3 Unsung Movements to Build Strength
We all know that the major barbell movements are the most effective tools in fitness to build absolute strength and strength speed. Basically, your ability to move heavy weight and your ability to move moderate weight quickly.
I’ll save the regurgitation of why squats, deadlifts, and presses are excellent at that. If you’re trying to get stronger and not doing those regularly, do those regularly. I’m also going to spare you secondary low hanging fruit like kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and dumbbell snatches.
Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to some movements that we see on the board quite frequently and likely don’t view them as strength opportunities. I’d like to highlight how we can perform them optimally and how we can draw out more strength gains from them.
Maybe the barbells beat you up too much. Maybe you don’t enjoy them. Or, maybe, they’re your jam and you need some outside help in getting stronger at them.
Here are four that can help.
1. Banded Pull-Ups
So many of us take enormous pride in being able to do pull-ups without bands, and those who do use bands typically want nothing more to be freed from them. Man, poor bands. All they want to do is help us get stronger and yet, no one wants to use them.
There is an incredible amount of value in performing assisted pull-ups, regardless of how strong you may be. The usage of the band allows us to do them PER-FECT-LY. It allows us to activate our upper back muscles and not just yank with our arms and flail with our legs. It allows the biceps to come in at the right time and not take over the movement from the beginning. It allows us to move slow and create as much time under tension as possible in our lats, the prime movers of the pull-up and stabilizing muscle in nearly every barbell lift.
If you find yourself never using bands and performing average reps in low rep ranges, hop on the bands at a level that allows you to perform the full set unbroken, and focus on all of the above.
2. DB Step-Ups
Single leg work has always been our jam at this gym, and for good reason. It settles imbalances, boosts our core strength, and if we’re using dumbbells, also has the nice added bonus of training the hell out of our grip, which we know is the gateway to the CNS.
I really like the step-up over the lunge for this article, because we often lunge with the barbell so we typically equate that to strength, but sometimes, the dumbbell is forgotten. Dumbbell step-ups do a great job of isolating the single leg, and training the glutes to create forceful extension at the top of the rep. Step-ups tend to work all of the prime movers of our lower body (hams, glutes, quads), and with the added bonus of grip and increased balance demands, it’s a movement you should not be missing when it comes up in rotation.
3. Erg Rowing
Threw you for a loop here, didn’t I? The erg is cardio, right?
Wrong. The erg is strength endurance and power that has a side effect of working the cardiovascular and aerobic system when performed for long duration. There is reason why the fastest rowers in the gym are usually among the strongest lifters. The progression of total body extension in rowing mirrors the extension sequence in Olympic lifting (legs, hips, arms), and every stroke is an opportunity to train our leg and our back strength.
Too many hop on the erg and go through the sloppy motions. Focus on generating power, performing more out of less strokes, and watch you strength increase in pull-ups and all of the major lifts.
First. For Strength.
3 Front Squats @ 60-80%
5 x 3” Eccentric Bicep Curls
Complete 1 set every 5′ for 20′
Then. For Conditioning.
6 Goblet Squat Cleans
6 Around the World
6 Push Ups
PHASE 1: Squat Test (Optional) + Row Test (Optional)