It has been stated by multiple top trainers that strength is foundation for every other athletic quality which includes gaining and keeping muscle mass. This is why we must have standards of strength that we must strive for in training to ensure that we keep moving forward towards our goals.
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11 Feats of Strength
#1 - Bodyweight barbell pressThe strict barbell press is the deadlift of the upper body because like the deadlift you cannot take advantage of your body's stretch reflex which helps you blast through sticking points in the lift. If you can strict press your bodyweight the goal of having cannon ball shoulders will be much easier to obtain.
#2 - 2.5x Bodyweight deadliftThere is no other feat of strength out there that screams man-strong like picking up a barbell loaded down with enough weight to leave a small crater in the earth when you drop it. A two and a half times bodyweight deadlift is a very impressive lift even for most powerlifters.
A 180-pound lifter would have to lift 450 pounds in order to meet this standard! How do you measure up? If you are within 50-75 pounds of reaching this standard you are on the right track and your deadlift is not holding your training back. If you are not even close to meeting this standard you know where to focus your training.
#3 - Two times bodyweight squat
If your squat is not approaching two times bodyweight and you have been training for more than 18 months, I would seriously question the quality of your leg training. Chances are your legs are having trouble filling out a pair of skinny jeans.
Nothing packs on mass like squats and if you are not up to standard here you are definitely leaving strength and size gains on the table or, should I say in the squat rack. Anyone striving to add muscle mass should get to this standard as quickly as possible.
#4 - Pull up with half bodyweight addedToday the number of people that can perform a perfect bodyweight pull up is sadly declining like the endangered panda bear. The pull up performed for a set of ten or more perfect reps is a great goal to start with but, to take your back training to the next level strive to perform a perfect single pullup with half of your bodyweight strapped to your waist.
Don't cheat yourself here start with the arms fully extended and finish with your neck touching the bar. Not only does this standard challenge your back strength but it also challenges your grip and core strength as well.
#5 - Farmer's carry bodyweight in each hand 40 yardsThis standard is probably the most glaring strength deficit in most peoples' training, unless you are training in a strongman facility. The fact is that heavy farmers carries are a one stop shop to increasing work capacity and getting incredibly strong all over.
Farmer's carries help you to transfer the strength that you build in the gym to real world activity. If you cannot farmers carry at least your bodyweight you are missing out on strength gains as well as gains in work capacity which will translate into an ability to do more work in other exercises during your training.
You should be able to carry your bodyweight for about 40 yards and you should strive to carry bodyweight in each hand for 40 yards eventually. If you can do that, your traps will never have to worry about performing another shrug again.
#6 - 1.5x Bodyweight power cleanOne and a half times your bodyweight may seem easy for a dedicated Olympic lifter or college athlete but, for the average gym rat it is a great standard to maintain because like the farmers carry it allows you to transfer all the strength that you have developed in the gym to other activities. A 270-pound power clean is no joke even for a 180-pound stud athlete.
This a great standard to strive for because it is very skill intensive and forces the average gym rat to be present in his training instead of taking selfies to post on social media. Learn to translate your strength into speed by striving to reach a one and a half times bodyweight power clean.
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#7 - Standing ab wheel rolloutIt has been argued by many that you don't need to train the abs directly and that all you need to do is perform heavy barbell training. What a load of crap. Abs training is one of the most misunderstood parts of training. Most individuals fail in their barbell training because of weak abs or a weak lower back. The ab wheel addresses this weakness with a vengeance.
Kneeling ab wheel roll outs are difficult but standing ab wheel rollouts separate the men from the boys.
The requirement for full body tension is unmatched with ab wheel roll outs. How many should you be able to do? Only one. If you can perform on correct ab wheel roll out without any movement in your spine, your ab strength is top notch and up to a high standard that others should seek to emulate.
#8 - One arm push upThe one arm push-up is an interesting relative strength standard to strive for but, the full body tension required to execute a proper one arm pushup has great carry over to other aspects of your training and is a great way to make sure that you are still strong in relation to your own bodyweight. Performing a one arm push up is a great reminder that the body is one piece and should function as such.
Case in point try performing a one arm push up with as soft belly and a saggy butt. It will never happen. Strive for three to five one arm push ups on each arm and take note of any drastic differences between left and right and address them quickly so they don't be come an issue later.
#9 - Bench 1.5x bodyweightThe beloved bench press, everyone has their own standard for the bench press. Rarely is accomplishing a bench press goal much of a problem as every American male in the world bench presses multiple times a week.
However, if you are having trouble gaining mass in your chest double check and make sure that your strength is up to standard in the bench press so that you can perform your bodybuilding work with appropriate loads to make gains in size. If you are already at this standard for strength, put a check in the box and move on.
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#10 - Dumbbell row half bodyweight for 10 repsWhen it comes to upper body strength pulling strength is usually where the largest deficit lies. That is why it is important to ensure that the back is always up to standard in terms of strength. Yes, the pull up standard above addresses back strength too but, the ability to perform 10 reps of the dumbbell row with half of your bodyweight will really make sure that your back is strong and your physique is balanced.
Perform 10 perfect reps with no momentum and a solid squeeze at the top with half bodyweight and watch your back development shoot through the roof. You should not look like you are starting a lawnmower when performing a dumbbell row and straps are not to be utilized when testing this standard.
#11 - Pistol squat with half bodyweightThe pistol squat is a unique standard to achieve and maintain because it requires a unique blend of strength and mobility/flexibility. Performing a pistol squat while holding onto a dumbbell or kettlebell that is roughly half of your bodyweight is an impressive display of single leg strength.
If you have never performed a pistol squat start slowly and build the skill and balance associated with single leg training before loading yourself down.
Meeting this standard can take quite a while especially if you have mobility restrictions to address. However, once this standard is met you may notice that knee pain and back pain are gone or reduced because you have actually developed more mobility and stability in the pursuit of reaching the strength standard of a half bodyweight pistol squat.