At Grit, we’re big believers in prioritizing getting stronger. Being stronger will make achieving any goal you have ten times easier, improve joint health, and improve aesthetics much more effectively than any other method on its own.
But what does it even mean to be strong?
We’re glad you asked!
All adults should be able to handle their own bodyweight in various movements before even worrying about any sort of external load like weights. Being ‘strong’ is a relative term for all individuals, but the following movements are nice ways of standardizing strength across the board regardless of your gender or size. A 200lb male might consider himself strong because he can deadlift his bodyweight for reps, but if he’s unable to perform a single leg squat, he might want to rethink his definition of ‘strong’.
Here are some bodyweight movements all adults should be able to do if they consider themselves strong and healthy.
#1. Strict Pushups
Alright fellas, we’ll be brutally honest here. If you’re unable to perform one strict pushup, please have your man card revoked immediately. You should be able to perform multiple strict pushups without any major issues.
Pushups are a staple when it comes to bodyweight training, but they’re also one of the most versatile and effective upper body strength movements you can perform.
Typically if you can’t perform a pushup, it’s for one of three reasons.
You’re overweight AND weak.
Any way you cut it, none of those reasons are desirable. If you can’t bang out a few quality pushups, it’s time to fix that.
Ladies, you’re no exception!
It’s common for women to think that modified pushups are the norm because strict pushups are just too hard for them.
This is a load of crap.
While women typically have less upper body strength than their male counterparts, there’s still no reason to think that the ladies shouldn’t be able to perform at least one strict pushup.
Ladies who are able to perform one strict pushup have excellent strength to bodyweight ratios and tend to reach their aesthetic based goals faster than those who cannot.
#2. Hands Free Sit to Stand
Are you able to sit on the floor and then stand back up without using your hands? If not… well, you’ve got a problem.
This might not seem like an impressive feat of strength, but this movement is a sneaky blend of mobility, strength, motor, control, and balance.
In order to get into the various positions necessary to complete this movement, you’ll have to take your hips through all sorts of planes of motion, recruit all sorts of stabilizing muscles, and display strength through full ranges of motion in various joints (something that is vital for long term health).
If there were any indicator of overall health and longevity on this list, this movement might be the best one.
And the cool thing is that there’s no correct way to do it. All that matters is if you can.
It’s actually been proven through studies that people who struggle with this ‘test’ tend to die sooner than those who don’t. So… uh… you might wanna get to working on this one if you struggle with it.
#3. 20 Second RKC Plank
The RKC is not your typical run of the mill plank.
Compared to a regular plank that you might see average Joe doing in a commercial gym, RKC planks have you creating and maintaining maximum muscular tension throughout your whole body for the duration of your plank.
Here’s a checklist to run through on your RKC planks:
squeeze your quads
squeeze your glutes
brace your abs
push yourself away from the floor
dig your elbows into the ground and pull them down towards your hips to squeeze your lats
squeeze literally every muscle in your body, and squeeze them HARD
If done correctly and with the right amount of tension, you should be shaking by the time 20 seconds rolls around.
Why choose the RKC over a regular plank?
Lots of people can just ‘hang out’ in a regular plank, relying on passive structures like ligaments to hold their position instead of recruiting and bracing muscles. Relying on ligaments for stability is a fantastic way to increase your chances of sustaining an injury down the road.
#4. Single Leg Box Squat
Whether you realize it or not, your daily activities are largely done on one leg. Walking, jogging, going up steps, getting in and out of your car… all of these are predominately single leg activities.
So it goes without saying that you should be able to handle your bodyweight in a variety of movements, with perhaps the gold standard coming in the form of a single leg squat.
Ideally this will be done on an object that has you sitting with a 90 degree knee bend, but slightly above that will do just fine as well.
If you can’t do this, or if your knee is shaking and caving inward throughout the entire movement, this is a pretty good indication that your strength levels relative to your bodyweight aren’t where they should be.
#5. 15 Second Hollow Body Hold
Just like the RKC plank, the hollow body hold is a fantastic indication of whether or not your core strength is up to par. Fair warning though, it’s not that easy. Chances are you’ll shake during your first attempt on this one.
Lie on your back with your arms extended above your head. Cross your hands and feet, pressing them into each other. Keeping your low back pressed into the floor, raise your feet and shoulder blades a couple inches off the ground so there’s a gentle curve to your body, like a parenthesis that fell on it’s side.
If you can’t do this for 15 seconds, or if you feel your low back pop off the ground at any point, you may want to start setting some time aside for dedicated core strengthening.
Mastering the following deadbug variations is a solid start to help you work up to hollow body holds.
* Strict Chin-up
While we don’t consider this a movement that you should be able to do, it’s definitely worth mentioning as a goal to strive for.
Strict chin-ups are quite possibly the greatest indicator of overall health out there. For starters, they’re damn near impossible to perform at an unhealthy body weight unless you are freakishly strong. This means people capable of repping out some chin-ups likely have healthy levels of body fat, which will only lead to longer, healthier lives.
In addition to this, chin-ups require a decent amount of strength to be able to do properly. When you can pull the entire weight of your body up to a bar from a dead hang position, you know you’re fairly strong.
Find someone who can perform chin-ups that isn’t, for the most part, healthy overall. We dare you.
So how do you stack up?
Can you perform all of these movements no problem? Doesn’t matter if you’re a 5’1, 100lb female or 6’5 225lb male, if you find yourself unable to perform one or several of these movements, you might wanna reconsider how ‘strong’ you are.