One popular type of strength sport is powerlifting, in which the athlete gets three attempts to perform one repetition of a back squat, bench press and deadlift at a maximal weight. Together, these three compound movements work all of the major muscle groups and, when performed correctly, can increase lean muscle mass and provide a great basis for a strength training program. Even if you don’t have any desire to compete in powerlifting, utilizing these movements can help you build strength throughout the entire body.
1. Back squat
The back squat is a squat variation in which the added weight rests on the the top of the shoulders behind the back. It works many major muscle groups, including the upper back, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves.
A back squat is best performed with the assistance of a squat rack so you can rack and unrack the weight. Begin by setting up the squat rack to your appropriate height- the hooks that the barbell rest on should be shoulder height. Rest the barbell on the hooks on the squat rack, step up to the squat rack, and place the barbell evenly on the back of your shoulder blades. Place your hands onto the sides of the barbell with a grip close to your shoulders. Stand tall so the barbell comes off the hooks, and then step backward two or three steps so you have a little space between yourself and the squat rack.
Place your feet in a comfortable squat stance (about hip width to shoulder width apart), keep your chest tall and inhale as you begin to sink the butt down. Sink down until your hip crease is at least parallel with your knees, and then exhale to come up to standing.
As you stand up, squeeze your glutes, abs, hamstrings and quads. Work the back squat at a sub maximal weight for 3 sets of 7 to 10 repetitions.
2. Bench Press
The bench press is a pressing motion from a lying down position that works the pectoralis major, as well as the supporting muscles in the chest, upper back and shoulders.
Begin by placing a bench underneath the squat rack. Lie down on the bench and raise the arms straight up above the chest in a full locked out position. Take note of the height your hands meet, and then set up the hooks on the rack a little lower than that so that the barbell rests above the chest and you are able to pick up the barbell, lock out your arms, and move the barbell out of the way of the hooks it is resting on. Before you begin, lie on the back and make sure that your feet are firmly planted on the ground. You can place bumper plates on the ground underneath your feet to make it more comfortable. Arch your back so that your lower back is not resting on the bench.
Lie underneath the barbell so that your eyes are in line with the barbell; once you pick it up off the hooks and move it out of the way of the hooks, that will align the barbell with your chest. Pick up the barbell and move it out of the way of the hooks on the squat rack so that your arms are locked out and the barbell is above your chest.
Inhale as you bend at the elbows and bring the barbell down to your chest. Your elbows should be bent at least at a 90 degree angle. On the way up, exhale and engage the muscles in your chest and upper back to push the barbell back up to the lockout position. Work the bench press for 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions at a sub maximal weight, and always make sure you have someone spotting you to keep you safe.
The deadlift is a fantastic compound movement that involves picking up a heavy weight from the ground. It works your abdominals muscles, lat muscles, glutes, abs and quads.
Begin by rolling the barbell on the ground up toward your body. Place your feet directly underneath your hips and sit your hips back into a hinge position. Roll the barbell so that it is sitting up against your shins and grab the barbell right on the outside of . Before you pick up the weight, you should have an arch in your back, your lat muscles should be engaged, and you should be bending at the hips. Take a breath in, and then exhale as you stand tall.
As you stand up with the weight, drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, abs, lats, and quads as you stand tall. In the top position, you should be standing upright with the weight of your body right in the midline in the feet. Your chest should be upright, your shoulders should be down and your knees should be locked out.
To return back to the ground, inhale to come down and sit your hips backward in the hinge position and place the barbell back on the ground. Work the deadlift for 3 sets of 8 to 10 at a sub maximal weight.
Try incorporating these three compound movements into your strength training program to increase your lean muscle mass and work all the major muscle groups in the body!
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
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