Fitness & Health

PERFECTING THE COMPOUND MOVEMENTS

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The fitness journey isn’t half as difficult as people make it out to be, but getting started is what really takes it out of you. The mental determination and commitment that is demanded from the beginning of a fitness journey is one of the most difficult hurdles you will face, followed by commitment.

Most gym instructors will tell you to stick to a few compound movements in the beginning and that is usually a good place to start. Compound movements help build strength and are good stepping stones towards more targeted and complex workouts. But to get things started, these workouts are your best bet.

The foundation of body building revolve around a few basic workouts, and here are a few that you should get right.

PULLS UPS.

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In just one pull-up, your body calls upon the muscles from your fingers, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back and core. Not only will your strength increase dramatically from pull-ups, but your upper body will become bigger and more defined. Moreover, the strength you derive from doing pull-ups will help you improve your performance in other exercises like the bench press or overhead press.

WHAT NOT TO DO.

The assisted pull-up machine is something you should avoid. People, in order to crank out more pull-ups go to the aid of this machine but it’s a useless crutch. If your goal is to do several unassisted pull-ups, you’re wasting your time with these machines. A mental factor exists when doing pull-ups. Because you know the machine is helping you up, you probably won’t exert as much effort as you would if doing pull-ups unassisted.

Also, you don’t use all the muscles needed for real pull-ups when using the machine. When doing real pull-ups, your body has to call upon larger and smaller muscle groups all throughout your body for you to pull yourself up. A machine won’t recruit as many of these muscles. Thus, when you make the switch to doing unassisted pull-ups, you won’t have the strength needed to complete them.

DOING MORE THAN ONE PULL-UP.

If you currently can only do one pull-up, start out by doing 12 sets of 1 pull-up with a 45-second break between sets. Do the routine two times a week. Once you can do two pull-ups, begin this routine:

WEEK 1: 6 sets of 2 reps. 45-second break in between sets. Twice a week.

WEEK 2: 5 sets of 3 reps. Twice a week.

WEEK 3: 4 Sets of 4 reps. Twice a week.

WEEK 4: 3 Sets of 6 reps. Twice a week. If you’re able to do more, go ahead. Like I said, by this time I was able to increase my reps to 10.

When you get to the point that you’re able to do more than 12, it’s time to start adding weight to your pull-up routine, like the bad ass guy in the photo.

DEAD LIFT

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This is one of the best strength building exercises you can do and it works the entire body. When you deadlift, you use every single muscle in your body. Your arms, forearms, and hands hold onto the barbell and make sure the bar stays in the right position and stays stable throughout the lift. Your shoulders and traps hold the weight and hold it stable. Your back and core help keep your entire body tight and stable to help keep your spine secure. Your posterior chain and legs to act as a lever and lift the weight.

And the deadlift is perhaps the purest measure of strength: either you can pick the weight off of the ground, or you can’t.

THE STANCE

  • Load the bar and secure the plates with collars.
  • Stand with your feet about hip width (8-12 inches) apart, and your feet slightly angled outwards (5-10 degrees)..
  • Next, without moving the bar, or your hips, lean over and grab the bar. Your legs should still be straight at this point. Your grip width will be slightly outside of your legs, but not so they touch.
  • Now that you’re holding onto the bar (and not moving it), move your hips down. While you do this, your shins will come forward until they touch the bar (stop moving your hips down when your shins touch the bar). Squeeze your chest up. As you do this, your back should flatten, and your back should go into a neutral spine position.
  • Take a deep breath in, and while keeping your entire back and core tight and your chest up, drive through your heels and pull!

THE PULL

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  • All of your weight should be on your heels and mid foot.
  • During the movement, your entire body should move upwards at the same speed. This means that your butt should not rise faster than your chest, or vice versa.
  • Think about leading with your chest as you drive through your heels, and make sure you keep it up and tight.
  • Your arms should stay straight the entire time. They are literally just there to hold onto the bar – they are not bending or pulling at all.
  • The bar should stay in contact with your body the entire time – you will literally be dragging it up your thighs.
  • As you are pulling, you should be squeezing your glutes. Once the bar passes your knees, think of getting your hips under the bar by squeezing your glutes. So while you’re pulling with your arms, you’re pushing through the floor with your feet, pushing your butt under the bar.
  • At the top, do not hyper extend and lean back. You want to keep your spine neutral and everything tight.

THE DROP

  • Your body should descend all at the same time, just as it ascended, only backwards.
  • Don’t lose tightness until you let go of the bar. This is extremely important – a large amount of deadlift injuries come from people getting super excited about making a lift, losing tightness, and then putting the bar down wrong.

THE GRIP

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This is an important part of the Deadlift. If you can’t grip the bar properly, you can’t lift it properly. There are two main grips to use. The double overhand grip and the mixed grip. The double overhand grip is the safest grip, and the best grip for beginners.

(WRONG)

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(RIGHT)

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The mixed grip offers quite a few disadvantages – it places uneven stress on your shoulders, can aggravate problems in the biceps on the side in which your palm is facing outwards, and it’s easier for your lift to be uneven as you’re literally gripping it uneven. However, you can physically lift more using this grip.

SQUATS

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Another staple workout that engages the entire body is the squat and it helps build a lot of strength. It also doubles as a good workout to help you lose weight. Even though the squat is considered by many to be a “leg” exercise, it’s really a full body movement that works just every muscle group in the body.

A simple bodyweight squat uses almost every muscle group in the body – and if you add a dumbbell or barbell into the equation, I would even argue that they use every single major muscle group to complete.

Get into the squat rack, set the bar at just below your shoulder level, and set the safety bars low enough that you’ll be able to squat low with the bar on your shoulders. Duck under the bar, grab the bar with your hands in a wide grip (palms facing forward), and rest the weight across the upper part of your back (not your neck!).

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(WRONG)

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Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet. Descend until thighs are just past parallel to floor. Squat up by extending knees and hips until legs are straight. Return and repeat.

(RIGHT)

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(WRONG)

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THE OVERHEAD PRESS

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Looking to build strong shoulders, chest, and arms, while working the rest of your body as well? Look no further! The press helps improve deficiencies in your overall upper body strength, translating to improved numbers on the bench press, chin-ups, rows, and more. If you are plateauing on any of these, try focusing on the press for a few weeks and see how much it helps!

Since you are standing (and not sitting or leaning against any object like in a bench press), the press helps to develop your core and stabilizer muscles in your trunk, as well as point out imbalances in your back. When your upper back is being supported by a bench, there is a lot of room for imbalances to be masked. In the press, there is nowhere for those imbalances to hide.

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Start with a squat rack and a bar. The rack should be set at the same height as if you were going to squat – so that the bar is at the same height as your collarbone. Your elbows and forearms should be in a vertical position, straight up and down. If your elbows are pointing outwards or inward (instead of straight down), your grip is either too narrow or too wide.

Press bar upward until arms are extended overhead. Lower to front of neck and repeat.

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