racking numbers on deadlift can greatly improve your upper body strength and as well as lower body strength. Moreover, as you start building strength in all those different muscles, don’t be surprised to see strength gains in other exercises like the squat and bench-press. Strength carryover!

The Back Squat

One of the core functions of our bodies is to stand up straight. Normally, a healthy child, teenager or adult will have no problem standing up. In the caveman days, we did not have comfortable chairs and sofas. We sat on the ground and rose up from the ground. Therefore, when looking from an evolutionary aspect, the muscles required to perform the basic movement of standing up are only just strong enough  to help us stand up. This means, you can further strengthen those muscles by introducing resistance while performing the basic movement of standing up.

The muscles that help you in standing up include your abdominal muscles, quads, hamstrings, calves, postural muscles and lower back. When performing the back squat, you go into a sitting pose with all that load on your shoulders and when you try standing up, the movement becomes extremely difficult to perform. When this happens, the brain is confused and goes like, “man, standing up is one of this guy’s basic functions and for some reason he is unable to perform it, got to make him stronger!”

Why is the Back Squat Difficult to Perform?

As mentioned in the section above, standing up is one of our basic physical functions. Since we don’t find difficulty in standing up, our muscles do not require any extra strength – adaptation principle. Now, when you put your body under immense load, it has to work harder to perform the movement. Hence, when you squat with loads like 100 kg, it challenges the life out of you and as a result gets you stronger in the long run.

How the Back-Squat Builds Strength?

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Back squat is a compound exercise that involves a lot of muscle groups, which include quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, postural muscles while maintaining a steady posture. Not only does the exercise strengthen the mentioned muscle groups but also strengthens other small stabilizing muscles.

If you are starting out, start light and slowly progress toward challenging weights. Having a higher number of squats will also strengthen your other movements like the bench press, overhead press, and the deadlift.

Sample Workout for Beginners and Intermediate Lifters

The Overhead Press

5 Sets of 5 Reps twice a week.

Important Notes: Start with lighter weights and add 2.5 to 5 kg to the workout every week. If you can perform an Overhead Press of about 100 kg, you can qualify yourself as an advanced lifter. If not, keep trying until you reach those numbers. Also, as you reach number close to 100 kg, you may drop down the reps to 1 rep per set.

The Deadlift

5 Sets of 5 Reps twice a week.

Important Notes: Start with lighter weights and add 2.5 to 5 kg to the workout every week. If you can perform a deadlift of about 180 kg, you can qualify yourself as an advanced lifter. If not, keep trying until you reach those numbers. Also, as you reach number close to 100 kg, you may drop down the reps to 1 rep per set.

The Back Squat

5 Sets of 5 Reps twice a week.

Important Notes: Start with lighter weights and add 2.5 to 5 kg to the workout every week. If you can perform a back squat of about 140 kg, you can qualify yourself as an advanced lifter. If not, keep trying until you reach those numbers. Also, as you reach number close to 100 kg, you may drop down the reps to 1 rep per set.

Final Word

How to get stronger, isn’t rocket science anymore. To get stronger, you don’t need a complex workout program. All you need is to get stronger of your basic lifts that involve normal mechanics and functions of the body. A combined strength in the Overhead Press, deadlift, and  back squats can turn you into a strong monster that is capable of undertaking any physical challenge.

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