<div>The Best Strength Exercises You Don't Even Do</div>

The Best Strength Exercises You Don’t Even Do

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by Daniel DeBrocke

How to Deadlift, Squat, and Bench More Weight

Trying to add more plates? Eliminate the weaknesses holding you back. Use these unique strength exercises for bigger numbers on the big three.

Getting stronger requires more than just adding plates to the same three lifts. It requires some actual thought when it comes to exercise selection. Here are seven strategic lifts you’re probably not doing. We’ll review what they target and how they’ll make you stronger on the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
1. Floor Press
Targeted Muscles: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
How It Helps: Ever get stuck at the midpoint of the bench press? This’ll fix that.
The sticking point on the barbell bench press usually occurs at the midway point, about 6-8 inches off the chest.
During the typical powerlifting setup, your back is arched and you use leg drive, which generates an impulse force to rapidly develop momentum to initiate the lift. This is great in competition, where you need to use every advantage, but in training, we can eliminate these benefits strategically to improve bench press performance.
The floor press forces you to remain flat and doesn’t allow for leg drive. And since the bottom end of the floor press and the sticking point of your competition bench press are generally the same, you can train your sticking point directly while simultaneously increasing raw strength.
2. Belt Squat
Targeted Muscles: Quads
How It Helps: If your hips shoot up and your chest falls forward during the squat, this can help prevent that.
Strength development occurs primarily as a result of neural adaptations (1). Heavy-load resistance training produces greater strength gains when compared to low-load resistance training (2). Unfortunately, training at high intensities generates significant fatigue, becoming an obstacle and leading to overreaching if left unchecked (3).
When we look at primary lower-body exercises like the deadlift and squat, a significant contributor to fatigue is axial loading (4). Axial loading is where your spine is under a compressive load. Think barbell squat.
The belt squat allows you to bypass axial loading. This makes it an excellent exercise for developing strength because you can maintain high intensities without generating nearly as much fatigue as a barbell squat.
No belt squat machine? Try one of these seven variations.
3. Pendlay Row
Targeted Muscles: Low Back, Lats, Upper Back
How It Helps: It prevents both instability in the bench press and rounding of the back during the deadlift.
“Deformation” is the alteration in the shape or size of a body under the influence of mechanical forces (9). This is observed in lifting near 1RM loads where you see a technical breakdown (rounding of the back, hips shooting up, etc.).
Some researchers have noted up to 40 degrees of spinal flexion occurring during the squat (10). This deformation decreases mechanical efficiency, ultimately decreasing the maximum weight you’re capable of lifting.
The Pendlay row trains your low back, lats, and upper back. This increases back strength and bracing ability to minimize deformation during heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench press. Increased efficiency translates to increased 1RM performance.
4. Reverse Hyper
Targeted Muscles: Low Back, Hamstrings, Glutes
How It Helps: Guilty of rounding the low back during deadlifts? These have your back.
The reverse hyper is getting more popular, and for good reason. Strength athletes generally train movements to build strength, not muscles. But this can be limiting. For example, if an athlete’s quads can generate 600 pounds of force but his low back can only brace 400 pounds, the rate-limiting factor is the low back.
This is where adopting more of a bodybuilding approach can be highly beneficial to specific athletes. The reverse hyper directly trains your glutes and hamstrings but primarily targets your low back (5).
Training your low back improves your ability to brace during heavy squats and deadlifts. An additional upside? It has a low fatigue cost and actually has restorative properties due to the decompression occurring during the exercise (5).
5. Safety Squat Bar (SSB) Squat
Targeted Muscles: Quads, Core
How It Helps: Hips shooting up during the squat? Chest falling forward? Here’s an exercise that’ll help prevent it.
This is an effective variation of the low-bar squat. A common error many lifters make is the chest-fall pattern: their hips shoot up and their chests fall forward as they stand up with the weight. It almost looks like a good morning.
This is usually associated with weak quads. But a SSB squat distributes load differently than a traditional low-bar squat which alters the torque requirements. Because of your upright position, the SSB squat requires more torque from the knees compared to a standard low-bar squat (6).
It puts you into a more quad-dominant movement pattern to preferentially train your deficiency. Because you can’t grip the bar as you normally do, your upper back isn’t as tight, so this exercise also increases your upper back and core strength.
6. Band Pressdown
Targeted Muscles: Triceps
How It Helps: This is another preventative exercise for those whose bench press gets stuck at the midpoint.
Supplementary work for strength development is often written off because it’s not specific. Big mistake. Increasing your muscle fibers’ cross-sectional area directly relates to increased force production (7). And since the triceps play an important role in the bench press, they often require additional work.
To understand the benefits of the band pressdown over other triceps exercises, we need to understand torque. Torque is a twisting force that tends to cause rotation (8).

This diagram shows the action of a triceps pressdown. The linear force (the external load of the cable pressdown) is represented by the downward pointing arrow. The circle (elbow) is the axis of rotation, and the red line represents the distance between the linear force and the axis of rotation.
The distance between the two influences how much torque is required. The farther the distance, the more torque is required. The torque requirement is highest when the elbow is at 90 degrees of flexion.
As you complete the pressdown, the distance shortens and the exercise becomes easier. But using a band (like one of these) can alter this force curve. Since the band is maximally stretched at the bottom of the pressdown, it increases the torque requirement of the elbow (8). This forces the triceps to work hard throughout the entire range of motion, creating a novel stimulus.
7. Good Morning From Pins
Targeted Muscles: Low Back, Hamstrings, Glutes
How It Helps: For the squat, it helps weak bracing of the core. For the deadlift, it can help prevent rounding of the lower back along with difficulty locking out. It strengthens your posterior chain, which often translates to increased squat and deadlift performance.
The torque mechanics are what drive strength improvements in this lift. Check out this diagram:

At the bottom end of the lift, the linear force is furthest from the axis of rotation (in this case, the hips). The muscles acting on the hips and spine to brace and produce hip extension are the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erector muscles.
Good mornings improve the overall strength of your posterior chain, helping you minimize deformation in your primary lifts and efficiently manage heavier loads during your main lifts.
Jenkins, NDM et al. Greater Neural Adaptations Following High- vs. Low-Load Resistance Training. Frontiers Physiology. 8 May 2017.
Schoenfeld, BJ et al. Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res J Strength Cond Res. 29(10): 2954–2963, 2015 Oct;29(10):2954–2963.
Hagerman, FC et al. Effects of High-Intensity Resistance Training on Untrained Older Men. I. Strength, Cardiovascular, and Metabolic Responses. The Journals of Gerontology. 2000 Jul;A55(7):B336–B346.
Sparto, PJ et al. The Effect of Fatigue on Multijoint Kinematics and Load Sharing During a Repetitive Lifting Test. Spine. 1997 Nov;22(22):2647-2654.
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Jones, AZ. Calculating Torque. ThoughtCo. 18 October 2018.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. Deformation and Flow. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
Potvin, JR, et al. Trunk muscle and lumbar ligament contributions to dynamic lifts with varying degrees of trunk flexion. Spine. 1991 Sep;16(9):1099-107.
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