Muscular strength is a fitness component that can offer certain benefits. What are some muscular strength exercises to do at home or in the gym?
Your muscle strength is how much force your muscles can exert.
So someone with high muscle strength would be able to lift heavier weights compared to someone with low muscle strength even if it is only for a few repetitions.
Training muscle strength offers many health benefits like improving mood, making your immune system stronger, improving cognitive function, and a lot more.
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How to build muscle strength
Not all types of exercise are equally useful for training this fitness component. Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (1).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time. These are more the type of muscle fibers you are aiming for if you want to train muscular strength.
You can train your muscular strength by doing strength training exercises with weights so heavy that you can only do a few repetitions, about up to 12, with them (2). If you are able to do more repetitions than that you are likely working more on muscular endurance than muscular strength.
As a strength training beginner most bodyweight exercises can be good for muscular strength training. However sooner or later your own body weight may not be challenging enough.
When this is the case you can add external weights like a heavy backpack, resistance bands, a comfortable weighted vest, dumbbells, etc. Or you can switch over to weight lifting exercises where it is easier to increase the weight you use.
Keep in mind that using heavier weights generally increases your injury risk. Make sure you can do the exercise you have in mind with good technique. If needed search for expert guidance.
Muscular strength exercises at home
Again depending on your skill level some of these exercises may qualify more as muscular endurance exercises.
You may need to add a heavy backpack, resistance bands, weighted vest, dumbbells, etc. to keep building muscular strength with these exercises.
Lunges are a strength training exercise to engage your leg muscles. In a very simplified way, you can describe this exercise as taking big steps. Since your hands are free you can easily do lunges with external weights to make them more challenging.
Some benefits of lunges include: improving balance and coordination, good long-term calorie-burning potential, being a low-impact workout, and so on…
You do want to pay attention to your posture when doing lunges to avoid any back injuries. This muscle strength exercise may also be challenging for your knees.
Pushups are one of the most popular bodyweight exercises out there. They are a great no-equipment exercise to build chest muscle mass and strength.
Some benefits of pushups include: being a time-efficient workout, being a low-impact workout, improving posture, and so on…
If you are a strength training intermediate/advanced and muscular strength is the main goal you can do decline pushups, pushups with your feet raised, to make the exercise more of a muscular strength exercise.
Strength training beginners can consider incline pushups, pushups with your upper body raised, to make the exercise less challenging.
You do need a chair or another elevated platform to be able to do dips. However, since everyone has objects like that around them you can consider dips to be a no-equipment muscular strength exercise.
Dips help you work out upper body muscles like your triceps, pecs, shoulders, and upper and lower back.
Some benefits of a dip workout include: being a time-efficient workout, being a low-impact workout, helping with long-term calorie burning, and so on…
Like many of the strength training exercises technique is key for dips. This is especially important for your shoulders.
Squats are a popular strength training exercise. You can do it with just your body weight but many people do them with external weights like a barbell with weights on their shoulders or simply a weighted vest.
Some benefits of squats include: improving posture, great for long-term calorie burning, improving balance, improving flexibility, and so on…
Especially with weighted squats you want to pay close attention to your posture to avoid any injuries. Squats can also be rough on your knees.
Sit-ups are one of the go-to exercises to get visible abs once you are at a low body fat percentage. On top of that sit-ups are an exercise that can help beginners improve their muscular strength. It is likely that you will have to do this exercise with some extra resistance if you want to keep sit-ups a strength training exercise.
Some of the benefits of sit-ups include: making your abs stand out more, being a low-impact workout, may reduce back pain, and so on…
One thing you need to remember is that doing sit-ups with a suboptimal technique can be hard on body parts like your lower back. And even with the right technique sit-ups may not be the best exercise for people with an injury-sensitive lower back.
Muscular strength exercises with equipment
For people who are more intermediate and advanced when it comes to resistance training, extra equipment is often required to keep building muscular strength. You can get your own weights at home or go to a gym.
The key to keeping strength training exercises with external weights promoting muscular strength instead of muscular endurance is keeping the weights high enough.
Some general recommendations for building muscular strength is keeping the exercise hard enough so you can do a maximum of 12 repetitions per set (2).
Pull-ups are another extremely popular exercise. Even if you currently don’t have a place to do pullups, doorway pull-up bars are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
Some of the benefits of pull-ups include: being a low-impact workout, being a time-efficient workout, improving posture, and so on…
The technique for a good pull-up is not the most complicated but you do want to pay attention to it to avoid any injuries. Once regular pull-ups are not intense enough for you, weighted pull-ups may be the next step.
The bench press is one of the most popular weight lifting exercises. You do this exercise by lying on a weight training bench and pushing a weight up and down from the chest level. Basically a pushup upside down.
When done with high weights the bench press can definitely improve your chest muscle strength. If you are doing repetitions until failure you may need safety bars or someone behind you to help lift the weights at the failure point.
Another popular strength training exercise is the shoulder press. You start this exercise with a weight at shoulder height. The most popular weights for this exercise are a barbell or dumbbells.
After that, the next step is pressing the weight(s) upwards and then lowering them downwards again in a controlled motion. The goal of this exercise is to improve the muscular strength in your shoulder.
The next muscular strength exercise example is the deadlift. This exercise involves picking up a heavy weight from the floor and raising it to more or less hip height.
With the deadlift exercise, you work out a variety of muscles but especially your lower back. The deadlift is one of the exercises that you really don’t want to do with a suboptimal technique if you want to avoid injuries.
Weight lifting row
There is a difference between a weight lifting row and the cardiovascular-focused rowing exercise although they work similar muscles. If you want to build muscular strength you likely want to stick to the rows with heavy weights.
This exercise involves standing bent over and moving an external weight up and down. Weight lifting rows will work out your back muscles.
This is another exercise where you really want to pay attention to using the right technique to avoid injuries.
How much muscle strength training should you do?
At the time of writing the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following exercise guidelines to adults (3):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
These muscular strength exercise examples are great but don’t forget the other muscle fitness components and other types of exercise to improve your health.