There’s no better way to reclaim your health and fitness than to hit the basics with the all-time greatest approach: Barbells, dumbbells and good old-fashioned iron.
There are rows of cardio and weight machines in most commercial gyms. From the treadmill to elliptical to hip adductor machine, these gyms try to appeal to the average Joe exerciser. And, these fancy machines have detailed descriptions on how they can make your glutes stronger or your calves bigger.
Machines have a small place in an exercise regimen. But, they shouldn’t be the foundation of a program. Iron should be. Good old-fashioned iron. To gain strength, avoid that chest press machine, grab a couple dumbbells and perform a bench press. Step away from the leg extension machine and get under that bar and squat.
Training with dumbbells and barbells is more functional, requires less space and is the number one way to pack on muscle and break down strength barriers.
The following strategies will help break down the best moves for gaining strength and muscle mass and take your training to another level. Time to hunker down, get serious and lift some iron!
Get Serious And Create A Plan
Every successful strength-training program starts with strategic planning. Going to the gym and just randomly performing exercises with no rhyme or reason will not get you closer to your goals.
Should you skip squats and do leg extensions? How about substituting leg curls for lunges? Absolutely not!
The best moves to incorporate into a strength-training plan are compound exercises. Compound exercises such as squats and lunges that work multiple muscle groups, recruiting more muscles in the body and increasing workout efficiency. They give you more bang for your buck. Every person on the planet can benefit from performing compound exercises and there’s no better way to perform them than using dumbbells and barbells.
What Does Strength Training Consist Of?
Strength training involves progressively increasing the resistance in a safe and effective way. Lying under a loaded bar with 315 pounds on your first bench press ever wouldn’t be effective or safe. Changing your exercise regimen every week is not effective either. Why? It slows growth and doesn’t allow a gradual increase in weight and intensity.
To build muscle, there must be an overload. This is code for lifting heavy weights!
. By sticking with the same weights for four straight weeks and not pushing the limits, you’ll see no gains. Your body just grows accustomed to it. When your body grows accustomed to something, there’s no change resulting in no muscle growth.
Each Week, The Goal Should Be To Lift A Heavier Weight
You need to gradually increase the weights you lift. This stimulates muscle growth! To break down strength barriers and find a new ceiling, heavy weights must be lifted. Which ones? To build a house, there must be a foundation and it must be strong enough or the house will fall. Building a body must have a foundation too.
Your foundation includes five primary movement patterns: Squat, lunge, push, pull and hip hinge.
Each day we perform these movements so why not increase our everyday strength and performance? These five movements date back to the primal days of humans so channel your ancestors in the weight room.
The squat uses nearly every muscle in the body and is the best movement for building muscle mass.
Want overload? Squat. The entire lower half including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves, as well as the abdominal and erector spinal muscles are stressed which triggers a release of testosterone. Testosterone builds muscle! Squats also aid in mobility and help prevent injuries.
Performing a proper squat improves hip flexibility and helps not only muscles, but also tendons and ligaments. These are what keep your body together so making them stronger makes the whole unit stronger!
Single Versus Double Limb Weight Training
Training with two limbs will comprise most of a weight-training program. Unilateral training, or single-limb training, is a small piece of an exercise regimen. Don’t look at single-limb training as just some easy exercises with little to no benefits. If your single-limb training lags behind, so will working out with both limbs.
There’s no better way to train unilaterally than with lunges. Lunges target your quads, glutes and hamstrings, as well as the entire core region. Want better balance, more mobility, stronger legs and a bigger squat? Lunges make that happen.
Stop Back Pain Before It Starts
Back pain tortures much of the population in some shape or form. According to the American Chiropractic Association, around 80% of the population will experience a back-related issue at some point in their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way!
The key to avoid back pain is developing a solid posterior chain. Much of the focus is placed on the front of the body. When the front of the body soars past the back portion, muscle imbalances start to happen and the whole body gets out of whack. This can lead to back pain.
Prevent this by a hip-hinge exercise with the hip acting as a hinge for the lower and upper body. When a hip-hinge exercise such as a deadlift is performed effectively, every single muscle on your back end is firing!
What About Pushing And Pulling?
Pushing and pulling movements help maintain a sturdy and balanced upper body. Want to push more weight? Learn to pull more weight.
Pushing movements such as bench press and overhead press should be matched with bent over rows or some other pulling movements to ensure both sections of the upper body are working like a well-oiled machine.
Why Are Dumbbells and Barbells So Important For Gaining Strength?
Dumbbells and barbells have many benefits. Are they the only way train? No. Are they the best way? Heck yes. They require little space, are easily accessible at most gyms and are inexpensive to include in a home gym compared to weight machines.
Which is better? Dumbbells provide more range of motion while more weight can be lifted with barbells. Overall though, they’re mostly interchangeable making it a convenient way to train as well.
What’s The Most Important Thing For A Novice?
