11 Top Weight Training Exercises | Basics for Beginners

Weight training allows you to quickly strengthen the muscles of the whole body and improve your figure by building muscle. The workouts are good for the heart, joints, and blood circulation. Repetitive exercises activate lymph flow and increase circulation. Such exercises as deadlift, squats, bench press or lunges slow down the aging process, because it prevents the natural breakdown of muscle mass. The exercises should be chosen according to the condition of your body.

The basics of performing exercises with weights

Strength training is recommended for people who are at least 15 years old. Exercising too intensively can harm the body, which has not fully formed. After the age of 15 you should train under the supervision of a trainer. For each person individually selected exercises depending on his state of health.

Training with weights should be regular. Their effectiveness depends on it. It is not recommended to burden the body with daily exercises, because the body needs time to recover from the exercise. Training should take place 2-3 times a week. They can be diluted with simple aerobic exercises. Muscles will become evenly loaded and will grow quickly. Gradually it will be possible to adjust the mode, and increase the intensity of the fitness program.

It is not necessary to use large weights at once in order to train effectively. The load should match the physical fitness of the person. If you gradually increase the weight, you will be able to achieve the best results.

Strength training is allowed and even useful for women. It is difficult for girls to build muscle mass, and this is due to the peculiarities of the hormonal background. Women lack testosterone, which is responsible for muscle growth. For this reason, exercises with weights will not lead to the fact that the female body becomes similar to the male one. It is possible to strengthen and develop muscles without losing your femininity.

Performance Tips & Recommendations

Training with weights requires a competent approach, and the program should be made individually for each person. It is necessary to start with simple exercises, and gradually you can complicate the tasks. It is important for the athlete to increase endurance and prepare the body to build muscle mass.

  • You should not perform a large number of exercises on a single muscle. In this case it will not grow and will even decrease in size. You must not do more than two exercises on biceps, chest, triceps, quadriceps. Each exercise must be performed in 4 approaches.
  • The rest time between workouts depends on the purpose of the exercises. If an athlete wants to become stronger, it is necessary to rest longer – 5 minutes between exercises. To increase the volume of muscle mass the rests should be less by 2 minutes.
  • To protect your palms from coarsening when exercising with a barbell you need to use special gloves. They are called “mittens”.
  • Swinging the abs, you must not forget about the back muscles. In particular we are talking about the lower back. If you avoid such trainings, there will be health problems – can develop a curvature of the spine.
  • You should not delay next set or exercise, because the body will replenish energy from the muscles. This will slow down the process of building mass.
  • You should start your workout with basic exercises to warm up the body. The exact program is made individually and depends on the athlete’s goals. With a competent approach, strength exercises will help to increase endurance, strength, and build muscle.

Basic weightlifting exercises

The exercises listed below are considered the basic ones which means they have deep impact on the muscle system of the whole body. They increase circulation, trigger muscle growth, stabilise hormonal level and impove general health. They are recommended to begin with for those who only take their first steps in weight training.

Bench Press

This basic weight lifting exercise, performed on a bench, is the key to obtaining a powerful and wide chest. It engages the pectoral muscles, shoulder girdle, and triceps. Anatomically, it is similar to push-ups from the floor. The difference is the possibility of using additional weights, such as dumbbells or a barbell. This, of course, increases the effect of the workout.

Initial position:

Lying on a horizontal bench.

Execution:

  • The barbell is removed from the mount with both hands;
  • Lower the bar to the middle of the chest until it lightly touches the body;
  • Squeeze the barbell without exhaling until the elbow joints are fully locked.

Feet should be on the floor, buttocks pressed firmly against the surface of the bench, shoulder blades pressed together and chest outstretched forward.

The peculiarity of the bench press, in contrast to the squats or deadlift, is the possibility to lift heavier weight with a minimum risk of damaging the shoulder joint. This is achieved due to the fact that the barbell is lifted from the chest to the shoulders diagonally, and the trajectory of the projectile movement itself has a small angle relative to the vertical.

After assuming the initial position on the bench, the projectile is grasped with both hands, providing support only with the palms, located at a distance of 55-60 centimeters. The thumbs must be on top of the projectile.

Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the most common exercises among all sports disciplines. It is actively used in powerlifting and crossfit, and is also a good side exercise to increase the overall strength and power of the athlete, so mixed martial arts fighters, boxing fans and martial arts fans also do not ignore it, thereby building up a crazy strength increasing the overall athletic potential.

