I'm currently doing compound exercises only - bench press, back squat, deadlift, pull-ups and overhead press. And I would say my numbers are OK except for bench press and overhead press which are pretty good. My only strength training goal is currently to get really strong, as strong as I possibly can. The size will follow. Already increased muscle mass just by focusing on strength. I started training seriously 2019 feb, so almost 3 years. Before that I did some calisthenics mostly; pull ups, push ups, dips, tuck planche, L-sit etc.

I'm mostly curious of what you guys have to say about exercises that will improve ones strength. What exercises would you recommend to become stronger? I'm open for all suggestions. Strongman exercises, weightlifting or some odd (in the eyes of others) old school exercises etc. I'm already doing the powerlifting exercises + overhead press, so I'm wondering which exercises (besides those) I should incorporate to develop my strength as much as possible.

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    You currently asked three, rather broad, questions on exercise, nutrition, and sleep: the holy grail of gains. However, that can't all be addressed in one answer. I do think many of your questions have already been answered here and you could benefit from searching the site.
    – C. Lange
    Jan 24, 2022 at 22:39
  • @C.Lange Hi. Although it's broad I was hoping to get answers from different ppl knowledgeable in different areas regarding strength. I mentioned nutrition and sleep as extra but I'm mostly interested in exercises or unique approaches that'll make you strong/stronger. If someone have experience on working on strength, primarily, and what they have to say regarding strength. Jan 25, 2022 at 12:50
  • @C.Lange Updated now. Jan 25, 2022 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


Strength is specific, so saying "I want to be as strong as possible" doesn't really mean anything. Sorry :) How do you define "strong"? Do you prioritize a better 1RM or a better 8RM (or 12RM, or AMRAP at a specific weight)? If you have to choose between adding 2% to your bench or 3% to your over-head press, which do you choose? Would you prefer mastering muscle-ups or doing really maxing out weighted pull-ups? You have to make priorities. Sure, increasing your 1RM will probably increase your 8RM, and vice versa, but if you focus on increasing 1RM then 8RM will probably not increase as much as if you worked on that specifically (which in turn probably would yield less 1RM gains).

Having said that, "general strength" is a valid goal for training (if a bit fuzzy). Incidentally, the exercises you mention are probably what I'd recommend if someone asked for five exercises to train the whole body, so you're pretty much on track. If I were to add one compound lift to the mix, then perhaps barbell row (for a pull exercise with a different angle than pull-ups).

Between these five lifts (or six, if you add barbell rows), there's a ridiculous amount of variations you could do: Front squat, deficit deadlift, incline bench press, chin-ups, single-arm dumbbell press, seal row, ad infinitum. You can add these variations to the mix to hit muscles slightly different from how the "default" execution hits them. For example, doing both regular and incline bench press would make you stronger in different angles, but focusing all your efforts on regular bench would probably make you even stronger in regular bench (at the cost of being weaker in incline bench). A compromise is choosing one variation, which you do for a couple of months, and then change to something else.

You may also want to add isolation exercises or machine exercises to target specific muscles when you've spent yourself on the free-weight compound movements. For example, if you do a lot of squats and your technique begins to deteriorate, you probably still have enough energy to finish off with some work in the leg press and/or leg extension machines to cram in some extra volume for the major muscles. For pull-ups, you can add some barbell curls afterwards to give your biceps some more work, or do triceps pushdowns after bench press.

If you want to look at strongman exercises, farmer's walk is really super useful: Grab something heavy and in each hand, and walk off with it. Great for grip strength, traps and core (hits obliques surprisingly good!). The one-handed variation, suitcase carry, hits core even harder (but is obviously easier on legs and glutes, as you only carry half the weight).

To summarize, there are no glaring flaws in your choice of exercises - on the contrary, it's a very good assortment. There's a bunch of stuff you could add, but adding 20 different exotic exercises isn't what you need to get stronger. If you find yourself on a plateau and unable to set new personal records, you should look at how you train, rather than picking new exercises. Perhaps you should try a few weeks of hypertrophy training (not because you specifically want to get bigger, but because bigger muscles are stronger muscles), or inversely focus on heavy, low-rep lifts to work on your nervous system, or try out daily undulating periodization.

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