5. Deadlift 1.75 Times Your Body Weight
Men's Health Fit: 1.75 x body weight
Above Average: 1.5 x body weight
Ordinary: Body weight
The muscles of your posterior chain provide the power behind many of the most important skills in sports—consider them your "go" muscles. These include your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves—lots of muscles that may not be visible in the mirror but are vital to overall fitness. And no exercise hits them harder than the deadlift does. "It's arguably the purest test of strength there is," says Robertson. Your goal: Lift just a little bit less than twice your body weight.
Load a barbell with the maximum amount of weight you can lift once, and bring the bar close to your shins. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar using an overhand grip that's just beyond shoulder width. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, pull your torso back and up, squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and stand up with the barbell. Reverse the movement to lower the bar to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as possible.
Pull More Weight
Add the deadlift to your weekly routine using a weight that allows you to do three sets of five reps. That's right, only five reps each set. "Keeping the rep count low allows you to do two things: concentrate on form and go heavy," says Robertson. When you can complete two extra repetitions in your last set for two consecutive workouts, move up in weight. Retest your one rep max every 2 to 3 months. (Avoid falling for these 5 Weight-Lifting Myths that mess with results.)
6. Do 10 Clapping Push-ups
Men's Health Fit: 10 clapping push-ups
Above Average: 5 clapping push-ups
Ordinary: No clap
A powerful upper body doesn't just look good shirtless; it helps transfer force to the world around you. "And that gives you an edge in most sports, whether you're trying to stiff-arm an opponent in football or spring off the mat in jujitsu," says David Dellanave, owner of the Movement Minneapolis gym and a world-record-holding all-around weightlifter. The clapping push-up—which requires explosiveness as well as strength—is an old-school move that many still consider the ultimate test of upper-body pushing power (thanks in no small part to Rocky).
Assume a push-up position, with your body straight from head to ankles. Lower yourself until your chest is 3 inches from the floor. Push yourself back up explosively so your hands leave the floor. Maintain a straight body as you clap in midair and land back in the starting position.
Can't clap? Add the exercise to your weekly routine but perform it with your hands elevated on an aerobics step, which reduces the load. Shoot for three sets of five reps, lowering the step as the exercise becomes easier. For an even greater power boost, also do kneeling medicine ball throws: Kneel facing a wall and hold a medicine ball against your chest; throw it directly forward against the wall. Catch it on the rebound and repeat, doing three sets of 10 reps. "The goal is maximum power," says Dellanave, "so start with a ball you can throw at least 12 feet."
Try this for an intense challenge: The Push-up That Blasts Your Core
7. Hold a Plank for More Than Three Minutes
Men's Health: Fit More than three minutes
Above average: 2 to 3 minutes
Ordinary: one minute or less
A chiseled core makes you stronger in everything you do, from carrying groceries to mastering the deadlift. It enables you to "produce, stabilize, and transmit force throughout the body," says Angelo Poli, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California. But that armada of muscles is "on" whenever you're upright, so stamina is key.
Assume a push-up position but with your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. This is plank position. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were about to be punched, and hold the position for as long as you can. When your hips sag or your knees touch the floor, it's over.
Increase Your Core Endurance
Fall short? No problem. "You can more than double your score in a matter of weeks," says Poli. Alternate among these three exercises during the course of a week.
- Three-point tennis ball toss: Hold the top position of a single-arm push-up (feet slightly beyond hip width, body straight from head to heels, weight supported on one hand) and bounce a tennis ball off a wall. Catch the ball and immediately bounce it back against the wall. Do two sets of 15 reps each arm.
- Plank push/pull: Assume a plank position with a weight plate between your forearms. Lift your right arm, push the plate forward as far as possible, and then pull it back. Do two sets of 10 reps with each arm.
- Swiss ball "stir the pot": Assume a plank position with your forearms on a Swiss ball. Make small circles with your elbows, switching directions every 10 circles until you've done 40. That's one set. Do two. (Plus: Make your abs really burn with this intense core move.)
Sign up for a fitness class.