I like trying different things in the gym, which is typically why I use workout programs that are created by friends of mine because they’re going to make me do stuff that I may not want to do. If I’m testing something that I’m creating, that’s obviously what I’ll do, but I like trying new things.
There are, however, exercises I make sure I include no matter what I’m doing in the gym. Each of the following exercises fit into that mold as exercises that are a constant in all of my workouts. While they’re all great at building muscle, they also help build functional strength that can help us perform better in all aspects of our lives.
Read the article, and make sure you include each of these exercises in your next program.
1. Farmer’s Walk
Grip strength is one of the most important aspects of what we’d call “functional strength”; that is, strength that applies to our everyday life. With the addition of straps to many a man’s weight training attire, grip strength needs special attention, that’s where the farmer’s walk comes in.
For starters, I love the name. Farmer’s typically have great grip strength because they’re working with their hands all day. It’s also a great exercise for your core, as well as for trap development.
Make this exercise timed. So on week 1, walk for 20 seconds choosing a weight that will get you to fail around that time. The next week push yourself with that same weight – or as close to it as possible – for 30 seconds. The following week aim for 40 seconds. After you hit 40 seconds, choose a heavier weight and start back at 20 seconds. Keep this strategy until you’re walking with 2 smart cars held firmly in your grasp.
2. Hip Thrusts.
Your hips are, like your grip, a muscle involved in what we’d deem “functional strength”. Much of your athletic power comes from your hips. That includes jumping, punching, and lifting. Along with deadlifts and RDLs, hip thrusts are one of the best exercises you can do for your hips and glutes.
I like using a barbell more than dumbbells, but you can also perform a single leg hip thrust using a dumbbell, which is another great option.
3. Hang Cleans.
If you’re a guy who’s involved in any form of athletics, be it ultra-competitive or of the weekend warrior variety, cleans should be your best friend. Not only are they a great exercise for trap development, but they’re also one of the best grip strength exercises you can perform. Try using dumbbells and increasing the rep count to finish a workout. The backs of your forearms will kill, as will your lungs.
Regular hang cleans: Aim for 3-4 reps of a heavy weight, leaving 2 reps in the tank.
Dumbbell cleans: 10-12 reps going to failure. They’re an awkward exercise, so don’t overestimate the weight you choose to use.
4. Front Squats.
The cousin of the back squat is possibly even better. It’s easier to get full depth with the front squat in comparison to the back squat, and most people find it to be easier on the back. It’s a great exercise for power as well as lean muscle gains.
For power: Perform 4-6 reps leaving 2 reps in the tank. Do this for 4 sets with 120 seconds rest in between sets.
For muscle gains: One of the best quads/gluts exercises you can perform is the front squat for 20 reps. Try 3-4 sets of 20 reps. It will KILL. And aim to come at least close to failure on that 20th rep. If you can walk as per usual after you’ve finished the final set, you’ve chosen a weight that’s too light. Post-set leg shakes are a must.
Lat pull-downs seem to be the “go-to” for lat training these days. But nothing beats a good old fashion pull-up or chin-up. It’s one of the best exercises for your back that you can possibly do, there are a ton of variations you can implement to change which part of the muscle is trained, and it’s again, one of the best exercises for your grip strength that you can perform.
When most people to pull ups they tend to tilt backwards, which is great. One of my favorite pull-ups is the sternum pull-up where the bottom of the sternum comes into contact with the bar. However, if you want to isolate the lats, try this variation of the pull-up to ensure you’re getting the best workout for your lats as humanly possible.
Looking for something new to do in the gym?
All of these exercises exist in the first program I ever did that got me real results: the PowerHowse Challenge. To this day I still go back to it if my gains aren’t where I want them to be. Whether you’re trying to build lean muscle, burn fat, or simply become a stronger, better athlete, it’s an incredible program that I highly recommend. To learn more about it click here.