As a guy, my ultimate goal is to build strength. I want to lift as much as the linebacker on the football team. I also want muscles as big as his. To accomplish this, you cannot use isolation weight lifting exercises as the core of your routine. To really build strength, you must focus your workout on these three exercises.

How to build strength #1: Bench Press

Outside of curls, the bench press is definitely one of the most glamorous of the weight lifting exercises. It seems as though nearly every day is “bench day” when people head to the gym. Lucky for them, the bench press is a great workout for most of your entire upper body. Doing a press incorporates the chest, shoulders, triceps, and your core all at once. Doing a bench press also helps to correct some muscle imbalances. If your shoulders are disproportionately strong, this will help even things out some.

For proper form on the bench press, make sure your back is flat at all times. Arching your back can and will lead to injury. Keep your feet flat on the ground. You want to bring the bar down gently to your sternum, then lift so the bar ends up at eye level when your arms are fully extended. Once again, gently bring down the bar (do not bounce it off of your chest), and repeat. Make sure you do this workout at least once a week.

How to build strength #2: Dead Lifts

This workout requires a bit more technique. If you are new to core lifts, you should probably start with very little weight so you can get the hang of the technique involved. Trust me though, this definitely will build strength if done correctly. This is one of the go-to workouts of most football players for a reason. Doing one dead lift will use muscles from the lower back, quads, abdomen, and biceps. The abdomen, lower back, and upper legs constitute the “core” of your body. Although I don’t have any documented proof, I have personal experience that indicates that a well developed core will increase your strength in other lifts too. Increasing my dead lift will also increase my bicep curls. Use dead lifts to increase all of your weight lifting exercises.

To properly execute a dead lift, start with the bar on the ground. Bend your knees to reach the bar. Make sure you puff out your chest. I’ve been told to imagine a pencil being held between your shoulder blades. Make sure you don’t let the pencil drop as you go down. Bend your back only slightly to grab the bar. Lift the bar using as much legs as possible. Also, make sure you are looking forward at all times. Moving your head around could lead to a pulled muscle or a shift in balance. One rep is completed when you stand up with the weight in your hands; arms extended and knees locked.

How to build strength #3: Squats

If you ignore everything else I have to say, please just listen to this: squats are one of the most important weight lifting exercises you can do. Squats are like the magic pill to build strength. Doing one squat will work your quads, calves, lower back, abs, and even other small balance muscles you don’t notice. Multiple times, if I got away from doing squats, nearly every other workout I did would plateau. By going back to squats, my other lifts seem to magically improve. Please, make sure you do squats at least once a week. Somehow, it builds strength in your entire body and allows you to lift more in almost all weight lifting exercises.

Doing a squat is similar to doing a dead lift, except the weight is on your shoulders. Make sure your back is as straight as possible. Use as little back as possible when squatting down and when lifting up. Depending on the type of squat you do, keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart; pointed forward. Regarding eye contact, I like to find a spot on the wall in front of me about 7 or 8 feet above ground. I focus on that point throughout the set; when I go up and down. One rep is completed when the squatter goes all the way down, then returns to the starting position, knees locked.

For more information on proper form for these weight lifting exercises, take a look at bodybuilding When properly incorporated into your workout, these weight lifting exercises will build strength and help you fight through any plateaus you encounter. With these lifts, maybe you will be able to lift as much as that linebacker.

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