Strength training is an essential component of any fitness routine. Exercises that build strength have been shown to help maintain your weight, improve muscle mass and definition, and maintain bone density as you get older, contributing to healthy aging.
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Here are five foundational exercises to include in your workout routine for basic strength training.
The squat is one of the best and most foundational strength exercises ever invented. Bodyweight squats work a the largest and most functional muscles in the body, making them great for burning calories and increasing your functional fitness overall.
The benefits of the squat only increase when you add weight, because the number of muscles worked also increases. You might not initially think of squats as an abdominal exercise, but when you’re squatting a heavy load, you’ll find that your core has a lot of work to do.
Also Read: 7 Tips To Improve Your Squat
If you’re new to squatting, start out with bodyweight squats until you get used to the form. Stand tall with your feet around shoulder width apart. Bend at the knees and send your hips out behind you slowly. Try to keep your knees from going past your toes, and make sure that they don’t either collapse inward or outward. Keep your core tight and your back straight, and stay looking forward throughout the movement. Go down to where your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
Once you feel comfortable with bodyweight squats, you can start adding weighted squats to your workout routine for strength. Dumbbells are a great way to add weight to your squat. If you’re just starting out, begin with a low weight until you’re comfortable with the motion. Hold a dumbbell at your side in each hand and perform the squat as usual. Keep your technique perfect, even with the addition of weight. If your form suffers, reduce the weight. Not a fan of the dumbbell squat? Here are 15 other squat variations to try.
Despite its intimidating name, the deadlift is one of the best strength-building exercises out there. Like the squat, it works a large number of muscles with a single movement. In addition to helping build muscles all over the body, the deadlift helps train the muscles to work together, and this makes it great for building functional strength.
As with the squat, proper technique is incredibly important with the deadlift. Practice with low weight before increasing your load, and if you have back problems, consider substituting with other exercises, like rows.
Also Read: 5 Killer Deadlift Exercises For Women
To perform a deadlift, begin with a barbell on the floor. Crouch down and grasp it, making sure to bend your knees, and keep your back straight as you can. Press upward by pushing through the heels of your feet. As you stand up, press your hips forward and bring your torso upright, pushing your chest outward and pulling your shoulder blades back. Hold at the top for a moment, then return to the starting position by slightly bending your knees and bending at the waist (keep your back straight to avoid injury).
Pull-ups are a great strength building exercise because they don’t require much by way of equipment. All you need is a bar or even a handy tree branch. It makes a great addition to your workout routine for strength because of the way it works your biceps, back, and core.
If you don’t have the strength to perform a pull-up, you can work up to it by using a lat pulldown machine. Alternately, you can perform pull-up negatives, in which you grasp the bar at the top of the motion and then resist on the way down.
The push-up is another foundational strength exercise that doesn’t require any equipment. It does a great job of working your chest and triceps. Doing both push-ups and pull-ups can help you build balance between your back and your chest.
If push-ups are too challenging, consider performing them from your knees. If they are too difficult, consider moving up to the bench press, where you can include more weight, or drop down to your knees.
Also Read: Maximize Your Push-Up With These Simple Tips
5. Loaded Carry
Loaded carries are some of the simplest strength exercises out there, but they are definitely growing in popularity. Simply put, loaded carries are exercises in which you carry a heavy load and walk with it. This sort of exercise can build a lot of grip, core, and overall strength, which means that it can do great things for your conditioning. For the traditional farmer’s carry, hold a couple of heavy dumbbells and walk, keeping your movement controlled and using your core to stabilize yourself. Or, for more ideas, check out this list of awesome carries from breakingmuscle.com.
These exercises can all be extremely beneficial, but if performed without proper technique, they can all lead to serious injury. Please make sure you understand both your body’s limits and the proper way to perform the exercises before attempting them.