Three of My Favorite Bodybuilding Movements for Strength

As I’ve begun to dabble in bodybuilding, I’ve been surprised to see how very closely my aesthetic weaknesses correspond to my weak ranges of motion in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. It’s pretty obvious that there would be some correlation – after all, how many strong deadlifters have you seen with small lats, traps, and erectors? Probably not very many!

But I did not expect to find that:

  • The slight imbalance in shoulder strength when benching would create a dramatic imbalance in my rear delts and upper back on my rear relaxed pose
  • My preference for narrow-stance squatting would result in a relatively underdeveloped vastus lateralis
  • Hip shifting when squatting in the 95-100% intensity range would show up as difficulty contracting my left hamstring while hitting a rear lat spread or rear double bicep

These are such nuanced strength issues that I wrongly assumed any development discrepancies would be too minor to show up on stage.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining: in addressing these bodybuilding weaknesses, I’ve found some cool movements that I plan to incorporate into my future strength programming for prehab and corrective work. Here are a few of my favorites!

Unilateral Hammer Curls

These are a great movement to train the brachialis, which runs under the bicep and can really make your guns look huge when well-developed. Furthermore, hammer curls are great for strengthening the muscles of the forearm, which can help grip a bit but really do a lot to prevent elbow pain.

To perform the unilateral hammer curl, take a fairly light dumbbell in one hand, and hold on to a post or bench with the other hand. Lean to the side so that your working arm is perpendicular to the floor, and perform a hammer curl while keeping the wrist straight. Switch sides every set, of course!

I like working this movement for straight sets of 15-20 reps. You can finish off the arms by doing a drop set with both arms at the end of your workout.

Shotgun to the D!

This one is straight from Joe Bennett, who you can find on Instagram as @hypertrophycoach:

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It’s essentially a giant mechanical dropset, where you’re re-positioning yourself very slightly every movement to both improve your leverages and shift emphasis to different areas of the shoulder. In addition to building delt size, it can help to strengthen the rear delts and rotator cuff muscles to keep your shoulders healthy and happy when performing lots of pressing work. The full dropset is as follows:

  • High face pull x10
  • Low face pull x10
  • Rear delt row x10
  • Upright row x10
  • Upright rowtation x10
  • Front raise x10
  • Stupid press x10

Personally, though, I perform every movement to failure, which is usually 15 reps or so if I choose an appropriate weight.

Bi-lateral Incline Pulldown

We’ll end with one from Paul Carter:

 

 

 

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Unlike in a typical pulldown, which puts more emphasis on the rear delts and rhomboids, this one really allows you to hammer the lats without those smaller muscle groups fatiguing so quickly. I find it vastly superior to the regular pulldown, both for creating a tapered look to the torso and improving the bench and deadlift.

Please let me know if you found these helpful! I have a few cool more movements that I can share if there's interest.

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