Category: Essential Weight Training Exercises For Beginners (under construction)

The Pull Up

I love doing Pull Ups, they are a true display of upper body strength as they are most difficult to execute. Being an advanced exercise many people cannot perform even a single one. yet that is no reason that you should not begin working towards being able to do them. This exercise is a great strength builder for the upper back, which makes it of extreme importance since a strong back is a healthy back that is less prone to injury.

Muscles worked by the Pull Up

As we can see from the picture above, by performing Pull Ups regularly, you’ll work your arms and shoulders. But, they are actually more of an upper back strengthening exercise that is great for working the following muscles:

  • Latissimus dorsi: largest upper back muscle that runs from the mid-back to under the armpit and shoulder blade
  • Trapezius: located from your neck out to both shoulders
  • Thoracic erector spinae: the three muscles that run along your thoracic spine
  • Infraspinatus: assists with shoulder extension and is located on the shoulder blade

If you’re looking to improve your daily, functional strength and physique, you really should perform Pull Ups on a regular basis as a component to a full body strengthening routine.

How to execute a Pull Up

  • Use an overhand grip on the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Wrap all your fingers around the bar for maximum grip.
  • Hang freely under the bar. If your feet can still touch the ground, cross them behind you. Tighten your core to prevent your body from swinging.
  • Retract your shoulder blades, as if you’re pinching a pencil between them in the center of your back.
  • Drive your elbows down and back, and pull your chest up toward the bar. Keep your core engaged to prevent you from swinging under the bar.
  • Pause for a moment at the top—with your chin over the bar—and then slowly lower back to the start under control.

Pull Ups are different than a Chin Up. With a Chin Up, your palms and hands face toward you.

The Pull Up is considered an advanced exercise. It’s more difficult than the Chin Up. But the Pull Up can be modified or done on an assisted machine for beginners, and you’ll still get benefits from these variations.

Pull Up Program for absolute beginners:

Pictured above is a Pull Up bar that can be used in almost any doorway. It requires no tools or special mounting as it can be hung and removed with the greatest of ease, yet they can support over 200 pounds of body weight.

(Promote Upper Body Muscular Balance) dot

Muscular imbalance should be avoided at all costs. This will ultimately cause unnecessary injuries that will hinder your weightlifting journey. One common cause of these imbalances is focusing too much in pushing exercises (bench press, military press, etc) and neglecting your pulling muscles. Incorporating pull-ups will definitely give a carryover effect in promoting muscular balance in your upper body.

Getting started.

Static Holds

Begin by first getting used to holding your body weight essentially by just hanging from the bar. What you will do is hang on the bar on the top movement of the Pull Up and hold that flexed position until your muscles fatigue forcing you to drop to the ground. Rest and repeat for another 5 to 6 Static Holds. You can use all the different grip variations within one workout.

Negatives

 Select the type of Pull Up  you want  to master. Grasp your Pull Up bar and then jump up so that your chest will be over the bar. Gravity will do its role and bring you down after you jump. With all your might, resist gravity’s force when going down. When you land on your feet just jump up again and repeat the negative as many times as you are capable.

Moving on

Once you have become comfortable with performing static holds and negatives, it is time to begin working at actually performing repetitions by using the instructions above. No worries if you still can’t do them, I would advise that you purchase resistance bands to help assist you.

To use a band, loop it through itself around a Pull Up bar and pull tight to secure. Stand on a box, grab the bar, and place one foot inside the loop. Hold yourself with your hands as you step off the box and extend both legs so your body is vertical and then pull yourself up.

The Push Up

Traditional Push Ups are beneficial for building upper body strength. They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders.

Push Ups are a fast and effective exercise for building strength that can be done from virtually anywhere. Although you may have a desire to join a world-class gym, their monthly dues may not fit in your tight budget. Thankfully, you don’t need an expensive gym membership – or even any equipment – to obtain an effective and thorough full body workout. All you require is a small bit of floor space and a little time to perform them. You should also know that when done with proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back and core by engaging  abdominal muscles muscles since you are actually doing a Plank as a part of the exercise.

