Weight training has become mainstream and is no longer the domain of body builders! Lose body fat, burn calories, gain strength – what’s there not to like?
Of all the workout highs I’ve experienced, nothing matches the feel of raw iron in my bare hands. There’s so many ways of getting fit, but weight training is a scientifically proven way to get strong and stay strong. Weight training (sometimes called resistance training), doesn’t discriminate. Anyone from teenagers to retirees, at any point of their fitness journey, can reap extraordinary benefits from weight training.
It can be intimidating in the beginning but it’s an upgrade like no other. There’s a lot of information and advice on how to start weight lifting, but I want to strip it down to the basics by telling you about 4 compound lifts so you get maximum gains in minimum time. Compound lifts are an excellent starting point because they involve more than one joint and target multiple muscles at once for maximum effect.
The most important thing is mastering the basic techniques before loading up on the weights. The right technique prevents injuries and helps with lifting heavier loads. In terms of the exact load to lift, it’s relative to each individual. It’s highly recommended to start with a lighter weight and slowly work up to a heavier weight. Don't let ego rule in the weight room!
For hypertrophy (muscle building), there are prescribed sets of 8 to 12 reps; and for strength training, anything from 1 to 5 reps per set is advisable. Work to the point of muscle fatigue without sacrificing the technique.
4 Compound Exercises To Begin With
Lower body exercise targeting the quadriceps (front and side of thigh) and gluteus (butt)
Basic barbell squat:
- Place the bar on your trapezius – muscles between shoulders and neck – and stand with feet hip width apart with toes pointed slightly outwards
- Push your hips back, pull shoulder blades together, brace your core and bend knees until quadriceps are parallel to the floor
- Keep torso upright, exhale as you push back through your heels and squeeze glutes at the top of the motion. Make sure feet are firmly planted on the floor the entire time.
Pro tip: Don't rest the bar on your neck. To prevent excessive lower back extension, keep neck in neutral extension, push elbows forwards to help keep your torso upright.
Posterior chain (biceps, glutes, hamstring) exercise to help with hip hinge movement
- Place feet hip width apart under the bar
- Hinge at the hip by pushing gluteus all the way back so you can pick up the bar using an underhand grip - palms facing down outside your knees
- Inhale, brace the core and pull yourself up to a standing position
- Pinch (retract towards spine) shoulder blades back, open up the chest and slowly slide the bar down your legs till you feel the hamstrings lengthen
- Stand back up, push your hips into the bar and squeeze glutes.
Pro tip: Keep your chest open, shoulder blades pinched, back and neck in neutral position and exhale on the way up. Always keep knees soft, keep bar close to the legs at all times. Minimum to zero feels on the lower back for safety reasons.
Shoulder Push Press
Upper body exercise targeting deltoids, triceps, core and legs
- Stand with feet hip width apart, brace core and grip bar with hands shoulder width apart
- Lift the bar up to the front of the shoulders with wrists aligned with elbows pointed forward
- Push the bar directly overhead ending the motion with the biceps next to ears
- Slowly lower the bar back down to the start position and keep core braced at all time.
Pro tip: Go light and avoid excessive bending of the lower back to compensate for heavy weights.
Bent Over Row
Pull movement exercise targeting back (trapezius, latissimus, rhomboids, erector spina) and bicep strength
- Stand with feet hip width apart, grip bar shoulder width apart and hinge hips backwards so your torso is leaning forward
- Pull bar from the knees into your belly button and keep elbows close to the rib cage at all times
- Pinch shoulder blades together at the top of the motion and slowly lower the bar back to start position.
Pro tip: Keep your neck neutral. A more upright stance works the upper back. The further you hinge, the more you work the latissimus (muscles in lower back).
These exercises provide the foundation for more advanced movements. Always keep in mind that every body is different. Squat depths and deadlift stances are rarely identical, and the key is to understand what works for you and practise the correct technique. Don’t be afraid to de-load the bar to a lighter weight - you have to start somewhere!
A big thank you to FIRE Station for letting us shoot at their space!