Training

What are the best basic lifts for strength training, gaining power and improving explosiveness?

April 14th 2018

Congratulations! You are one step closer to achieving your fitness goals.

Being a beginner is no different from being elite. You both need to train hard to achieve results. You both need to exhibit discipline and be structured.

The only difference is that the elite has been honing their craft for much, much longer.

Just starting to lift weights should make no difference in the amount of effort you put forth. A beginner should embrace this opportunity.

The biggest questions - what exercises should beginners be doing?

Here are the top 12 exercises I would recommend beginners to include in their programs. Remember that everyone's goals will be different, so pick and choose your exercises, and your program accordingly. Picking a program is crucial for success, here is why.

If you are unsure about which exercises to include in your program, I would recommend using numbers 1-4.

1. Squat

Squatting

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The squat is a compound, full body exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the hips, buttocks and thighs. These muscles include the quadriceps and hamstrings. In addition to growing the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments are also strengthened.

Squats are a vital exercise for increasing size and strength in the lower body. As a result, the whole body is trained to support squatting; the core, shoulders, arms, lower and upper back muscles are all used to perform this exercise.

Before starting to squat, the lifter starts the movement from a standing position. The movement is then initiated by breaking at the hips and knees, bending the knees and hips to lower the body and the respective weight. Then, the lifter will return to the original standing position again.

Frequency

Many programs start off squatting three times a week for three sets of five. For your own specific needs, adjust however necessary.

2. Deadlift

deadlift

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The deadlift is broken down into three parts: setup, initial pull/drive and lockout.

Setup

When performing the deadlift, the lifter will set up in a position that eccentrically load, activating the muscle while lengthening it, the glutes and hamstrings while muscles in the back stabilize the spine.

Drive/Pull

In this portion of the deadlift, the lifter produces the greatest amount of force. By both pushing down through your heels while pulling the bar at the same time, the lifter will focus on keeping the back muscles contracted tightly to maintain a safe posture throughout the motion.

The lifter will drive his/her feet through the ground, to stand erect and lift the bar.

Lockout

The lifter will finish the lift by driving the hips completely into the bar. The lifter will also contract the glutes to finish the movement with a neutral pelvic position.

Lowering the weight

With your back and core muscles still being tightly contracted, the lifter will hinge at the hips and knees to bring the weight down. Then, lower his/her chest towards the knees while keeping the bar close to the body.

Frequency

Most program vary in their deadlift volume. The true beginner should start off deadlifting three times a week for one set of five repetitions. As the lifter becomes more proficient in the movement, they will begin to lower the frequency.

3. Flat Bench

bench

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The bench press is an upper body strength training exercise that consists of pressing the weight upwards while laying down face up. The activity works on the chest, arm and shoulder muscles. A barbell is usually used when performing the bench press but dumbbells can also be used as a substitute.

When performing the exercise, the lifter will lie on their back on the bench while gripping the weight in both hands. After unracking the weight, the lifter will descend the weight down to his/her chest, a little lower than the nipple area. Afterward, the weight will be pressed back up towards the lifter?s face until the arms are extended to complete one repetition.

Frequency

The typical program allow lifters to bench press once or twice a week, for three sets of five repetitions. Depending on your needs and goals, adjust the frequency.

4. Overhead press

ohp

Photo Credits to Quora

The overhead press, or shoulder press is a strength training exercise that has the lifter pressed straight upwards from a racked position until the arms are locked out overhead.

To start the movement, the lifter puts the barbell or weight into a racking position. Then, without bending your knees, press the weight overhead until the elbows are fully locked out.

Frequency

Common programs allow strength athletes to overhead press once or twice a week, for three sets of five repetitions. Depending on your needs, adjust the frequency as required.

5. Bent-over rows

rows

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The bent-over row is a strength exercise that trains the back muscles. Depending on the form and angle, it is an excellent exercise to help build size and strength.

The most common variation is the barbell row. To start, the lifter will grip the barbell with both hands. Keeping your back straight, the lifter will pull the weight towards their belly button and hold for a brief second. Afterward, the lifter will return the weight to the original location, in a controlled fashion.

Frequency

Common rep ranges for the bent-over row allows the lifter to perform the exercise two to three times a week, for three sets of five repetitions. Most strength programs use this exercises as a variation and will typically increase the amount of repetitions to ten.