Pushups are particularly effective at strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joints.

Why do we need to care about the health of our shoulders? Simply put, our shoulders are a crucial part of our mobility and independence. We need them to be healthy and pain-free in order to accomplish our basic life functions such as driving a car, lifting groceries, doing housework, or picking up our children or grandchildren. As we age, the shoulders become vulnerable to health problems and pain that may curtail those activities a great deal or entirely. The muscles and tendons in the shoulder area are responsible for keeping the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.

Push Ups aren’t just about building your upper-body strength. They can also be considered a full-body workout when done correctly.

A significant component of that total-body work includes core strength and stability. When performed correctly, pushups are a great way to stabilize and strengthen your core, which is essentially all parts of your body that aren’t your heads, arms, or legs.

While certain core moves focus primarily on the abdominal muscles, a properly performed pushup targets some of the lesser-known muscles in your core, like transverse abdominis (the deepest core muscle that helps supports your spine), multifidus (a series of small muscles that run along the spine), and others. By targeting these other core muscles, you’re helping the entire unit of your core become stronger and more stable. Because the core is essentially the powerhouse of the body and a crucial component of the movements we do in so many different scenarios, a stronger core unit will essentially make everything in life easier.

Hot to perform the Push Up

Standard Push Ups

Fully extending your legs increases the difficulty of this move by adding more body weight. The amount of weight you are pushing with standard Push Ups  is about 64 percent of your body weight . To compare, a kneeling Push Up is about 49 percent which makes it perfect for beginners.

Begin with your chest and stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be straight out behind you and your palms should be at chest level with the arms bent out at a 45-degree angle.

Exhale as you push from your hands and heels, bringing your torso, chest, and thighs off the ground.

Pause for a second in the plank position — keep your core engaged.

Inhale as you slowly lower back to your starting position.

What if I can’t even do Push Ups from  kneeling?

Simple! You can begin by doing the same movements from a standing position and pushing away from a wall. You can slowly move your way back from the wall to add more resistance as you progress.

Later, as you have progressed from the wall, find something shorter you can lean against such as a stub wall, a kitchen countertop, a piece of furniture etc…

Find some like minded friends and make your Push Up exercise fun!

The Bent Over Barbell Row

It cannot be stated enough, that when in the gym working out, you are best off by making the most efficient use of your time with compound movements that work multiple muscle groups at the same time rather than trying to work single muscles for hours on end. The thing that happens with newbies to weight training who want to do the easy, single muscle lifts, they will develop muscle and strength imbalances. These imbalances can cause you injury and also does not make for a fit and trim looking body. The best way for one who is new to get the best looking body that is also strong, is to concentrate on doing compound lifts that work more than one muscle group with a single lift. Additionally, for every pushing or pressing lift you perform, you also want to do a corresponding pulling exercise to be sure and work those mirror muscles. The Bent Over Barbell Row is the perfect, complimentary lift for the bench press as it targets the muscles on the opposite side of your body.The bent-over row (and any back exercises, for that matter) are important to incorporate into your strength routine to maintain the balance of strength between the back and front of your body. Strength balance obtained from a proper push-pull program is vital to healthy skeletal function, posture and joint health – and can even serve to improve aesthetics to a greater degree in the long run from a greater quantity of large muscle group improvement throughout the body. Cooperative muscle groups including those serving agonist/antagonist roles along with those that function for stability need healthy strength relationships

Muscles worked by the Bent Over Barbell Row.

As you can see in the above picture, Bent Over Barbell Rows are primarily a back exercise. However, they recruit the rest of your body as well-which is what makes them a must-have for any strength-training routine.The Bent Over Barbell Row also targets your biceps, as well as muscles in your shoulders and forearms, plus your legs and core. The abdominal and lower-back muscles contract to stabilize while performing this excellent lift. Strengthening these muscles improves your posture and spinal stability, thereby, reducing the risk of lower-back injuries.

