Brandon Curry's Top 6 Strength-Building Moves

Move over squat, bench press and deadlift. "The Prodigy" Brandon Curry gives you six key exercises critical for improving total-body strength.

April 29, 2013

By Brandon Curry, IFBB Pro, Team BSN Athlete

[Q] Brandon, do you think there are any good strength-building moves that are underrated?

[A] Well, as you may have read here before, I think the deadlift is the undisputed king of lifts because it’s the best measure of overall strength. But one exercise that gets overlooked for building great strength throughout your core and upper body is the push press, which is basically a standing military press with a little bit of assistance from your quads. If I’m getting strong in the push press, I know that all my other upper-body lifts are improving as well. Ironically, it’s a great way to improve strength on your bench press. For one, it requires good core stability and balance. One good way to get used to it is to start with standing military presses; as your shoulders begin to fatigue, go right into the push press. The little “jump” you put in at the beginning of the motion provides just enough momentum to allow you to get in a few extra reps without having to reduce the weight. But you have to be careful not to go too heavy because it’ll compromise your balance and puts you at greater risk for injury to your core muscles and lower back.

[Q] Back has always been a trouble area for me. Is it a good strategy to try to increase weight on barbell rows and/or pull-ups?

[A] Absolutely! I have never understood why so many people obsess about how much they bench but row the same amount for 10 years. So I definitely think it’s something to look at. I’ve always looked at increasing my back strength to keep up with my bench to provide symmetry and to avoid injury. So yes, constantly work to achieve the same kind of improvement in strength with your back as you do with your other bodyparts. I always increase the load by performing weighted pull-ups or adding weight to the bar on my rows. As long as your form is good, always aiming for a stronger back will pay off huge.

[Q] Are there any machine moves that you like for increasing overall strength?

[A] One move that I really like is the standing bench press but not a lot of gyms have them. It makes the bench press more comfortable because you’re pushing horizontally. Another one is the reverse hyperextension machine. This is a great move for strengthening the posterior chain – the low back, glutes, hamstrings — which are all important for the deadlift and other exercises.

[Q] The military press is universally accepted to be the best strength builder for shoulders. Do you recommend doing it seated or standing?

[A] I find I’m able to move more weight from a seated position because it’s more stable, so that’s best for my shoulders. The standing position is probably better for overall, total-body strength because it recruits more total muscle, even if you’re not using as much weight. And when you fail, you can just go for the push press!

Brandon's Top Strength-Building Moves

1. Deadlift: “Nothing is tougher than pulling a loaded bar off the floor.”

2. Push Press: “Probably the most underrated upper-body exercise.”

3. Squat: “You’ve gotta be able to squat heavy for total-body mass.”

4. Weighted Dip: “You can make gains in this move really quickly.”

5. Weighted Pull-Up: “Adding weight enhances the stretch and challenges your lats.”

6. Bench Press: “It’s good to improve your bench, but don’t obsess over it!”