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The 21 Best Strength Exercises for 2021

Matt Skeffington

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Dec 14 17 minutes read

What if we told you that focusing on one area of fitness this year will have the biggest impact on your overall results?

It will help you lose weight. It will help you build muscle and improve your overall health. It will take your workouts and fitness to a new level. It will reduce injuries, aches, and pains.

In 2021 we want you to simply focus on getting stronger. 

We are here to make getting into the best shape of your life easier and it all starts with improving your strength.

Think of your overall fitness as a house. You want the biggest and nicest fitness house in 2021 and we're going to build it. 

It all starts with your strength. 

Your overall strength is the foundation of that house. Without that foundation it doesn't matter how big your house is, it will fail. In fitness terms, this means you won't reach your goals or potential and/or worse, get injured.

With a strong foundation of strength, everything else fitness related only gets better.

Your running improves. Your yoga improves. Your cardio improves. Your workout intensity improves. 

EVERYTHING IMPROVES!

You're simply able to do more during your workouts and exercise with greater intensity, leading to better results for you.

To get you started, we've created a list of the 21 best strength exercise for 2021 along with a step-by-step guide on how to complete each movement. Enjoy!

1| 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, chest, and shoulders as well as the stability of your core. Be sure to master technique and work from a kneeling position first. 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.

Push-Up Key Points:

  • Start hands directly under shoulders with thumbs under armpits
  • Keep straight line from head to heels
  • Keep butt squeezed and hips tucked
  • Leading with chest, lower entire body until upper arms are parallel with body
  • Keep arms back at 45 degree angle
  • Press up and exhale to return to starting position 
  • Start with 3 sets of 6-10 reps, 2x/week. 

Kneeling Push-Up Key Points:

  • Start on hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders with thumbs under armpits
  • Have your knee start behind your hips
  • Keep straight line from head to knees
  • Keep butt squeezed and hips tucked
  • Leading with chest, lower entire body until upper arms are parallel with body
  • Keep arms back at 45 degree angle
  • Press up and exhale to return to starting position 
  • Start with 3 sets of 6-10 reps, 2x/week. 

2| 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

3| 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.

Key Points: 

  • Start feet shoulder width with toes slightly pointed out
  • Stay tall with stomach braced throughout
  • Keep weight tall, under your chin 
  • 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 butt squeezed
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 8 reps

4| 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, chest proud, and abs braced
  • Do not allow weights to move around
  • Start with 3 sets of 40-50 yd walks

5| Front Plank

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.

Key Points:

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

6| Side Plank

The side plank is a fantastic exercise to work you lateral obliques (think love-handles). Your obliques attach to both your rib cage and pelvis. When they are strong, they actually help pull down the front of your rib cage, taking stress off your low back and improving the efficiency of your breathing during exercise and at rest. 

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

7| Kettlebell Deadlift

The kettlebell (KB) deadlift is one of the best exercises to strengthen and shape your glutes and hamstrings. It is typically one of 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 KB 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 to safely deadlift in the gym but also how to safely pick objects off the floor outside of the gym. This is also a great lead into learning the KB swing.

Key Points

  • Start one KB directly between your feet
  • Take a hip to shoulder width stance, toes pointed out slightly
  • Soften knees and push hips back (do not let knees travel forward)
  • Keep spine in neutral position with shoulders back
  • Grab KB and drive through heels to stand up
  • Finish tall with glutes squeezed
  • Start with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

8| The 1-Arm Dumbbell or Kettlebell Row

The dumbbell row is a fantastic postural and core exercise. The weight challenges the strength of your upper-back (great for improving posture) as well as your abs as you have to fight to not twist during the rowing motion. You will feel these the next day!

Key Points:

  • Start shoulder width with one hand on bench 
  • Keep knees soft throughout
  • Without twisting, pull shoulder blade toward spine and row dumbbell toward rib cage
  • Stop arm in line with body
  • Start with 3 sets of 10 reps/side

9| Sled March

If there was only one exercise we could do with our members it would be the sled march. The sled march is fantastic for building the strength of your legs as you can load them up with serious weight. They make a great fat burner as they really get that heart rate up! The sled march also works well with people with bad knees and low backs.

Key Points:

  • Keep arms straight and straight line head to back foot
  • Keep body leaning at 45 degree angle 
  • March forward one step at a time keeping head and upper body still
  • Start with 3-5 reps of 15-25yd march with :30-1:00 rest between reps

10| Dumbbell Half-Kneeling Double Curl to Press

The double curl to press is an upper-body strength builder. It specifically targets your biceps and shoulders. We like the 1/2 kneeling position as it keeps you from compensating or cheating the movement, keeping the stress on your arms and shoulders.

Key Points:

  • Start on one knee, DB's by your side
  • Start by curling DB's to shoulders
  • Then uncurl
  • Curl back to your shoulders
  • Keeping stomach tight, press DB's overhead
  • Finish by lowering DB's to shoulders and uncurling to starting position
  • Start with 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

11| Renegade Row

Warning: these are tough! The renegade row is a great to way to intensify your push-up. This exercise is a great way to improve the look and strength of your triceps as well as the front and back of your shoulders. If you are still working on your push-up, keep your motion small. 

Key Points:

  • Start in push-up position, hands on two dumbbells
  • Lower into push-up position and return to starting position
  • Complete the push-up from your knees if you need to
  • Without moving hips, row right DB towards rib cage
  • Squeeze right shoulder blade toward spine
  • Return to starting position and switch to left side
  • That is one rep
  • Start with 3-4 sets of 6 to 8 reps

12| Kettlebell Head-Cutter

The head-cutter is one of our favorite total-body strength builders. It involves a variety of movements and works your entire body, building some serious strength and burning a ton of calories. These are tough! 