How to execute the Bent Over Barbell Row

Stand with your mid-foot under the bar (medium stance)

Bend over and grab the bar (palms down, medium-grip)

Unlock your knees while keeping your hips high

Lift your chest and straighten your back

Pull the bar against your lower chest

Return the bar to the floor. Breathe. Straighten your back, take a big breath, hold it. Then perform your next rep.
Bent Over Barbell Rows are easy to cheat. You can lift heavier weights by using your hips. But your upper-back should do most of the work. If your torso rises too far above horizontal, the weight is too heavy. Lower it to work your upper-back mostly, not your hips.

Programming

Exercises like the Bent Over Barbell Row should be thought of more as an exercise rather than as a lift. The Bent Over Barbell Row is an exercise that is used to strengthen a muscle group(s) that aids in the performance of other LIFTS, namely the deadlift, but also the bench and squat to a degree. In order for an assistance exercise of this nature to be  most effective, you need to be able to feel the muscle group working. You  should do 4 or 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps of Bent Over Barbell Rows in your workout.  Note: If you do not feel a massive pump in your upper and mid-back when you are doing this exercise, you should re-evaluate how you are executing the exercise as you are doing things wrong.

 

The Overhead Press

Like many, if not most weight trainers, I have a love-hate relationship with the Overhead Press. I love it because nothing builds more confidence, nor strokes the ego like pushing a heavy weight over your head. When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the Olympic weight lifters and their heavy presses, these men and women were so strong and fit. Hoisting a heavy weight over head has always been a display of strength that I wanted to emulate. However, as much as I love this particular lift, I also hate it.

Why do I hate it?

Simply because it is the hardest lift to progress on. It is the lift that every lifter will fail on first in their training. It is the lift that will kick your tail with the least amount of weight when compared to the Squat, Dead Lift and Bench Press. This is a tough lift to master if you have a desire to continue increasing your workout weights because it uses small muscle groups when compared to those other big lifts. With smaller muscles being utilized to complete the lift, it is only natural that you are not going to be able to lift as much weight. Yet, because this lift is such an important one to master, it is included in every lifting program I use. These smaller muscle groups play a role in assisting other muscle groups for functional strength, and lets face it, strong shoulders on a man or woman are far more eye appealing that weak, drooping shoulders.

Which muscles are used with the Overhead Press?

The Overhead Press is the perfect lift you should incorporate into your lifting routine in order to build up and strengthen your shoulders. You will find that it is also fantastic for our upper traps, upper chest, triceps, posture, and even our abs, making it one of the best lifts for improving shoulder girdle,  and developing more appealing aesthetics while also strengthening your hips, and building stability through the legs.

You will find the Overhead Press to be an excellent exercise for developing stronger abs and obliques. While it is somewhat inferior to the chin-up, it does do a much better job of stimulating your abs than the Bench Press, Squat, and Dead Lift. In fact, if you’re doing both chin-ups and overhead presses, your core will get a fairly solid workout, you may not even need ab isolation exercises.

How To Overhead Press

The movement begins in the bottom (start) position.

Stand with your entire body tight and rigid.

Hold a barbell just above your upper chest, hands slightly wider that shoulder width.

Now think of an imaginary straight line drawn from the elbows through the wrists and hands and into the ceiling.

Press the bar up along this path as the elbows extend, taking the same path back down to the starting position.

Standing Vs. Seated

You could find in your home gym that you do not have clearance enough with your ceiling to properly execute the Standing Overhead Press, and this is fine since you can also preform this lift from the sitting position. In fact, some people prefer to be seated during their Overhead Presses. Though the movement itself is nearly identical whether you’re sitting or standing, there are some important differences between doing this movement when standing. The standing barbell press builds more total-body strength than the seated overhead press because it requires more core stability and tension from the hips and legs. Seated presses don’t require the same stability because the body is taking stability from the bench. However, you can typically lift a little heavier when seated because of the stability provided by the back rest if you have one.

Programming

Start light with barbell overhead pressing and concentrate on form. When beginning, leave 5 reps in the tank at the end of each set and focus intently on each rep. For example, if you choose a weight with which you can do 10 reps with good form, don’t do more than 5. If you feel your back arch harder as you press, or you can’t finish with your arms parallel to your ears, the weight’s too heavy.

