Strength Training 101: The Bread and Butter of Getting Strong

474433_357470557682715_1044649079_oMost people make weightlifting too complicated. The truth is, you don’t have to be an athlete or PT major to safely put some serious weight on the bar. When it comes down to it, the three lifts you’d do in a powerlifting meet are actually a pretty good place to start with any strength training regimen. And if you have no idea what powerlifting is, don’t worry – these lifts are safe, effective and easy to learn.

You may not be a strength training expert by the time you finish this post, but you’ll definitely have a better understanding of weightlifting than 95% of the people in a Commercial Omaha Gym. That’s because at Omaha Barbell (OBGYM), we know that an educated lifter is an effective lifter.

The Squat

The squat is arguably the most favorite weightlifting exercise of our Omaha Barbell Members. It’s easy to understand, extremely safe, and uses almost every muscle in your body. Most people think the squat is a lower-body movement, but you’ll use your abs, back, shoulders and arms to stabilize the bar, in addition to your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves to lower and raise the hips.

Long story short, because the squat uses so much of your body, it burns a ton of calories and can help you pack on slabs of muscle (with the right diet). Performing a proper squat is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart with your toes slightly pointed out.
  2. Get under the bar and position it behind your neck, on top of your shoulders.
  3. Hold the bar in place with your arms, and lift off the rack.
  4. Squat down to parallel, so that the crease in your hips is lower than the top of your knee.
  5. Push back up, taking special care to keep your knees out wide. Repeat for reps.

Pretty simple, though definitely not always easy. Especially, as you challenge yourself while building more strength. If you want to practice right now, stand up, hold your arms in front of your chest or behind your head, and squat down to parallel and back up using the instructions above.

The Deadlift

This lift is also an Omaha Barbell Member favorite because there’s simply nothing more fulfilling than pulling up a weight that doesn’t want to budge. The deadlift is also fun because it usually progresses the fastest of the three lifts, so with diligent training you can consistently put up new personal records like several of our members here at OBGYM.

As far as muscles worked, the deadlift most heavily uses your posterior chain – the muscles running along the back of your body from the bottom of your calves to the top of your neck. Your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and traps play particularly important roles.
Just like the squat, the deadlift is pretty straightforward:

1. Start with the bar on the floor, and make sure you’re on a safe surface (like our deadlifting platform here at Omaha Barbell – OBGYM).

2. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart (narrower than the squat), very slightly pointed out.

3. Lean down and grip the bar so that your arms rest just outside your knees.

4. Bend your head and chest up to straighten your back. It helps to stare at a point on the ground about 15 feet in front of you.

5. Pull the bar up, keeping it close to your shins and over the middle of your feet.

6. Once you’ve fully extended and locked out your hips, lower the bar to the ground.

Repeat for reps.

In most gyms, you’d have to be really careful not to make too much noise with the deadlift, especially when you’re lowering the weight to the ground. However, at Omaha Barbell, we have bumper plates and a good platform so that you can just focus on lifting hard.

The Bench Press

Bench press is an excellent upper body movement that is loved by many of our Omaha Barbell Members. There is a thrilling rush while lifting a bar that lies above your chest, that for an untrained weight lifter, potentially might not move. The goal with any of these exercises is to practice safety while building strength. If you suffer from chest or shoulder problems the bench press can be replaced by dips or overhead press.

Now, most of you already know what the benchpress looks like, so included in these instructions are a couple special tips:

1. Lay on the bench underneath the bar, with your feet planted firmly on the ground.

2. Make sure you’re positioned far enough out so that you won’t hit the rack as you’re lifting.

3. Reach up and grip the bar a little further out than shoulder width. Rotate your hands slightly inward so that the bar rests more directly over your wrists.

4. Pull your shoulder blades together and back to form a “platform” on the bench.

5. If you have a spotter, have them lift the weight off the rack for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to do it yourself, making sure to lock out your elbows before moving the weight over your chest.

6. While staring at the ceiling, lower the bar to your chest and press it back up. Repeat for reps.

At the bottom of the bench press, the bar should touch your chest somewhere around the lower half of your sternum, and it should ideally be a light enough touch that it’d leave a pane of glass intact. Don’t bounce the bar off your body!

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, these three lifts should form the foundation of any strength training regimen, especially for a beginner. Before you move on to complex lifts or isolation exercises, make sure you’ve mastered the basics. You’d be surprised how much stronger, faster and healthier you can get just by focusing on these three core movements.

If you have any questions regarding the state of the art equipment or membership plans we have at Omaha Barbell feel free to give us a call (402) 594-4485. We’d be happy to show you the ropes!

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