The core of any good exercise program should be built around the 6 basic compound lifts. These are the basis of bobybuilding, the cornerstone of hypertrophy, the mecca of mass, the.... well, you get the idea.
Must you do all of these? No. Nothing is a "must". But instead of wasting countless hours doing 45 degree back hyper-extensions, concentration curls, and pec-dec flyes, you should try these first. If you do these as the core of your workout you can, and you will, get bigger and stronger - faster.
Now, without further ado, let's meet these monsters of muscle....
Most people begin with the Back Squat, and therefore that's what we'll focus on here. Start with this one, and then later you can move on to Front Squats, Hack Squats, Box Squats, one-legged hungarian death squats, or whatever floats your boat.
The Back Squat:
- Your lower back should maintain a natural curve inward throughout the movement. Do not "bend over" and arch your back or you risk a back injury.
- Go as deep as your flexibility allows. Ideally, you will squat until your thighs are below parallel to the floor. But if you lack the proper degree of flexibility, going deeper causes your hips to tuck in under you and your back to round. If this is the case, then go as deep as you can while maintaining a proper curve to your spine. Work on hip flexibility to allow you to squat progressively deeper.
- Good form is key. Do not use a weight which you cannot handle with proper form. If your form is compromised, drop the weight until you can maintain good form.
- Your knees should point the same direction as your toes throughout the entire movement.
- Have someone watch you squat and critique your form until you are sure you are doing this exercise correctly. There are many threads on bb.com about squatting - so do your research.
For more information:
Fundaments of The Back Squat: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=132962543
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...77&postcount=5 <-- Read this!
Like Squats, there are many forms of the deadlift. The basic form is presented here, but there are also Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, and Casket Deadlifts for your uncle Joe (just kidding on the last one).
First: Read the Sticky! http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=112127931
The Basic Deadlift:
- Like the squat, make sure you maintain a natural curve in your back. Do not bend over and round your back or your risk an injury.
- The barbell should remain close to your legs through the entire movement. You don't have to drag it along your shins like a cheese-grater (unless you want the street cred), but it should remain in light contact over very near your legs.
- For heavy weights it is very helpful to use an overhand-underhand grip on the barbell. (One hand grips overhand, one hand grips underhand). This will help keep the barbell from rolling out of your hands. If you are a wimp, then feel free to use straps.
For More Information:
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...9&postcount=11 <-- Read this!
3. Bench Press:
The bench press is everyone's favorite exercise. Those who claim it's not are lying. Do this one, if for no other reason than to be able to answer the perennial gym favorite: "How much do you bench?". FYI, I think damn near everyone does this exercise "incorrectly" to some degree. I know I do.
The Bench Press:
More Advanced Tutorial (more Powerlifter focus / style):
- Use a weight you can control. Do not "bounce" the bar off your chest.
- Do not allow your elbows to flare outward so that your upper arms are perpendicular to your body. They should be "tucked in" toward your body at an angle.
- Do some research on this one too, since it's easy to do this exercise incorrectly. Generally, you'll be fine, but some form issues can cause RC (rotator cuff) injuries, especially at higher weights.
- You can also substitute Dumbbell bench presses. These allow you to work your stabilizers, and allow you more freedom to move your arms in a natural path - use these especially if you have shoulder issues with barbell bench pressing.
For More Information:
My Thread on Bench Pressing: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=157280613
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...07&postcount=9 <-- Read this!
To fully work your back, you need a mass-building rowing exercise. Bent-Over Barbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, or Dumbell Rows are staples.
Bent-Over Barbell Row:
- For most rowing exercises, it helps to visualize your hands as hooks and think about pulling your arm backward from your elbow. You want to minimize the involvement of the bicep, and instead concentrate on contracting your back.
- Generally speaking, think of pulling the weight upward to your hip joint or lower abdomen. In the basic form of the exercises you aren't pulling to your chest.
For More Information:
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...9&postcount=15 <-- Read this!
5. Pullups & Chinups:
Pullups (palms facing away) and Chinups (palms facing toward you), are also good mass-building exercises for your back. We all know how to do these from grade school (along with the Flex-arm-hang, right?)
There's not a lot of mystery here. Grab a bar and pull yourself up. If you can't do a pullup/chinup (or can't do many), place a chair under the bar and put one foot on the chair. As you pull yourself up, use your leg to assist you. When you reach the top, stop assisting yourself and lower yourself using just your arms.
Think about bringing the bar to your chest (not just eye level), and lean back slightly at the top of the movement. Don't swing your body, or "kip" yourself up with your hips. Use slow, controlled movements.
Once these become easy to do with just body weight, you can do them weighted with a dip belt, or with a dumbell between your feet. (Or small children hanging from you).
For More Information:
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...9&postcount=19 <-- Read this!
6. Military Press / Overhead Press:
The Overhead barbell press or Military Press (the Military Press is a specific version of an Overhead press) are usually referred to interchangeably. The Overhead press can be done seated or standing - your preference.
The Overhead Press:
- Overhead presses can be done standing, seated, with a barbell, or with Dumbells. There are numerous variants including Arnold presses.
- Keep the weight directly over the shoulders. As you drive the weight upward for a standing overhead press, think about moving your upper body forward under the weight.
- I like to place one foot forward and one rearward instead of just having them side by side. I find this helps with balance.
- Like everything else, keep a natural curve in your back.
Notes & Final Thoughts:
1. The videos I chose are ones I could find without wasting my entire day. I'm sure there are better ones, but these should give the basic idea of proper form. If you have a better one, please feel free to post it.
2. This is meant to be a guide for beginners', outlining the basic lifts, how to do them, and general form tips as a starting point. It's not an academic dissertation on the most advanced forms and techniques. If you have your own tips, videos, or reference material on any of these exercises, feel free to post them.
3. If you want to know which muscles each exercise works, follow the www.exrx.net link.
4. There is a great degree of variation and subtlety that can be incorporated into each of these lifts. However, I would suggest learning the basic form first - and correctly.
5. Start with a weight you know you can handle, and progress upward steadily workout to workout. There is no need to "ego" lift and just throw as much weight on the bar as you can handle. This often leads to form errors and injuries.
Good starting programs which incorporate these lifts:
All Pro's Beginners' Routine: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=4195843
Rippetoe Starting Strength: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=998224
Also see this thread: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=115643271
^ If you are serious about learning barbell training, read these threads ^
Acknowledgments: Thanks to AllPro, N@tural1, kethnaab, Kiknskreem, and others who have taken time to compile information referenced here.