The classic deadlift

The classic version of doing the deadlift is probably the most common in crossfit, powerlifting and extreme sports. There is no exact information about what sport discipline it originated in, but most likely it was weightlifting – the first part of the deadlift represents this very movement.

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So, how to do the deadlift properly on a step-by-step basis:

  • In the classic deadlift the athlete takes the bar at shoulder width, the legs stand a little narrower, the feet are parallel to each other.
  • The barbell’s grip is as close as possible to the shins, so the use of gaiters is recommended for the deadlift.
  • Shoulders and shoulder blades are set back a little.
  • The movement begins with the movement of the legs – the barbell must be “torn” by the effort of the quadriceps and glutes. When the bar has traveled 20-30% of its amplitude, the lifter should start the movement with his back, straighten fully in the lower back and lock in the final position.

Squats

The squat with a barbell on the shoulders is a basic exercise common in crossfit and powerlifting, involving a huge number of muscle groups. Along with the deadlift and bench press, it is a kind of indicator of functional and strength training of the athlete, and the correct technique of performing this exercise is critical.

The technique of the exercise

There are many hypotheses regarding the correct technique of squatting with a barbell on the shoulders. Their number is due to the fact that the technique may vary due to anatomical features of a particular person (e.g., length of limbs, volume of glutes, flexibility in hip and shoulder joints, etc.). Therefore, the recommendations listed below are of a general nature only, more acceptable for you technique can help to work out a competent personal trainer. Well, let’s get to the bottom of how to do the barbell squat correctly.

Taking the barbell on the back

The first phase of the movement is to take the barbell off the racks. Firmly grasping the bar a little wider than shoulder width, squat under the bar exactly in the center of the bar, pushing into the bar with the trapeze, and remove the bar with the movement of the legs. It is extremely important to keep your back straight when removing the bar from the racks, as this is when our spine experiences the maximum axial load.

The next phase is to step away from the racks and lock yourself in place. It is necessary to take a few steps with your back forward, find a stable position and start the exercise. Take your time when stepping backwards, your movements should be smooth and confident. Otherwise, you will lose balance and control over the movement, thereby risking injury.

Squat itself

Now you have to do the squat properly. There is no one-size-fits-all opinion on such matters as: the depth of amplitude, the width of the legs, the level of body tilt and the degree of foot turn. It all depends on what your goals are.

For instance, if you are a powerlifter, a wider leg stance and a greater incline angle of the body will suit you, as this will allow you to lift more weight.

On the other hand, say, you want to work on the quadriceps in isolation, you should perform squats with a parallel placement of feet and in a shorter amplitude, for the glutes – perform deep squat with a barbell.

Use an athletic belt when working with heavy weights to fix the position of the lower back and minimize the risk of getting an umbilical hernia. The last phase is to place the barbell on the racks. Maintaining balance and a straight back, take a few steps toward the racks and carefully place it. Nothing complicated.

Bent-over rows

The barbell bent-over pull is an exercise designed to strengthen the muscles of the upper back. It, like any other horizontal pulls, mainly increases the thickness of the back, which gives the visual volume and mass of your torso.

Contraindications to performing bent-over rows

Since the sport is designed to strengthen, not undermine your health, take into account the few contraindications that exist for performing the barbell pulling to the belt in a bend:

The exercise is not recommended for novice lifters

Proper and safe for the health of our musculoskeletal system, performing the barbell bent-over pull requires strong extensors of the spine and cortex muscles, something that beginners can rarely boast. It is better for them to perform primarily lighter isolated exercises to strengthen all muscle groups of the body, to build a certain strength foundation, to learn to feel the contraction and extension of a muscle. Only after that you can begin to perform barbell pulling in a bend with a small working weight.

If there are problems with the back

The position of the body when performing this exercise is not anatomically quite natural for our body, because it creates a strong axial load on the lumbar spine and increases the intra-abdominal pressure. For this reason, the barbell pulling to the belt in a bend should be performed with special caution to athletes who have spine or musculoskeletal system diseases.

Presence of umbilical hernia

Also, the performance of this type of pull is contraindicated to athletes who have an umbilical hernia. In this case, it is better to replace this exercise with a similar one, but with a lower axial load. The desired result will be a little more difficult to achieve, but you will not aggravate the already existing injuries and preserve athletic longevity.

