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Dog bench pressing a barbell

The Four Strength Exercises Everyone Should Do

People like to exercise for all kinds of reasons: to get strong, lose weight, play sports, exercise rehabilitation from an injury, or maybe even just to clear their mind. Each type of exercise takes many forms. One phenomenon I have noticed is that some people, particularly prevalent in women, actively avoid strength exercises. The prevailing belief is that strength training will make them too bulky or muscular.

Well, today we're going to put that myth to rest. Listen to me carefully: You will not accidentally become Arnold Schwartzenegger or the Incredible Hulk by lifting weights a few times a week. I repeat: You cannot accidentally get muscular. Getting big muscles is extremely hard work requires unwavering dedication to lifting 3-6 times a week and an intensely focused nutritional regimen. No one says it better than 8-time-in-a-row Mr. Olympia winner, Ronnie Coleman:

Everybody wanna be a body builder, but nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weights.

- Ronnie Coleman

OK, I Won't Get Swole. But Why Should I Care About Strength Training?

Now that I've thoroughly convinced you that you won't start tearing phone books in half overnight, you may be asking: what's all the fuss about strength training? Why should I do it? Great question, glad you asked!

Muscles aren't just for body builders. In fact, you use them to move every single day. You might not be training for Mr. Olympia, but you probably want to be able to lift your luggage out of the trunk of a car. You also probably aren't trying to break a squat record, but you should be able to easily stand up out of a chair.

I don't care if you're over 100 years old, if you cannot get up and down from laying on the floor, you have a serious strength problem. What are you doing to do if you fall down? Just lay there until someone finds and helps you? That could be hours, or even days if you live alone. This is a danger to your health.

Another benefit of strength training is that it strengthens your bones, not just your muscles! Only weight-bearing exercise can help with this. That means that swimming, walking, running, and biking have absolutely no benefit in regards to your bone health! This is especially important for post-menopausal women who experience the highest rates of bone loss, or osteoporosis. This is also the cohort that stereotypically avoids strength exercises. That's why I'm going to teach you four simple strength exercises that everyone should do, no matter who you are. Your quality of life depends on it.

1. Weighted Carries

Farmer's walk

One of the two things that I would recommend just about everyone do is some sort of loaded carry. One of the main things so many older adults complain about is getting groceries out of their car and into their house, and I think that loaded carries are going to directly transfer to that.

- Greg Nuckols, world-record setting power lifter, coach, and the expert behind Stronger By Science

This exercise is also known as farmer's carries. The idea is simple: hold weights in one or both hands (equal weights if using both hands) and simply walk. This improves core and grip strength and improves our ability to carry objects. Holding the weight only in one hand is especially good for building core strength, which is essential to protecting your spine.

2. Dumbbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts

Deadlifting is a classic powerlifting move, except usually you use a barbell and hold the weight in front of your body. This version allows us to use less weight and hold the weight to our sides. The position of the weights makes the exercise easier to maintain safe form. This exercise is good for maintaining core strength, and picking up objects from the floor.

3. Squats

Squats

This is perhaps one of the most important exercises in human movement. We perform squats every day when standing up from sitting in a chair. This exercise strengthens your gluteus maximus muscle, which helps support our spine when standing and walking. This exercise also improves flexibility in our hips, knees, and ankles. You can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest to increase resistance.

4. Bent-Over Rows

Bent-over rows

This exercise is crucial for strengthening and stabilizing our shoulder muscles. Many of us work or sit at a desk or chair for much of our work day. This constantly contributes to rolling our shoulder forward and keeping our chest muscles tight and our back muscles weak. To improve posture and upper back and neck pain, you must strengthen the back muscles. The bent-over row is a great way to help with this problem.

Don't Have Any Weights?

If you have no experience with strength training then it's pretty unlikely that you have a set of weights lying around to perform these exercises. If you don't have access to a gym, here's a life-hack: a plastic gallon jug of water weighs about 8 pounds and should be a great starting place to get started with these exercises. Most even come with a handle! Enjoy getting started on these exercises and working your way into a healthier, stronger you.