Even some of the most seasoned gym pros will admit to focussing on aesthetics over function but strength training is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. Gone are the days when having a powerful physique was just for the unbelievably hench weightlifters and magazine cover stars – and for good reason. Having a ripped shape looks impressive but more importantly, a strong bod helps you lift more, and can ease back pain. Try out these exercises to help strengthen one of the major and most hardworking areas of your body so your next workout will be better than ever.
1. Cable Pulls
We’ve all heard of traps and lats but building your smaller muscles such as Rhomboids is vital for overall strength. These important muscles may not be the largest in your back they hold your shoulder blades to your spine and increasing their strength will assist you in building overall. They help you with your posture, prevent you from a shoulder injury, and can even keep you from damaging your elbows. Try some face pulls on a cable pulley set to work the Rhomboids. If you’re looking for some more awesome exercises for these small but valuable muscles read this working out rhomboid blog post which will give you all the tips and tricks you need.
The planking craze may be over but that doesn’t mean you should let this move fall by the wayside. Planks are incredibly effective for your core and all you need is a mat! Lay on your front face down then prop yourself up on your forearms. Push up onto your tiptoes and lift yourself off the ground. It’s super important to keep your back flat and straight to avoid injury. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds then lower. Increase duration as you get better and better. If you want to increase the impact of the move then try renegade rows. Get into the plank position but instead of your forearms, hold onto dumbbells placed on the mat. Take turns lifting each dumbbell in a rowing motion. This is a great compound move as you’re working your arms as well as your core.
We all know the phrase ‘Never skip leg day’ and that’s true – even though it’s the worst! Leaving out your legs will make it harder to train the rest of the body. Leg training releases growth hormones that can affect your whole body, meaning you’ll find it easier to bulk up in other areas. A simple but effective workout to increase leg strength is squatting. There are tons of squat variations and all of them are great for building muscle and gaining strength. If you’re not a fan of the traditional move, try a plié squat – bonus points for this move as it’s also great for your hips. Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes facing outwards. Squat down, making sure your knees are facing out in line with your toes. Once your thighs are as much in line with the ground as possible, hold for a couple of seconds then push back to standing. Remember squats are not explosive so perform them with control.
The most basic way to build strength is weight training. Use dumbbells or barbells for these moves for maximum impact. Bench presses and deadlifts are awesome for increasing those muscles and in turn, building strength throughout your body. Ensure you’re not packing on too much weight right away as lifting heavy volumes with incorrect form is a fast-track ticket to injury town. If you’re into bench pressing, take someone with you to the gym to spot you. Lie down on the bench with the barbell positioned in line with your arms and chest. If you’re wanting to try deadlifts, proper form is super important. Stand feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees to clasp the barbell. When you’re ready to lift keep your chest facing forward and your back straight. Brace yourself and lift towards your chest. These two exercises will have you packing in the power.
Not usually associated with strength training, cardio is actually necessary to achieve powerful results. Not only will exercises like running improve your leg strength, but the increased stamina and endurance you will accomplish means that you can increase the intensity of your strength moves. Try alternating cardio and weights on different days or different sessions to let them both work the maximum amount of magic.
Will you be trying any of these strength exercises? Let us know in the comments!