Exercise variations

Depending on which segment of the latitude you want to emphasize, the barbell tilt pull can be performed in different ways. Among the most effective and widespread are the following:

  • Straight grip barbell row;
  • Reverse grip barbell row;
  • Reverse grip pull-down;
  • Explosive tilt deadlift;
  • Weight pulling in the Smith Apparatus;
  • Belly bench deadlift
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The reverse pull-down with backward grip loads the lower segment of the broadest muscles of the back muscles, which makes the muscles of the back more prominent and proportional. It is this variation of the bent-over pull that creates the very V-shaped silhouette that the vast majority of gym-goers are after.

Biceps curls

The barbell arm curl is a unique exercise. When performed correctly, it is a single-joint isolation exercise. At the same time, when working with large weights and using the “Arnold Cheating” technique, it becomes a multi-joint exercise with evenly distributed load, which means it can even be used as a basic exercise.

Advantages of biceps curls

Its main advantages are:

  • extremely simple technique;
  • great variability: can be performed standing, sitting, using Scott Bench;
  • ability to work out not only the biceps, but also the underlying brachialis;
  • versatility: the lifts are used both during circuits and splits;
  • low injury risk.

And, most importantly, it is suitable even for those who have only recently crossed the door sill of the gym. In combination with basic pull-ups it can give a significant increase in volume and strength performance.

How to perform classic arm curls with a barbell properly:

  1. Grip the bar with palms facing up, half a palm away from the grooved edge of the bar (about shoulder width).
  2. Raise at a fast pace until the elbow joint is fully bent.
  3. Slowly and controlledly lower the apparatus without bringing it to the bottom point.

Shoulder press

Broad shoulders adorn both male and female figures. For guys, first of all, they are an indicator of strength and masculinity, and girls like the fact that thanks to the broad shoulders the waist seems narrower.

The biggest part of the load during the vertical bench press gets the front delta bundles, the side ones are included in the work much less. You can additionally transfer part of the load from the front deltoid bundles to the side ones by varying the grip width.

Bench press from the chest

The basic principle of this exercise is to put the hands on the bar a little wider than shoulder width. However, depending on the individual peculiarities of anatomy, as well as the goals and objectives of the lift, it can be changed slightly.

A narrow grip works on front deltoid bunches to the maximum. Wide grip, respectively, allows transferring significant part of the load to the lateral arms – it is perfect if your goal is broad shoulders.

Technique of the Bench Press exercise

Let’s look at the technique of performing the bench press from the chest. Variants of performing the exercise that involve lifting the bar from behind the head or in a bend, in fact, differ only in the position of the hands and body.

  • Pick up the barbell from the racks and assume the starting position: sit on a bench with legs spread wide apart and feet firmly planted on the floor, the barbell’s head against the upper chest, back and forearms vertical, chest and shoulders straight, eyes directed in front of you.
  • As you exhale, quickly but smoothly straighten your arms, lifting the bar up.
  • As you inhale, slowly lower the barbell down, maintaining control of the equipment and maintaining the correct trajectory of movement.

It is important to bear in mind some extra things

Don’t forget that your joints should be well warmed up before starting the exercise. This will keep the risk of injury to a minimum.

As for the negative phase of performing the movement: spend two to three times as much time lowering the weight as lifting it – in this case your muscles will grow at the fastest rate possible.

During this exercise the barbell moves in wide amplitude, so if you want to increase the volume and mass of your muscles, you must do from 6 to 12 (maximum – 15) repetitions in one attempt.

The exception is the overhead press: in this case, in order not to injure shoulder joints, it is better to use a smaller weight, doing 15 to 20 repetitions.

Lunges

Dumbbell lunges are a powerful tool for building beautiful and firm glutes, and in this exercise the load can be shifted to the quadriceps and biceps of the thigh.

What is the essense of it?

Lunges with dumbbells in hand are alternating steps with squatting on the front leg in full amplitude. The wider we do the step, the more the glutes and biceps of the thigh are loaded, the narrower it is, the more the quadriceps are worked. So you can vary the load between these muscle groups depending on which muscles you want to work in today’s workout.

How to perform lunges properly

Depending on which type of exercise you are doing in your workout, the technique of the exercise may vary to one side or the other. Do not rush; if the technique of any kind of lunges is not very good for you, start performing this exercise without weights and only then proceed to lunges with light dumbbells, gradually and systematically increasing the working weights.

Therefore, all beginner athletes should first remember the basic aspects, without which no single leg exercise can do, namely:

  • Keeping the back straight throughout the exercise;
  • In the starting position the feet are at shoulder width;
  • Make an exhalation on the effort;
  • Leaning on the heel, stand on the whole foot with each step;
  • Try to keep a monotonous pace of steps during the whole approach, don’t make abrupt movements;
  • Focus on muscle work; if you feel any joint or ligament discomfort while doing the exercise, it means you are doing something wrong and you should ask an experienced instructor to help you improve your technique.
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Calf raise

The standing toe-up is the most effective exercise for developing the calf muscles. Its main advantage is that we can stretch the calves as much as possible at the lower point of the amplitude and statically contract at the upper point.