6. Pullups

pullup

Photo Credits to Climbing Magazine

A pullup is an upper-body strength compound exercise. Typically, a pullup is done with the palms facing away from the body. The pullup trains your arms, shoulders, traps, and grip.

Grabbing a bar overhead, the lifter will hold onto the bar with two hands. With a powerful pull, the lifter will pull his/her body towards the bar, touching his/her chest on the bar. For more complex variations of the pullup, lifters can pull even higher up. For the bare minimum of a pullup, the lifter will need to get his/her chin above the bar for a full repetition of a pull up.

Frequency

Most strength programs will assign three sets of five reps for pullups. Pullups can be performed once to three times a week. However, sets and reps will vary depending on the lifter?s needs.

7. Incline Bench

incline bench

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The incline bench, a cousin of the bench press, is an upper body strength training exercise that targets the arm, chest and shoulders. Due to the nature of the exercise, pressing weight from an incline puts more emphasis on the chest and front shoulders.

Similar to the flat bench press, when performing the exercise, the lifter will lie on their back on the incline bench while gripping the weight in both hands. After unracking the weight, the lifter will descend the weight down to his/her chest, a little lower than the nipple area. Afterward, the weight will be pressed back up until the arms are extended to complete one repetition.

Frequency

Most strength programs will have this exercise as a variation, for three sets of ten repetitions. The incline bench can be performed after every bench session, typically two to three times a week. Again, adjust as fit according to your own individual wants.

8. Chin-up

chinup

Photo Credits to Build Muscle101

A chinup is an upper-body strength compound exercise. Unlike its cousin, the pullup, the chinup is done with the palms facing towards from the body. The chinup trains your biceps,arms, shoulders, traps, and grip.

Grabbing a bar overhead, the lifter will hold onto the bar with two hands. With a powerful pull, the lifter will pull his/her body towards the bar, touching his/her chest on the bar. Due to anatomy, the highest someone can pull for a chinup is by touching the chest. For the bare minimum of a chinup, the lifter will need to get his/her chin above the bar for a full repetition of a chinup.

Frequency

Most strength programs will assign three sets of five reps for chin-ups. Programs typically have chin-ups for one to three times a week. However, sets and reps will vary depending on the lifter?s needs.

9. Front Squats

front squat

Photo Credits to Tabata Times

The front squat is a compound, strength training exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the hips, buttocks and thighs. These muscles include the quadriceps and hamstrings. In addition to growing the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments are also strengthened. The front squat places additional emphasis on the quadriceps and core.

Before starting to front squat, the lifter starts the movement from a standing position. Unlike a regular back squat, the weight will be in front of the lifter, not behind the lifter?s neck. The movement is then initiated by bending the knees and hips to lower the body and the respective weight. The key is to not allow your elbow to drop below parallel. Then, the lifter will return to the original standing position again.

Frequency

A typical rep and set scheme for the front squats is three sets of five reps. Lifters can perform the exercise three times a week. The lifter should adjust accordingly, if needed.

10. Lunges

lunges

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

Lunges are a lower body exercises that helps strengthen and build the lower body. It helps build the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings. The lunge can be performed at body weight but more effective variations work by adding more weight to increase resistance.

To lunge, one leg will be positioned forward with the knees bent and foot flat on the ground. The other leg will be positioned behind your body.

Frequency

Most strength programs will have this exercise as a variation, for three sets of ten repetitions. The exercise can be performed after every squat session, typically three times a week. Again, adjust as fit according to your own individual wants.

11. Dips

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

Dips are a upper body strength training exercise. Dips train the triceps, chest and shoulders. A narrow grip dip will focus more on tricep development while a wider grip dip will focus more on chest development.

To begin the dip, hands are placed directly below the shoulders. Then, the lifter will lower his/her body until their arms are bent at 90 degrees at the elbow. Then, the lifter will push against the equipment and return back to the starting position.

Frequency

Most strength programs will have this exercise as a variation, for three sets of ten repetitions. The exercise can be performed two to three times a week. Adjust as fit according to your own individual wants.

12. Farmers Walks

farmer walks

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

The Farmers Walk or weighted carry is a full body grip training exercise. It primarily trains your grip while your core and traps provide stability for the movement.

To begin, pick up the desired weight. Lift it up and begin to walk the intended distance. Once done, the weight can be dropped and the weighted carry has been completed.

Frequency

Depending on the athlete, weight and duration of the farmers walks vary greatly. Typically, this exercise is performed two to four times a week, varying greatly among lifters.

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