The Five Best Power and Strength Exercises


The snatch, and the clean and jerk generate more power than any other exercises, according to John Garhammer, Ph.D., a professor of biomechanics at California State University, Long Beach. Strength exercises the squat, bench press and deadlift allow you to use more weight than other lifts, and remain the prime strength-building exercises. The snatch, and the clean and jerk take years to develop technical mastery, but the powerlifts develop more quickly. All five lifts build strength and power while transforming your physique. Consult a health care professional before beginning any strength-training program.


The snatch involves pulling a weight overhead in a single movement, and bending your knees to catch it. The strength with which you pull the weight and the speed with which you get underneath the bar make this a complex lift, and it is the first lift contested in the Olympic sport of weightlifting. Much of the power in this lift is generated by the speed with which you straighten your legs, according to a 2002 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research."

Clean and Jerk

The clean and jerk requires you to pull a barbell to your shoulders while bending your knees to catch it. You land in the bottom position of a front squat, stand erect and then thrust the barbell overhead while moving your feet apart to catch the weight. This is the second lift contested in the Olympics. According to a 1980 study published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," the jerk generates more power than any lift ever tested.


The barbell squat builds and tests the strength of your legs and core. Squatting deeply requires both flexibility and an erect posture — leaning forward or rounding your back exposes you to injury. The squat does not build just strength, it also builds explosive power that improves both your sprint times and vertical jump, according to a 2004 study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine." Never squat outside of a squat rack or power cage, and always hold the bar firmly on your upper back.


The deadlift recruits muscles from your upper and lower back, your hips, legs and core, all while testing your grip. Both the conventional deadlift, in which you pull the bar from the ground with your feet shoulder-width apart, and the sumo deadlift, in which your feet are spread wide, build strength and power. The sumo-style deadlift works your legs more and your lower back less than the conventional deadlift, according to a 2000 study published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise."

Bench Press

Out of the five exercises that generate the most power or build the most strength, the bench press is the only one performed while lying flat on your back. After lowering the bar to your chest, smoothly push it to full extension. This lift works your chest, shoulders and triceps, and even works the muscles of your back to a degree, according to a 1995 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research." Do not bounce the bar off of your chest; allow your head, shoulders or hips to come up off of the bench; or your feet to leave the floor.