Standing toe raise with a barbell

If your gym doesn’t have a calf machine, you can perform standing toe raises with a barbell or in the Smith. To fully imitate the work in the machine, it is recommended to put a small platform under your socks to increase the amplitude of the movement and stretch the calves in the lower part. If you do not do this, you will immediately deprive yourself of half the benefit of this exercise, because the load on the calves will be incomplete.

It is recommended not to go overboard with the working weight, here it is important for us to feel the work of the muscles, and not just to lift the kilograms.

Standing toe raise with dumbbells

The story is roughly the same with the standing toe lift with dumbbells. The only difference is that we hold the weight in our hands, not on our back.

Without this it is not possible to accent the load on the calves during the negative phase of amplitude, and in this exercise it is responsible for at least 50% of the result. Kettlebells can be used instead of dumbbells, there is not much difference. You can do this exercise standing on one leg and holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand, so you will additionally load small muscles responsible for balance and coordination.

Flies (chest and shoulder variants)

Dumbbell extension on a horizontal bench is an isolation exercise for the chest and front deltoid muscles.

Preparation phase

  • Choose a bench high enough to keep your thigh parallel to the floor with your knees bent;
  • Take dumbbells in your hands, sit on the bench, place the equipment on your hips;
  • Helping yourself with your legs, bring the dumbbells up to chest level;
  • Stabilize shoulders, bringing shoulder blades to the spine

Performance phase

  • By stretching the chest muscles, slowly lower the arms to parallel the forearms with the floor;
  • Elbows slightly bent, not “inserted” into a straight position;
  • Achieve maximum extension of the pecs by slightly pushing the pecs upward;
  • Bring arms back to starting position;
  • Additionally contract the target muscles at the top point

Important remarks

The movement should not turn into a squeeze, due to full bending of the arms at the elbow joints. You should gently lower your arms, and return them to the starting position, concentrating only on the muscles of the chest.

Dumbbells striking one another in the upper point facilitates the work due to inertia, and therefore they should not be allowed.

Lowering the dumbbells too deeply without a warm-up is the cause of shoulder and elbow joint injuries.

Triceps extension (French press)

This is one of the best exercises for pumping up the triceps. It allows you to accentuate the load on the contraction of the long and medial bundle, which is what sets the visual “mass” of the arm. To do this, lower the apparatus as low as possible and pause for a moment at the lower point.

Remember that this variant of the exercise is not safe and requires a good stretching, so you must estimate your strength adequately and not to overdo with working weights. Big weights (from around 50 kg) are also guaranteed to ‘kill’ your elbows. That is why this exercise must be done as the second or the third in your program and as technically as possible.

Most often the French press is done lying with a barbell on a horizontal bench.

Performing the exercise lying down, it is best to lower the bar behind the head, closer to the back of the head. In the initial position the arms should not be perpendicular to the body, but at a slight angle tilted toward the head.

Back extension (Hyperextension)

Hyperextension is one of the basic exercises for strengthening the back muscles. There are quite a few variations and techniques of this exercise. In addition, it is also actively used in crossfit training.

Initial position

Sit comfortably on the simulator, the upper part of the roller should be at the level of your hips. Straighten your lower back, with the level of your torso just above the level of your feet. Statically tense the spine extensors and gluteal muscles. Your back must be completely straight, eyes straight ahead, arms crossed on your chest. Rest your heels firmly on the platform at the bottom of the simulator.

Bend

Slowly lower yourself down until you feel a stretch in your lower back muscles and biceps of the thigh, while breathing in. The movement should be smooth and controlled, you should not “fall” down sharply. It is important to keep the back straight, maintaining natural lordosis in the lumbar spine. Do not lower yourself too low, our priority in this exercise is to ‘tighten’ the lower back, not to stretch it. Do stretching separately after your workout, which will not only increase your mobility, but also help your muscles recover in a shorter time.

Lifting

Without a delay at the low point, straighten to your starting position while exhaling. Pause for a moment at the upper point and repeat the movement. Do at least 10-15 repetitions in one approach, so you ensure good blood flow to the working muscle groups.

Summary

These 11 basic weight lifting exercises will make a great training program for beginners. Pay attention to the proper technique, start with light weights and establish regular routine.

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