Starting out, the number one priority of weight training should be using proper form. Deadlifting and squatting with a rounded back, bench pressing and slamming it off your chest and hyper extending your back on an overhead press are some common faults. Start with a lighter weight and perfect the form by executing smooth, controlled repetitions.
Beginners should aim for three sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. This rep range helps build muscle strength and endurance, giving the best of both worlds. The last few reps of each set should be a challenge, meaning don’t lift a weight that’s so light that you could perform 25 more reps in a set. In between sets, rest for one to two minutes to allow ample recovery. Check out the following workout that includes five compound exercises.
The Goblet Squat Is A Great Compound Exercise You Should Use
Start with a goblet squat using a dumbbell to perfect the movement. Hold a dumbbell against your chest with feet hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly out.
Proceed to lower the body, pushing the hips back and bending the knees until the hamstrings are parallel with the floor. The hip and knee joint should work in conjunction.
Don’t let the knees come forward and push past the toes as this can place unsafe stress on the knee joints. From the bottom, push off with the heels powering up until the legs are fully extended. Throughout the movement, the back should maintain a nice straight line. Many tend to round the back. Don’t make that mistake. This can lead to issues in the lumbar region of the spine.
Want to use a barbell? Perform the back squat. In a squat rack, step under your bar and rest it on your traps before applying the same rules as the goblet squat.
Bench Press Your Way To Strength
Bench presses are one of the ultimate moves for upper body strength. They can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell. For more range of motion, grab two dumbbells and lay on a bench. Starting with arms extended and palms facing forward, lower the weights to mid-chest while tucking the elbows to 75 degrees. Try to avoid flaring the elbows out to 90 degrees to keep away from potential shoulder pain.
From the bottom, press the dumbbells up until the arms are fully extended. Using dumbbells allows for more range of motion. With barbells you can lift more weight. To perform a barbell bench press, lie under the bench and wrap your pinkies around the ring marks on the bar. Remove the bar from the rack and lower it making sure your elbows are tucked to 75 degrees. Finish by extending your arms at the top.
Build Your Core With Lunges
Lunges are the premiere bilateral move to smoke the lower half of your body and core. Start with a pair of dumbbells in your hands and in a standing upright position.
Keeping the core region locked and loaded, step forward with one leg about two to three feet, lowering your body until both knees are about 90 degrees. Push off with the front foot back to the starting position before switching to the opposite leg. Don’t have a dumbbell? Grab a barbell and place it on your back with the same rules.
Bent Over Rows Target Your Back
Walking into a gym, there are a lot of people with rounded shoulders. A couple of reasons for that is too much focus is placed on pushing exercises as well as a slouching posture that’s often seen among people with desk jobs. Fix that by doing bent over rows. Bent over rows target the entire upper back, as well as the forearms and biceps.
Pick up a pair of dumbbells or barbell and stand with the legs slightly bent and hinge at the hips. Lean forward at a 45-degree angle, keeping the back long and flat, avoiding rounded shoulders. Pull the weights up as far as possible. Then, squeeze the shoulder blades before lowering until the arms are fully extended. With a barbell, the range of motion is smaller as you can only row it to the belly button. Dumbbells provide a greater range of motion as the elbows slide up the ribs.
Deadlifts Are Your Path To Strength Gains…
Lastly, the entire posterior chain will be targeted with deadlifts. The classic deadlift is performed with a barbell.
Start by standing facing the barbell with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend your knees and hinge forward keeping the back straight. Grab the bar with hands a bit more than hip-width apart.
Start the movement by pushing the legs up and hips forward simultaneously until an upright position is reached and your legs are fully extended.
Finish the rep by lowering the bar to the starting position.
Deadlifts require the body to work as a unit and stay in sync. Just like a car, if all the parts don’t work together, it won’t last long. If a barbell isn’t available, grab a pair of dumbbells and execute the same move with dumbbells tracking just outside of the legs.
These exercises will shock the system and help you pack on muscle in no time. Executing these five moves for three sets of 8 to 12 reps is a great start to building a stronger body.
Want to increase intensity? Slow down the exercise and perform super slow reps that increase the time under tension for the muscles. Want to go fast? Perform an explosive rep. Accelerate the exercise through the upward and downward phase. Never sacrifice form when performing these!
Everyone differs as far as fitness levels and body composition. Using all dumbbells or barbells or a mix between the two is acceptable and will help achieve the desired results. Get in the gym, start lifting some heavy weight and progress your weights. Lather, rinse and repeat! It’s that simple.
– Adam Clark, CPT
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[…] of stretching the muscles down. In order to fully target your traps and to get the best size and strength gains, you need to work the muscles in different directions. The pull-up (use a wide grip for this to […]
[…] of stretching the muscles down. In order to fully target your traps and to get the best size and strength gains,you need to work the muscles in different directions. The pull-up (use a wide grip for this to […]