Ten exercises to rule them all. From a pure strength building standpoint these are my top 10 favorite for building force producing capabilities. When we talk about strength building exercises I am speaking directly about strength and not power, speed or muscle building; we'll save that for another list.  Don't agree, make your own list!




- In my mind the deadlift is the king of all strength exercises. Without the use of any momentum the deadlift is truly a test of strength and will.


- A close second, the back squat is a test in strength and mental toughness, as the weight of a heavy bar on your shoulders can very easily psych-out even the toughest individual.


- Weighted carries are underutilized and I don't know why. You want a true core developing exercise that works everything in the mean time? Pick up something really heavy and walk with it. If you are questioning what it is working the weight isn't nearly heavy enough.


- No bench press? Nope, not for me. Did you know the strict overhead press (military press) use to be one of the competitive lifts used in the Olympic games?


- Here is my replacement for the bench press.  We need open and closed chain strength in our pressing and the pushup allows us to build full body stability, upperbody strength, while maintaining optimal shoulder function, which is a lovely thing.


- RDLs are a staple of our program and for good reason, they are fairly easy to learn, they build great posterior chain strength (back, glutes, hamstrings), and you can really load the bar up and build some really good strength.


in Boston claims that you should be able to pull what you can bench. For example, let's say you weigh 175 pounds and can bench press 225 pounds. That means you should be able to perform a pullup with 50 pounds of added resistance. Very few folks have that type of balance in their push/pull strength. Time to get pulling!


made these popular over the past few years and for good reason. You can load these suckers up for days. They may look a little weird but trust me you won't regret what they do for your strength or your back side.


- More rowing, these suckers are great for building upper back strength which we all need more of.


- Like the back squat but with more emphasis on the anterior chain (quads, anterior core).  A tried and true heavy hitter.

Of course there are many other great strength building lifts out there but I decided to keep it at 10. The key question to ask yourself whether a lift is a good strength builder is this: "How trainable is this lift?" This means, how long can you continue to progress and add weight to the lift? For example, a bicep curl isn't nearly as trainable as a back squat. A lateral raise isn't nearly trainable as a deadlift. Most strength building exercises utilize a barbell (not all), are complex movements (multi-joint), and do not use machines.  

Remember when in doubt, from this point in time until your last you need to be emphasizing these three things: 1) gain lean muscle, 2) increase mobility, 3) gain strength.