Workout Tips

12 Moves for Building Grown-Man Strength

You can lift 1,000 pounds. Learn the best tips to become a member of strength’s exclusive club.

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The Deadlift

To build a commanding, athletic body, you must have a strong deadlift. It builds massive and powerful hamstrings, glutes, back muscles, and grip strength. It’s also the most basic exercise of them all—put something heavy on the ground and lift.

But to pull the most weight in the safest way possible, you need to follow a few rules for an efficient deadlift. 

“Keep the bar in contact with the body during the lift,” says Landers. By dragging the barbell up your legs, you’ll pull with the best method biomechanically and keep your lower back safe. 

Next, build a strong grip says Landers. When pulling 400-plus pounds, you need hands that can rip the bar off the ground and prevent it from slipping. Things like weighted carries, towel pull-ups, and grip crushers will explode your grip strength. 

Also, make sure you “set” your lats to stabilize the spine and transfer more force. “Try to bend the bar around your shins by twisting your grip into the bar with your pinkies—think clockwise rotation of the right hand and counter-clockwise with the left hand,” says Landers. “That applies to double-overhand or mixed grips, too.”

Finally, for the best number sets and reps, Landers recommends 3 reps or less when pulling 80% or more of your one-rep max to save wear-and-tear on your lower back. For example, if your 1-rep max is 400 lb., use 3 reps or less once you’re using weight above 320 lb. 

Increase your deadlift with this program:

A1: Deadlift 5 x 3,3,2,2,1 (increase weight each set)

B1: Barbell Hip Thrusts 3 x 8

C1: Pull-Ups 3 x as many as possible
C2: Dips 3 x as many as possible

The Bench Press

Of all the powerlifts, the bench press is by far the most common one in gyms across the world. It sculpts a strong, sexy upper body, huge pecs, and broad shoulders, yet it’s an exercise that many guys do wrong.  

“People take too wide of a grip, which injures the shoulder,” explains Landers. Often, guys bench by keeping their elbows flared out to the sides—not only is that inefficient, but also it strains your fragile shoulder joints. Instead, keep those elbows close to your ribcage as you bench. 

Next, guys often bounce the barbell off their chest to gain momentum and cheat. “Instead, pause all reps at the bottom, but stay tight,” says Landers. In a powerlifting competition, you actually have to lower the bar to your ribcage and wait until the judge lets you to push—this requires far more strength because you’re pressing from a dead stop. 

To supplement your bench press, Landers recommends strengthening the triceps, which are critical to lock out the barbell. Also, strengthen the opposing muscles at your back and rotator cuff with rows and external-rotation exercises. This will develop the upper-back musculature to support a big chest and heavy bench, while keeping your shoulders balanced and injury-free. 

Finally, press with your entire body. Landers coaches his competitors to tense their lower body and drive through their feet so they have the stability and muscle activation to lift a lot of weight. 

Increase your bench with this quick powerlifting routine:

A1: Bench Press 5 x 5

B1: Chest Support Rows 3 x 12
B2: Feet-elevated Pushups 3 x 12
B3: Face Pulls 3 x 12

How To Build Your Program

Now that you have the tips, it’s time to find a great program to boost your numbers. 

Use a periodized, strength-training program like 5/3/1, the Texas Method, 5x5, Madcow, or the Westside system. “They focus on steady planned progressions and, more importantly, back off weeks,” says Landers. That way, you’ll make fast, consistent results without undue fatigue. 

Without a smart program, however, you’ll hit plateaus and progress slowly. For example, many guys test their one-rep max too frequently, which exhausts their muscles and drains their nervous system. “Test your one-rep max at powerlifting meets only,” says Landers, “or no more than every three months if you don’t compete.” 

But if you want to enter the 1000 lb. Club, consider a competition. “Nothing will motivate you more than having to put your ‘gym maxes’ to the competition test,” says Landers. 

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