Progress by adding 5 pounds to the bar each week. Your body will safely accommodate this hike in load. Strive to do 15-25 total reps, which is the accumulation of all your working sets.

 

NOTE: There are a few different variations of the Overhead Press. I will be addressing these separately as I build upon this menu of basic lifts.

 

Back Squat AKA The Squat

The squat, commonly known as the “King of all exercises”  is the most basic strength exercise in weightlifting, and is one of the most commonly used exercises  as it is the most effective exercise in weightlifting for building basic strength, particularly of the legs and trunk.

The squat makes your legs, thighs, and core muscles stronger and in turn, increases your overall strength, mobility and balance. Squatting  works your entire body from head to toe, by engaging almost all muscle groups including your neck, back, stomach, hips, thighs, and feet. Due to this mass engagement of muscles, your body’s circulatory system gets fired up which revs up your metabolism. A high metabolism means your body uses more calories, which will result in fat loss. As you can see. the combination of all these functions working in unison provides your body with significant benefits. You may have heard from those who lack knowledge of squats that they are bad for the knees and ankles. This could not be farther from the truth as squats actually help to restore bad knees by conditioning them to become stronger, and inevitably prevent future damage.

How to execute the squat:

Place the barbell behind your neck—retract your shoulder blades tightly and rest the bar in the meat of your upper traps, un-rack the barbell and step back from the hooks.

Place your feet between hip and shoulder width apart with the toes turned out so that at full depth each thigh and the corresponding foot are in line with each other. Always remember this cue, “where your feet point is where your knees go”.

Set your back in a bit of an arch, and then take in a large and deep breath, and hold it in, while you forcefully tighten all your trunk musculature.

Before you execute the actual squatting movement, remember that you want the barbell to travel in a straight plane of movement down and back up in a straight line with your center of gravity. Then bend at the knees and hips almost simultaneously. You will want to break at the hips just before breaking at your knees simply because a little forward lean will help the bar dig into your rear delts a bit better, and be more stable.

Squat down as directly as possible into the bottom of the squat with an upright posture, maintaining tension on the legs throughout the movement and controlling the speed of the descent. Full depth is achieved when the knees are closed as much as possible without losing the arch in the back or when your hip joint is parallel with your knee joint (if you cannot sit into a full depth squat, you need to work on mobility). Upon reaching the bottom position, immediately transition and stand as aggressively as possible, again with the knees and hips together in a hip hinge movement to maintain your upright posture. Try to lead the movement with your head and shoulders while directing your gaze to a spot in front of you.

Programming

There is a large number of possibilities when it comes to programming the back squat. Most commonly weightlifters will use sets of 1-5 reps, but it’s not unheard of to use as many as 10 occasionally, briefly and far out from competition. Really, what it comes down to when deciding a rep range is between if your focus is on overall strength (low rep), or if you desire hypertrophic growth or toning (high reps).

 

The Bench Press

While the squat is the “King of all Lifts”, the Bench Press seems to be the most popular. The Bench Press is such a popular lift, it is often the lift a good many lifters concentrate on the most while neglecting other lifts of equal importance. Most young men who begin lifting want a big chest and big arms, and they believe the Bench Press is the method of achieving this. While this is mainly true, you  must not neglect the rest of your body when taking on a serious lifting program.

The Bench Press is indeed  a full body, compound exercise. However, it works your chest, shoulders and triceps most. It’s the most effective exercise to gain upper-body strength and muscle mass because it’s the upper-body exercise you’ll lift the most weight on. The bigger your bench, the bigger your chest.

Ladies, the Bench Press is an important lift for you too!

Training your pecs will build muscle underneath the fat that makes up your breasts. As long as you aren’t dieting too severely, you will not lose your breasts. If anything, the added muscle helps your breasts appear fuller. Training the Bench Press can give a little boost to your cleavage! By developing your pectoral muscles, you are actually creating a natural bra for yourself. Ladies, the bench press is an important lift for you too if you care about having a body that is well balanced in strength and appearance. And you can do this without having to feel like you have to “go heavy” when you do this lift.

