The Top 5 Strength Exercises to Create Unbreakable Strength
I will start off by saying that no two people are alike and should go through a movement screen or some other form of evaluation by a properly trained strength coach to determine which exercises are going to be the most beneficial for you!
That being said, here are my Top 5 Strength Exercises that you should be doing on a regular basis.
1. Squatting Variation
Depending on your skill level start with the basics. If you can’t perform a bodyweight squat properly, then it doesn’t make sense to load the movement pattern and reinforce improper form. Not to mention the increase in the rate of injury. For minimal equipment I gravitate towards goblet squats and rack squats, which can be done with Kettlebells or Dumbbells. If you have access to barbells I would recommend Box Squats over traditional barbell squats. For a couple of reasons, but one of the most important is that it teaches the “athlete” to sit back and activate their hamstrings and glutes more.
2. Pressing Variation
Again, your skill level will dictate the amount of variation that you can add into your program. In order for our athletes to progress from bodyweight movements to dumbbell and barbell movements we have them perform the ‘4 Minute Push Up Test’, which consists of doing 100 push ups in under 4 minutes. This demonstrates that you have the skill, strength, and ability to perform loaded pressing movements.
As far as specific exercises go, I gravitate towards a neutral (or palm facing) grip floor press with dumbbells or a swiss/football bar. This limits the range of motion and allows the shoulders to be in a better position. From there choose variations based on specific goals.
3. Rowing Variation
Rowing, whether it be vertical or horizontal, is a crucial part of any strength program. As a general rule you should have a 2:1 or even 3:1 rowing to pressing ratio. The reason being is that everything, well most everything that we do is forward facing. Think about your daily activities… driving, typing, being on your phone, eating, shopping, etc. It’s all done from a position of internal rotation and we need to balance things out by training our upper back.
Our staple exercises are inverted bodyweight rows, chest supported rows, chin ups or neutral grip pull ups, band pull aparts, and isometric holds. All of these can be added to any program, no matter the skill level; however the amount of resistance/assistance will be dictated by the skill level.
4. Loaded Carries
This is probably one of the most overlooked pieces of designing and incorporating exercises into a strength program. They focus on grip, core strength, and overall full body work capacity. Loaded carries are a favorite of mine, especially when training tactical athletes and I try to incorporate them in workouts at least 2-3 times a week. They can be done in a warm up, as accessory exercises, or at the end of a workout as a finisher.
Some of the most common variations are farmers carries, unbalanced farmers walks, rack or overhead walks, chaos carries with sleds… the list goes on and on.
5. Sprinting or Sled Dragging/Pushing/Pulling
We sometimes forget that our bodies are designed to move. By that I mean we don’t need all the fancy equipment, like assault bikes, rowers, or ergs. Don’t get me wrong, those definitely have time and place but nothing beats sprinting. Things like tempo runs and hill sprints belong in a program that focuses on developing lean functional muscle. If you have access to a prowler or sled, they work great for situations where you have limited space as they load and work the same movement patterns. Not to mention sleds are great for promoting recovery and increasing work capacity (overall conditioning level).
Use sprinting and sled variations as a tool to develop a well rounded program and to become a better athlete. One side note on sprinting: If you haven’t done it in a while, start slow, keep the distances short, and make sure to have plenty of rest.
If you need any help reaching your goals, reach out to me and I will gladly help if I can.
Yours in Strength,
Kyle is currently a police officer and has served for the past 10 years at a police department in Upstate, NY. In that capacity, he serves as the department’s physical fitness instructor, where he conducts in-service training and teaches at the Police Academy. Kyle is also one of the two explosive detection K9 Handlers for the department.
As the Online Director of Training and Performance for Train to Hunt, Kyle draws from his previous experience as a gym owner to consult with clients to prepare them physically and mentally for the most rigorous of big game hunts.
Most importantly Kyle is a husband and a father of one (a 10-month-old boy). The family is very important to him and he makes it a priority to find work/life balance.