5 KEY MOVEMENTS TO MAKE YOU STRONGER
MASTER THESE FIVE MOVEMENTS TO BUILD STRENGTH AND TONE YOUR BODY THE RIGHT WAY
Strength training is often seen as this confusing and hardcore activity that require a lot of complex movements. Quite the contrary, resistance training is for everyone (and I mean every single one of us) and it can be simple, fun, and stress-free. The more functional the movements you choose to perform the more muscles you will tone, and the more applicable they are in our daily athletic life. I am referring to the squats, hip hinges, lunges, pulls, and pushes. These movement patterns make most of the movements we execute in our daily life and together are the main exercises to build a strong body. A balanced workout routine will always have a couple if not all of these movements as part of it.
Your main priority during a workout should be to have proper form when executing these movements so you can be efficient, injury-free, and successful. To get you started, I have listed below the top 5 strength training exercises and their instructions. Read this article, try these exercises out, and leave a comment if you enjoyed this read or have a follow-up question.
Let's do this!
1. Squat (goblet squat and/or front squat)
This is the number one most primal human movement! We squat when we work out, but also when we sit down, lift off of the bed, grab something on the floor, etc. The squat is a full body movement, but it primarily targets your glutes, quads, and core muscles.
- Separate your feet hip-width apart
- Hold a kettlebell by the horns (horns facing down) in front of your chest
- Keep your weight well distributed between both feet at the center of your body
- Ground your feet down as you bend your knees to squat down
- Squat your hips down while pushing your knees outward so they travel in line with your toes
- Lower until your hips are below the plane of your hips or until your body stops you
- Press strongly through your feet (and especially your heels) while engaging your core to stand back up to starting position
Front Squat - for your safety this exercise is best performed in a squat rack
- Set the bar on a rack that best matches your height
- Load the bar with proper weight (or start with a warm-up set just squatting with the bar to get a hang of it)
- Choose the best hand placement that fits your body's range of motion (arms crossed, fingers on the bar, hands-on assistance bands)
- Set the bar on top of your shoulders while keeping your elbows and arms high
- Lift the bar off the rack by pushing up with your legs
- Step away from the bar and place your feet hip-width apart or a little wider
- Squat down following the same form of the goblet squat, by keeping your torso up and your core engaged
Pro tip - couple any squat with the right breath. Inhale when you descend, exhale on the way up!
2. Barbell Dead-lift
This movement is a full body workout on its own, but it is also a functional movement that targets the back of your legs, glutes, and core.
- Walk your feet to the middle of the loaded barbell letting your shins touch the barbell
- Place your feet hip-width apart (your big toes should be in line with the boniest part of your hip bones) keeping your toes facing straight forward
- Hinge at the hips by sending your gluteus straight back (not down) while still keeping your knees slightly bent ( at this point you should feel your hamstrings stretched). If your hamstrings are stopping you half way and preventing you from reaching the barbell, then from this hinged position start to bend your knees until you reach the barbell
- Grip the bar while keeping your shoulders down and back - your arms will be straight and active)
- Adjust the barbell to touch your shins
- Look straight forward, keep your chest lifted, gluteus high, shoulders hugged behind you, and your back extended
- Take a big breath in, press your feet down as you lift the bar up past your knees
- Start to unhinge your hips and press the barbell back to slide through your thighs all the way up to below your hips
- Exhale the air out as you lower the barbell by hinging your hips, engaging your core, and sending your gluteus back
3. Dumbbell Overhead Press
This movement used to be one of my least favorite exercises, but now it is one of my favorites. It is also my clients' least favorite when they begin to work with me because most people do not have developed shoulder strength. Once they start to work on it, the overhead press gives them so much upper body control and awareness that they feel in a completely different body. Start to train your body now on this movement to keep your shoulders strong and healthy for the long run!
- Begin by standing tall through your feet while keeping your knees slightly bent
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulders' height with palms turned in a 45-degree angle inwards (not to get too complicated this is the most optimal scapular plane of motion. Other options are to have your palms facing one another in a closed stance, or completely open to the front at a more vulnerable wide stance)
- Stack your wrists on top of your elbows
- Rotate your knuckles to the sky to neutralize your wrists
- Brace through the core by keeping your hips in line with your ribs
- Press both dumbbells up on your exhale until they are overhead
- Inhale as you slowly bring the dumbbells back to the starting point
4. Row (cable, dumbbell, barbell, etc)
Back rows are some of the best exercises for your back and spinal health. As most of us spend our in front of a computer or desk we hunch forward. Having pull movements such as the row is not only therapeutic for our backs, but it is also corrective and strengthening to improve our posture and general body mechanics. The most common mistake I see with people performing rows is to bring the dumbbells or cable to their chest. Instead, think about rowing low towards your hip bones so that your arms travel straight back and use the entire back muscle group.
- Come into an athletic stance keeping your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent
- Open your chest by spreading your collarbone wide and up
- Lower your lower ribs in towards your core so your abs are engaged
- Row your arms back by bending through the elbows and keeping your arms parallel to one another
- Draw your arms back to the straight starting position and start again
5. Posterior Lunge
There are many different variations of this lunges. The most traditional one, the front lunge, puts your front knee at a strong compressible force that makes it a less safe and sustainable movement. The back lunge on the other hand, due to the change in torso angle, creates more activation of the posterior muscles (aka gluteus and hamstrings) and less pressure on the knee, score! Next in line of great movements is the split squat, which is a stationary lunge that allows your body to distribute forces through all the leg muscles. This movement also challenges the body to create stability through the hips and knees because both of your feet are fixed on the ground.
- Begin in a standing position
- Keep your chest up with your feet hip-width apart
- Look forward and place your hands on your hips or in front of you
- Step back allowing your hips and knees to flex and lower your body
- Contact the ball of your back foot on the floor and descend until your back knee hovers the ground
- Maintain your spine neutral and long
- Press your front foot (especially the heel) and with control lift yourself back to the starting point
- Begin in a staggered stance - with your feet hip-width apart and the heel of your back foot lifted
- Keep your chest up with shoulders stacked on top of your hips
- Look forward and place a dowel on your back (you can also do this without the dowel, by keeping your hands clasped together in front of you)
- Descend your body forward by flexing your front knee until your hamstrings touch your calves while maintaining your spine neutral and long
- Drive through the heel of your front foot to extend your knee and hip back to the starting point
Want to take it to the next level? Let's meet up and create a sustainable workout routine that works for you!