How to properly execute the Bench Press.

  1. Lie on the bench with your eyes under the bar
  2. Grab the bar with a medium grip-width and then squeeze it as if you are trying to bend the bar.
  3. Unrack the bar by straightening your arms
  4. Lower the bar to your mid-chest
  5. Press the bar back up until your arms are straight

Hold the weight for a second at the top, with straight arms. Breathe. Then take a big breath, hold it, and lower the bar again. Keep your butt on the bench when you press it back up. To avoid shoulder pain, tuck your elbows 75° when you lower the bar. Don’t try to stretch your chest by flaring your elbows 90° out. You’ll impinge your shoulders if your upper-arms are perpendicular to your torso at the bottom. Tuck your elbows 75° to Bench Press pain-free.

How to grip the bar.
Grip the bar with your pinky inside the ring marks of your bar, or at least a little bit wider than your shoulder width. When you execute the lift, you want your forearms to be vertical to the floor when the bar touches your chest. Your build determines the grip width you need for this but medium usually works. Wider grips can be tough on your shoulders while a too narrow grip is  ineffective for benching heavy because it puts your forearms  into an incline, and places more emphasis on your triceps instead of your chest.
Do not Flare Your Elbows.

Do not lower the bar with elbows out 90° as you might see done with a bodybuilding-style with your elbows perpendicular to your torso at the bottom. By flaring your elbows, you stand the risk of a painful shoulder impingement  while attempting to get a bigger chest stretch. The top of your upper-arms will smash your rotator cuff tendons against your AC joint on every rep. Your shoulders will inflame and hurt. Tuck your elbows 75° in at the bottom.

Keep your entire body tight.

Lie on the bench with your upper-back tight. Imagine that you are trying to hold a pen between your shoulder-blades by squeezing them together. This action will flatten your upper-back and increase your body’s stability when you lie on the bench. This allows you to push your upper-back harder against the bench which increases your Bench Press. Always make it a point to. squeeze your shoulder-blades before you unrack the weight.

 You also will not want to shrug your shoulders forward. This will cause you to lose your upper-back tightness, your chest will collapse and your hands will be higher. This makes the bar path longer and the weight harder to bench. Keep you back tight, chest up and shoulders back. Always maintain upper-back tightness by pushing yourself into the bench on each rep.

When  setting up to Bench Press, raise your chest towards the ceiling. Do this by arching your lower back and rotating your rib cage up while keeping your butt on the bench. Squeeze your lats to lock your chest in position in order to make the weight easier to press as you’ll touch your chest higher. This shortens the bar path and decreases horizontal bar movement to press it back over your shoulders. Always keep your butt on the bench when you Bench Press. It is acceptable for your lower back to come off the bench in order to keep you chest up, but your butt must not rise.


Always make it a point to Bench Press with your feet firmly planted on the floor.

Don’t put your feet on the bench or in the air to feel your muscles better. No matter if you have seen others do this foolishness, it creates an unstable and ineffective position for Benching heavy weights because you can’t use your legs. Besides helping to keep your body tight as you lift, keeping your feet on the floor is for your safety as it increases stability, balance and strength. It improves your form by helping your keep your chest up and lower back arched. Always Bench Press with your feet flat on the floor.
Programming the Bench Press

Being as these lifting tutorials are geared to the beginning lifter, I advise you to begin with an empty barbell and then increase your weight by 5 pounds with every workout until you begin stalling out.

As with every other lift, there is a large number of possibilities when it comes to programming the Bench Press. Most commonly, weightlifters will use sets of 1-5 reps, but it’s also a common practice to use as many as 10 reps per set. Really, what it comes down to when deciding a rep range is between if your focus is on overall strength (low rep), or if you desire hypertrophic growth or toning (high reps).

Note: When lifting by yourself without someone to spot you, be sure you are using equipment that has safety catches that will protect you if you happen to fail a rep and cannot rack the barbell.

