In the gym, building a solid foundation is the first and foremost requirement to achieving your long term fitness goals. There are certain “God-Father” exercises, that date back all the way to the very beginning of physical culture, that are pivotal to include when programming if you’re seeking to build a strong and functional muscular foundation. When it comes down to putting together a weight lifting regimen nowadays, there are so many variations of exercises that it can become very easy to over-complicate your workout. Truth is, if you don’t have the basic movement patterns mastered, then you definitely shouldn’t be progressing onto a more challenging variation of it. Odds are, if you are neglecting any of these three exercises you are not maximizing your true potential inside or outside of the gym. One thing all of these exercises have in common: they are compound movements, meaning that; multiple groups of muscle fibers are being recruited synergistically in order to properly perform them. Can you guess what 3 exercises I am referring to?
If you guessed squats, dead-lifts and bench press then you hit the nail on the head! These 3 compound lifts are the true staples of any serious weightlifting/workout regimen. This goes for both men and women alike! These exercises will fundamentally prime you for any progressive program and should be apart of your weekly routine in some variation or another.
Squats are, in my opinion, the best lower body exercise to ensure lower body symmetry. Adequate squat form and the ability to control heavy loads under a bar while squatting has a direct translation in overall core strength/stability, posture, and lower body power/strength. For athletes, squats are a necessity. The stronger your legs/core are, the more force you can generate, therefore translating into speed, power, explosiveness, and stability. This exercise will help you from the bottom up, literally. “She definitely squats.” A phrase often heard in the fitness community; referring to a female with a big booty… is coined from the results that are seen from a consistent and progressive squat program. Ladies, if you are looking to tone up your legs, build buns of steel, and build a great overall base of core strength, squats are a no-brainer.
Deadlifts are not for the faint of heart. Even though this exercise seems simple and straight forward, mastering and maintaining good form is an ongoing challenge that will reap dividends over time as you continue to develop. Commonly, deadlifts are neglected like the plague. People claim that it is an exercise that causes too much stress on your lower back and it can end up crippling you. Just like any exercise, when done improperly you will always develop muscle imbalances and increase your odds for potential injury. But when done correctly, deadlifts develop serious posterior/core strength. This will help you achieve a very strong support system for you spine, thus allowing you to move, bend, and lift objects more efficiently without pain or excess stress.
Bench Press is by far one of the most important, and often times misinterpreted, compound exercises for the upper body. One misconception of the bench press is that the main muscle group being targeted are your chest muscles. Don’t take that statement the wrong way, the bench press does heavily incorporate the chest muscles. But more importantly the bench press utilizes a lot of tricep strength along with shoulder strength/stability which is developed through intensive training of the back musculature as well. Proper movement patterns and injury prevention are reliant on our body’s ability to maintain the Yin and Yang balance as a whole. The more we train the musculature on the front side of our body (anterior), we must equally focus our efforts on improving the back side as well (posterior) in order to prevent any major muscle discrepancies or imbalances which can lead to injury. Creating a solid base on the bench press will stimulate upper body muscle growth and develop supporting muscle groups needed in various upper body exercises.
There you have it. This is the simple, not-so-secret formula to building a rock solid foundation through mastering the fundamental exercises of the upper and lower body. Implement these exercises into your weekly routine and watch your body begin to transform and develop strength/abilities you didn’t think were possible. Just like in life, it truly is about the small things. They all add up in the end. Fundamentals first, progression second. Baby steps, one rep at a time.