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A Gym Rat’s Ultimate Guide to Lifting

Sag Harbor Gym

Sag Harbor Gym

Sag Harbor Gym

A Gym Rat’s Ultimate Guide to Lifting

December 14, 2018

In an attempt to curve the ego lifting that will be present due to social media, and to eliminate any “bro-science” that someone will encounter if they are new to the gym and would like to change themselves for the better, this guide will tell you how to correctly and efficiently lift weights. This will engage the most muscles and allow you to make both aesthetic and strength “gainz.”

This guide will go over the 4 main lifts that should be included in EVERY program. Regardless of what you’re training for, or why, these need to be performed if you want to make long-term growth and development.

  • The Deadlift
  • The Squat
  • The Bench Press
  • The Press

On top of all these lifts is the Deadlift. This is due to how the works nearly the entire body in its performance. The muscles used include:

  • Gluteus Maximus (butt)
  • Quadriceps (upper front legs)
  • Adductor Magnus (inner thigh)
  • Soleus (the smaller part of your calf muscle)
  • Hamstrings (upper back of legs)
  • Gastrocnemius (the bigger part of your calf muscle)
  • Erector Spinae (lower back)
  • Trapezius, upper (upper neck muscles)
  • Trapezius, middle (middle neck muscles)
  • Levator Scapulae ( muscle from your jaw to your shoulder)
  • Rhomboids (upper inner back muscles right below your neck)
  • Rectus Abdominis (abs)
  • Obliques (side abs)

In order to fully engage all of these powerful muscles, the correct form must be used. This is done by:

  1. Standing with your midfoot under the barbell
  2. Bending over and grabbing the bar with a shoulder-width grip
  3. Bending your knees until your shins touch the bar
  4. Lifting your chest up and straightening your lower back
  5. Taking a big breath, hold it, and stand up with the weight

NOTE: Your lower back must stay neutral to avoid injury. Rounding it during heavy deadlifts is dangerous for your spine. It puts uneven pressure on your spinal discs which can injure them. Always Deadlift with a neutral lower back – maintain the natural inward curve of your lower spine.

Moving on to a bro’s worst exercise: the squat. The squat is a must have if one is seeking to build stronger and/or bigger legs. This is because the squat uses the most lower body muscles out of any other exercise. These include:

  • Gluteus Maximus (butt)
  • Quadriceps (upper front leg)
  • Erector Spinae (lower back)
  • Abdominis (abs)
  • Gluteus Minimus
  • Abductors (hips)
  • Soleus (calves)
  • Hamstrings (upper back of legs)
  • Gastrocnemius (calves)

The movement begins in a standing position. Weight is often added, typically in the form of a loaded barbell but dumbbells and kettlebells may also be used. When a barbell is used, it may be braced across the upper trapezius muscle (a high bar squat) or held lower across the upper back and rear deltoids (a low bar squat). The movement is initiated by moving the hips back and bending the knees and hips to lower the torso and accompanying weight, then returning to the upright position.

NOTE: In order to Squat correctly, you must be hitting a low enough depth. That depth is when the top of your quads are parallel to the floor. A squat lower than that is called a deep squat, or more commonly known as an ATG squat (ass to grass).  Each depth has its own advantages and drawbacks, but as long as you are at least hitting parallel, you will correctly squat and develop your legs.

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, are blind, crippled or starving, you’ve still heard of the bench press. Why you do it is an entirely different topic. If you want to build a nice, strong chest and triceps, along with a few shoulders here and there, look no further than the bench. Muscles used while benching include:

  • Pectoral major (chest)
  • Tricep Brachii (under the muscle of the arm)
  • Anterior Delt (front shoulder)

Smaller muscles are used to help stabilize the weight, however, the amount of use, work, and development done by these muscles is negligible and can be overlooked.

The Bench is very easy to learn, but very hard to master. Over time, your technique will improve and the nuisances will be realized and fixed. This guide is simply to lay out the basics correctly

Lie on the bench with your eyes under the bar. Grab the bar with a medium grip-width (thumbs around the bar.) Unrack the bar by straightening your arms. Lower the bar to your mid-chest. Press the bar back up until your arms are straight.

Finally, we have come to the neglected child of gym lifts. Go back 50 years ago, the question wasn’t “how much ya bench?,” instead it was “How much ya press?” Why did that change? Listen, hoss, I’m not Rafiki the Gym Shaman, that is another story entirely on its own. I’m just here to tell you how to Overhead Press, aka how to Press.

The Press is a great way to build upper body strength. If you ask me personally, I’d say it’s more important and impressive if you have a strong Press, but that’s just me. The muscles used in the Press include:

  • Upper Pectoral (Upper Chest)
  • Tricep Brachii (Under Muscle of the Arm)
  • Anterior Delt (Front Shoulder)
  • Medial Delt (Side Shoulder)
  • Posterior Delt (Back Shoulder)

In order to perform this lift, you must stand with the bar on your front shoulders with your hands next to your shoulders. Press the bar over your head, until it’s balanced over your shoulders and mid-foot. Lock your elbows at the top, and shrug your shoulders to the ceiling.

And there it is. A complete guide on how to correctly perform all of the four basic compound movements. These movements will build up your strength and sculpt the physique of your dreams.

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