You strength train to get stronger, to improve your body composition, and to preserve muscle mass as you age. But you might also appreciate how the functional strength and power you develop through training improves other aspects of your life. Who doesn’t enjoy surprising themselves by being able to lift more than expected?
That’s the idea behind progressive overload, placing controlled amounts of stress on your body over time to force it to adapt. Yet, you can also challenge yourself by focusing some of your efforts on the most challenging strength-training exercises and learning to do them with good form. What are some of the harder strength-training exercises you can tackle?
Most people agree that pull-ups are the ultimate fitness challenge, especially for women. Why are pull-ups so difficult for women to do? Men have more upper body strength than women, giving them an advantage when it comes to doing this demanding exercise. Yet, even some men can’t eke out a single pull-up. It certainly speaks to how difficult this exercise is.
Why is the push-up so challenging? You’re lifting your entire body weight against gravity. Unlike overhead presses or bent-over rows where you can adjust the weight to match your strength, unassisted pull-ups are all-or-none. You can either move your body weight up to meet the bar or you can’t. Some gyms do have a pull-up assist machine that supports a portion of your weight, so you can work up to doing a full, unassisted pull-up.
Though pull-ups are challenging, there are ways to progress towards doing one. Start by hanging from a pull-up bar. Once you’ve mastered the bar hang, try lifting your body up toward the bar. Work on moving higher as you develop more strength. Also, doing compound exercises that work your upper body, like overhead presses, push-ups, and deadlifts, will help you develop the upper body strength you need to tackle a pull-up.
How many can you do? It’s commendable if you can do even a single pull-up. The female record for pull-ups is 48 consecutive pull-ups performed by Irina Rudometkina in 2014. Quite a feat for anyone – male or female!
Deadlifts are another difficult exercise and they’re more challenging for some people than others. The ideal body type for successful deadlifting is a short stature with long arms. Short people have a definite advantage when it comes to doing deadlifts.
Despite being a hard exercise that some people avoid, they’re one of the best functional exercises and one that works multiple muscle groups. When you execute deadlifts with good form, you recruit muscles in your back, core, glutes, lower body, and even bring your upper body into the picture. Compound exercises, like deadlifts, are also superior for building functional strength. At the same time, compound moves burn more calories and boost metabolic rate more than isolation exercises. When you do them correctly, they also make you less prone toward injury.
Once you’ve mastered the conventional deadlift, tackle deadlift