 

 

 

 

The Dead Lift

I often hear people say they just do not have time for working out. I hear and understand this, but I also live a quite busy life. I have a job where I work 60 plus hours each week on top of writing and building this website. Because I am a very busy man, I believe in making the most efficient use of the time I do have for getting in my exercise. Therefore, when I am working out with my weights, my concentration is placed on doing lifts that are compound in nature. What this means, is I do lifts that work multiple muscle groups with each rep and set instead of concentrating on single muscles. I simply do not have time for that and believe that compound lifts give the best bang for the buck for the time spent getting in a workout.

If I was limited to only being able to get in two different lifts in a week, the Dead Lift and Squat would be my first and only choices. This is because these two lifts work your entire body when you execute them. As you can see in the picture above, the Dead Lift leaves almost no area of your body lacking for resistance when you are pulling a heavy weight from the floor. When you build muscle from the Dead Lift, you are causing stress throughout your entire body. You are building up lean muscle mass everywhere, and not just in the highlighted areas in the above picture.

The Dead Lift provides enormous  physical benefit as they not only help build lean mass but also it increases your functional strength in a manner that helps you actually avoid injury while making  your life easier in the performance of daily tasks.

When correctly executed, the Dead Lift will build up your strength to lift weights, boxes and other items with proper form. The increased strength you’ll gain from this exercise may lower your odds of lower back pain and injury. You will find that a strong back is a healthy back. Another benefit from doing Dead Lifts as we age is they will also strengthen our core,  which leads to improved balance.

The Dead Lift can and will promote growth of your muscle size and strength. Muscle size increases over time as the muscle fibers adapt and grow in response to the stress of the strength training. Increased muscle size contributes to strength, but the main factor is the nervous system adapting and being better able to communicate with the muscle cells which will provide you great benefit for any physical task you are ever faced with.

How to properly execute the Dead Lift.

When executed properly, the Dead Lift will strengthen every bone in your body while challenging every muscle within your posterior chain (all the muscles that run from your neck to your heels). The Dead Lift will test your grip strength and core stability to the absolute max. It will find any weakness in your body to be addressed if you ever hope to lift heavy. For that reason you should always start light, well within your means. Only consider building up your working weight  once you have first perfected proper lifting form.

  • With your feet flat on the floor, bend at the knees and grab the bar with hands shoulder-width apart.
  • You have two grip choices: a double overhand grip or a reverse grip, where one hand grips the bar overhand and the other underhand. The reverse grip will allow you to lift heavier. Always squeeze the bar as hard as you can, especially on heavier sets, before the bar leaves the floor.

  • If you struggle with your grip try using chalk or a mixed grip (with one hand facing forwards, one facing back), which will help you cling onto the bar so you can focus on your form.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position by looking forwards with your eyes fixed to a spot on the ground, about 4 feet ahead of your feet. Keep your chin up so your head stays in the best position for lifting.
  • Keeping your back straight and your head facing forward throughout, lift the bar using your legs and driving your hips forward. The Dead Lift should be a fast and powerful lift using your legs and glute strength. Drive upwards as explosively as possible.

  • Aim to maintain a strong spine from the beginning of the lift to the end. Do this by keeping your chest up to prevent your torso hunching forwards over the bar.
  • Your shoulders should remain slightly in front of your hands until the bar passes mid-thigh level, at which point you want to retract your shoulder blades for a strong and stable torso.
  • Pull your shoulders back at the top of the move, then carefully lower the bar to the ground.

Programming the Dead Lift.

Higher reps generally contribute to building muscle. Most power lifters will train with anywhere from 1-8 reps, but when training specifically for strength, the general rep range is 3-5. Bodybuilders and people who want to add muscle to their backs usually stick to doing 8-12 Dead Lifts and sometimes more, it all depends on your goals and what you want out of your training and body.

Dead Lifts are a great tool in your weight loss arsenal to use during the week. Ladies, you will build muscle and strength but here are four benefits you also need to consider:

Work several muscle groups promoting high-level fat loss

Increase primary anabolic hormones that stimulate fat loss and muscle growth

Burn more calories compared to running

Increase cardio endurance if programmed properly