Key points:

  • Start KB on floor between your feet
  • Push hips back, bending knees slightly into deadlift position
  • Grab KB with overhand grip
  • In one motion stand KB up and catch it at your chest
  • Sit back and down into squat, keeping heels down and posture tall
  • As you come out of squat, press KB overhead
  • Return KB to floor with good posture and repeat
  • Start with 3-4 rounds of 8-12 reps

13| Push-Up 1.5

When it comes to building strength, tension is the name of the game. Here, tension refers to the duration your muscles are forced to work against during an exercise. The extra movement and time under tension during the push-up 1.5 is a great strength builder.

Key Points:

  • Start in push-up position with hands under shoulders
  • Start from a kneeling push-up position if you're new to the push-up
  • Leading with chest, lower into bottom position of push-up
  • Come up only half way and lower back into bottom position
  • Finish back up top in starting position and repeat
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps

14| Kettlebell Double Racked Reverse Lunges

The double racked hold is the most challenging way to hold KB's during an exercise. The combination of being able to use more weight and the fact that holding your KBs in the tall position works your abs like crazy! The reverse lunge is a fantastic lower-body strength exercise and is more friendly on your knees than traditional lunges. 

Key points:

  • Start tall with feet together
  • Have 2 KBs in racked position, resting on the back of your wrists, shoulders and chest
  • Stay tall and keep abs TIGHT the entire time
  • Step back into lung with one foot
  • In bottom position, legs should be at 90 degrees
  • Go as low as possible into lunge
  • In one motion, push through front foot and return to starting position
  • Start with 3-4 rounds of 8-10 lunges/leg

15| Kettlebell Swing

We love swings at Dynamic as they are great for a variety of reasons. They improve very important injury prevention qualities like coordination, power and reaction. Swings are also great for improving the strength of your glutes and hamstrings -- two of the most important stabilizers of your knee. Finally, their high-speed nature is GREAT for jacking your heart-rate up and burning a ton of calories.

Key points:

  • Start KB on ground about a foot in front of you
  • Push hips back and keep chest tall
  • Grab KB and tip it towards you
  • Initiate movement by hiking KB up and back towards your hips
  • Quickly, snap hips up and stand tall (do not use arms)
  • Squeeze glutes and straighten knees at top of swing
  • KB should finish just below chest height
  • Let KB swing in high towards your hips on way down and repeat
  • Start with 3-4 round of 10-12 reps

16| Dumbbell or Kettlebell Thruster


When it comes to building strength, total body exercises are the name of the game. This is why we love the thruster. It works every part of your body from your legs, to your hips, abs, arms and shoulders. These are tough!

Key Points:

  • Start feet shoulder width, toes slightly pointed out
  • Have two KBs in racked position or DB held above shoulders
  • Staying tall, lower into squat position
  • Keep abs braced and weight in heels
  • Drive out of squat as your press weights overhead
  • Finish arms inline with ears
  • Lower weights to shoulders and repeat
  • Start with :15 of work followed by :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

17| 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 safer than a traditional deadlift. Similar to the kettlebell deadlift, beginners initially want to squat the movement by excessively bending their knees so the trap bar deadlift is a great variation to master! 

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

18| Single-Leg Deadlift


The single-leg deadlift is great for challenging your balance and strength. It targets the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) making this a great exercise for building a better backside. Because of the minimal knee bend during the motion, the stress of the exercise is placed on the working muscles and off the knees. If you experience knee pain and are looking to improve your lower-body -- this is your exercise!

Key Points:

  • Start tall with kettlebell or dumbbell in hands
  • Start by softening knee of down leg
  • Slowly reach back leg long and allow chest to fall forward (same arm forward, same leg back)
  • Keep chest tall and stomach braced
  • In bottom position, there should be straight line from head to back heel
  • Quickly return to starting position and squeeze glutes
  • Start with 3 sets of 8 reps/side

19| Squat 1.5

Like the push-up 1.5, we can use the extra half rep to keep tension on our legs to help build more lower body strength. Increase the challenge of these by adding resistance like a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell.

  • 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
  • Come half way up
  • Go all the way down, then back to starting position
  • That is 1 rep
  • Finish tall with butt squeezed
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps

20| Dumbbell or Kettlebell Alternating Floor Press


The floor press is a fantastic upper-body strength builder that targets your arms, chest, and shoulders. We love the floor position as it keeps your shoulders in a safe position by not letting your arms travel behind you on the way down.

Key Points:

  • Start on back with knees bent and feet flat
  • Start weights up in the arm with hands right above your shoulders
  • Keeping one weight still, lower the other until the back of your arm touches the floor
  • Exhale and press
  • Then switch sides
  • Complete 2-4 rounds of 6-10 reps/side

21| Landmine Squat to Press

The landmine squat to press is the ultimate total-body exercise. It challenges the strength of your lower body, the stability of your abs, the strength of your upper-body and your cardio. For more of a strength emphasis, keep the reps on the lower end and the weights heavier. To improve your cardio, keep the reps high and the weight lighter.

Key Points

  • Start with feet shoulder width, toes slightly pointed out
  • Bring bar to chest and keep abs braced
  • Initiate movement by sitting back and down into squat
  • As you come up press bar overhead – this is all one motion
  • Finish tall with arms straight
  • Start with 3 sets of 8 reps

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