Weight Training 101: The Basic Lifts

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Basic Lifts, Training Tips
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Having laid down some nutritional foundation on you, I’m going to get into the training portion and this post will be about the basics. I’m talking exercises that have been around for as long as weights have.

When you first step into the gym what are the first few things you will notice? Probably a lot of people on treadmills, some guy growling under a bent bar lowering himself to a seated position and rising, another guy at the bench tearing up 3 plates, and another one hoisting massive weight from the ground. Why do you see people doing these exercises? Because they work.

These lifts are referred to as compound movements, meaning that they use more than one muscle and are usually multi-jointed movements. Our basic 3 compound lifts are the bench press, the deadlift, and the squat. Some other effective compound movements are the military press, pullups/chinups, the bent-row and the clean.

If you’re a beginner get familiar with these exercises because they will be the staples of your workout. I recommend that when planning your workouts, 75-80% of your lifts should be compound movements, the remaining 20 odd percent could be isometric movements.

What are Isometric exercises? Well, they are single-joint movements that isolate a certain muscle with the goal of definition. Examples of isometric movements include lateral raises, tricep extensions, bicep curls, etc. These are not so important for beginners, but for those of you that have been working out for some time, 6+ months, you’ll be more inclined to use these types of movements.

Okay, so back to the basics. I’ll be focusing here on the compound movements because they are so incredibly important for all gymgoers, be it beginners or the experienced gym rat. Like I said earlier, you’re workout will be comprised of mainly compounds, therefore it is important to have a solid understanding of these movements because you WILL be doing them.

The Squat – This movement works the lower body and core. It hits your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus (your butt), your calves and your core. This is a beast of a lift and you will definitely feel it. To do it properly, line up under the bar and pick it off the rack just behind your traps, take a few steps back, extend your hips back and drop down slowly and controlled. As you sit into the squat, you want to make sure you’re feet are flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart, and that your knees track over your feet. You can go 90 degrees or lower, I prefer to go ATG (Ass to Grass) and dip just below 90. Make sure your weight is on your heels, keep your head faced forward, and use your legs and hips to drive the squat up back into full extension. Many people tend to fold their backs when they go down which is wrong. You want to keep the bar in a straight line from top to bottom, by driving the hips you can do this properly. By clicking here, you’ll be sent to youtube where Mark Rippetoe explains the concept of hip drive in greater detail.

 

The Bench Press – This lift is a staple for building the muscles in your chest.  It works the pectoralis major muscle in the chest and is a great mass builder. To do it properly, lay flat on a bench and grab the barbell just over shoulder width. As you raise the barbell off of the rack, make sure to keep your wrists straight, control the weight down to the nipple line and explode up. You want to ensure your back stays flat! Many people arch their back once they lift heavy and you can easily slip a disk and mess up your back. Don’t do that, always be sure to use a weight that you can control. The weight isn’t as important as the mind-muscle connection.

 

The Deadlift – This is your lower backs best friend. One of the most classic lifts in a bodybuilders arsenal, this thing is extremely functional because we pick stuff up off the ground everyday. To do the lift properly, stand over a barbell with your feet just under shoulder width. Make sure your shins are touching the barbel and the barbell sits over the middle of your feet. As you lower down to grab the barbell, ensure that your back is straight and grip the barbell about shoulder width. Keep your feet flat, weight on the heels as you explode up. Keep your head up, look straight ahead throughout the whole lift and lock out at the top. This exercise can really mess you up if you round your back. You can easily slip a disk and mess yourself up as well, so ensure a flat back throughout the lift. The deadlift, like all of the classic compound movements can be targeted to focus different muscles with variations to your stance and grip. We’ll get into that as you progress, for now you’ll get better at this.

The Pullup and Chinup – I love this one and you should all know what it is. A pullup is done with your hands are pointed away from your body gripping over the bar, whereas a chinup is done with your hands are pointed towards your body, gripping under the bar. Different hand placement determines what part of the back is being worked, and yes you can cover virtually your entire back with different variations. Perfect for lifters of any experience, every back workout I do includes some variation of the pullup or chinup and so should yours.

The Bent-Over Row – Another great mass builder for the back, the bent row is my go-to for putting on size and strength. The exact muscles used differ on hand placement, which can be either pronated (as you see in the pic) or supinated (underhand grip). The bent-row works the latissimus dorsi muscle, which makes up the middle back. To perform the bent row, grab the barbell about shoulder width and slightly bend your knees. Lower the barbell to about knee level and keeping your back flat,  contract your back muscles and lift the weight up your quad and into your hips. Lower slowly and repeat. This exercise can be used with heavy weight so make sure that you nail the form before attempting to go heavy. Always control the motion and keep a mind-muscle connection.

The Military Press – The king of all shoulder exercises. This beast works all three heads of the deltoids and can be used to build strength and put on size on the delts. To perform this move correctly, sit on a 90 degree bench and grab a barbell just about shoulder width. Keeping the back as flat as possible on the bench and wrists straight, lower the weight down until your arms are about 90 degrees, pause, and control the weight back up into starting position. You don’t want to go too low because you can mess up your shoulders, which I’ve done and its not very fun at all. Don’t let your ego get the best of you and use weight you can manage, it can be easy to mess up your rotator cuff if you’re reckless.

The Clean – This is one of my favourite olympic lifts. It works muscles in your lower and upper body, as well as your core. It is a great exercise to add strength and improve athleticism. I know personally I’ve used this for hockey and its used religiously by football teams, for good reason, it works. This exercise is a bit more complicated to learn, so take your time with it and master the basics. Essentially you start as you would prepare for a deadlift, feet flat, back straight, head pointing up and forward.  As you explode up, lifting the barbell and shrug the weight up and using the momentum and force created, you drop and receive the barbell in a front squat. I know it seems complicated and it might seem so at first, so click here to get a video demonstration.

So there we are, we’ve reached the end of the basic lifts. These lifts explained above work the entire body and will be used in every workout you do. Be sure to learn them properly and remember to check your ego at the gym door and work with weight you can manage. If you have any questions, you know where to find me! Until next time, stay jacked!

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Comments
  1. Nick says:

    Great Stuff Marko, Keep it up!

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