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The 8 Best Strength Exercises for 2017

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Regardless of your fitness goals, gaining strength should be a big part of your training.

Strength training with the right exercises has been shown to:

  • Increase total-body strength
  • Increase muscle
  • Improve performance (speed, power, reaction, balance, coordination)
  • Shred fat
  • Increase your metabolism
  • Increase bone density
  • Improve posture
  • Increase flexibility
  • Decrease injuries, aches and pains

Research has also shown time after time that the combination of strength training and cardio far surpasses cardio training alone for fat-loss. 

As you can see, whether you are training for weight-loss, performance or general health, getting stronger should be a priority. 

Let's get your 2017 started right with 8 of our favorite strength training exercises. 

#1 Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is one of the best exercises to strengthen and shape your glutes and hamstrings. Having the handles on the side allow you to keep your center of gravity, making these much more safe than a traditional deadlift. It is typically the most challenging exercise for our members to master so take your time! Beginners initially want to squat the movement by excessively bending their knees. The deadlift is a hinge movement where you want to move at the hips and allow your torso to fold forward. This movement not only teaches our members how to safely deadlift in the gym but also how to safely lift objects off the floor outside of the gym. 

Key Points:

  • Start in middle of bar with feet hip width, toes straight
  • To get into position, soften knees and push hips back (do not let knees travel forward)
  • Keep spine in neutral position with shoulders back, chest tall
  • Grab handles and drive through heels to stand up
  • Finish tall with glutes squeezed
  • Reverse motion by sitting back and down
  • Keep hands tracking along side of body
  • Start with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

#2 Plank (front & side)

The plank could easily be number one on our list. Be sure to get really good at these as they transfer to keeping you strong and safe in all exercises. By improving the strength and endurance of your core, you will be better able to stabilize your spine during exercise. This will also set the foundation for more advanced core exercises down the road. 

Learn how to properly plank below:

Key Points (front plank)

  • Start on elbows with fists directly under your eyes
  • Keep straight line from head to heels
  • Keep hips tucked under and glutes squeezed
  • Focus on long exhales through your mouth
  • Start with 2-3 sets of :10-:30 holds/side

Key Points (side plank)

  • Start on side with elbow directly under shoulder
  • Keep hips squared and high 
  • Keep straight line from head to heels
  • Keep hips tucked under and glutes squeezed
  • Focus on long exhales through your mouth 
  • Start with 2-3 sets of :10-:30 holds/side

#3 Push-Up

The push-up is our favorite upper-body exercise and maybe even our favorite exercise for beginners. It is a great way to build the strength of your arms and shoulders as well as the stability of your core. Be sure to master technique and work from an elevated hand position. The biggest mistake we see beginners make when it comes to the push-up is progressing to the floor too quickly. This progression will allow you to get stronger over time and keep your wrists, elbows and shoulders healthy. As your strength and core stability improves, work your push-ups closer to the floor. 

Learn the proper push-up technique below:

Technique Tuesday: The Push-Up

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 Key Points:

  • Start hands directly under shoulders
  • Keep straight line from head to heels
  • Keep glutes squeezed and hips tucked
  • Lower entire body until arms are parallel with body
  • Keep arms back at 45 degree angle
  • Start with 3 sets of 6-10 reps

#4 Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a fantastic exercise to build lower-body strength and mobility as well as master your squat technique. Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest allows you to properly brace your abs, sit back and maintain a good spine position throughout. This is vital for keeping both your knees and low-back healthy. Finally, improving your goblet squat will allow you to progress to more challenging squat variations like the double KB or barbell squat when the time is right. 

Learn the proper squat technique below:

Technique Tuesday: Goblet Squat

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Key Points: 

  • Start feet shoulder width with toes slightly pointed out
  • Stay tall with stomach braced throughout
  • Initiate movement by breaking at the knees, sitting back and pushing knees out
  • Go as low as you can with no pain and good neutral spine position
  • Finish tall with glutes squeezed
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 8 reps

#5 Inverted Row

The inverted row is one of our favorite upper-back exercises. It is a great way to properly teach beginners how to row and retract their shoulder blades which is crucial for building strong and healthy shoulders. This exercise also works your entire body, including your core. Finally, the inverted row is a great lead into more advanced upper-back exercises like plank rows and chin-ups. 

Key Points:

  • Start with straight line from head to heals, arms straight
  • Initiate movement by pulling shoulder blades towards each other
  • Pull yourself up, finishing arms in line with body
  • Finish by lowering yourself to starting position
  • Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps

#6 Farmer Carry

The farmer carry is a favorite amongst our members. Think of these as weighted and moving planks. Walking with weights is a great way to improve the strength of your grip, shoulders, core and hips. Carries challenge you to control your spine and aid in improving core stability and even improve cardio by elevating your heart-rate.

Key Points:

  • Start with 2 kettlebells or dumbells in hands
  • Squeeze weights hard and stay tall
  • Keep shoulders back and abs braced
  • Do not allow weights to move around
  • Start with 3 sets of 40-50 yd walks

#7 Split-Squat Iso Hold

Before jumping into lunges, we like to start our new members with the split-squat iso hold. The iso hold mimics the position of a lunge, just without any movement. This allows beginners to slow things down and master the technique all the while building the coordination, balance, strength and mobility required to properly execute a lunge. Your knees will thank you down the road!

Key Points:

  • Start in a long split-stance with front foot flat and back heel in the air
  • Initiate movement by bending back knee directly under your hip 
  • Drop down as low as possible maintaining 90 degree angles with front and back leg
  • Keep majority of weight in the front leg
  • Start with 2-3 sets of :15-:20 holds/leg

#8 Wall Dead-Bug

One of the most important areas to strengthen is your abs. Strong abs are crucial for injury prevention (especially at your low-back) and improving performance. Because the abs attach to the spine, pelvis and rib cage, strong abs are not only for looks. They are a big part of core, hip and rib cage stability as well as posture and total-body strength. 

Learn the wall dead-bug technique below:

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 Key Points: 

  • Start on back with hands on wall
  • Press and keep low back into floor
  • Keeping back flat, reach one leg out front
  • Hold this position as you exhale long and slow
  • Return to starting position and switch side
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 5 reps/leg

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