It’s never easy being the newbie, but even the most successful athletes had to start from somewhere. Even Michael Jordan was once a novice. Whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle – or both – one of the best ways to do that is by strength training. This can mean different things to different people and can take many forms. Some prefer to stick to a traditional gym setting whether it be in a commercial gym with membership or at home with their own weights while others take to the outdoors and soak up some vitamin D while they pump some iron.
Whatever route you choose, it’s important to do a little research and planning so you have a good starting point. A key component to any sort of strength training is proper form to prevent injury.
There are many great resources that offer lots of useful articles if you need help with form or specific exercises.. When you’re just starting out it’s a good idea, to begin with, the basics. Here is a list of the top 8 basic exercises for beginners which can be done with or without weights.
This exercise is what’s known as a compound movement. This simply means that it targets multiple muscle groups at a time. In this case, it targets just about all the muscles in your legs as well as your core. It is one of the most well-known powerhouse exercises that should be incorporated into everyone’s exercise routine.
A good rule of thumb when starting out is to perfect your form and then begin to add weight. This is to ensure you stay safe and avoid injury. It’s okay to start out with light weights at first and build up from there if you do not feel challenged enough, but don’t be afraid to push yourself. If you’ve perfected your form with just bodyweight, but don’t feel ready for free weights, try using the Smith Machine or a squat rack. This will assist you with stability and most have adjustable arms on either side to catch the bar in case you can’t lift the weight.
Another excellent compound movement is the deadlift. This is one of the best exercises to train the backside of your body. The movement consists of a weighted barbell on the floor, which is lifted with no momentum, hence the name. The muscle groups affected by this exercise are the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, lower and upper back, quads, and core.
When executed accurately, deadlifts utilize muscles throughout the whole body making it one of the most effective exercises you can incorporate into your exercise regimen. It is absolutely vital to use proper form when doing a deadlift as you can cause great injury to your lower back.
The glute bridge or hip bridge is one of the top exercises to target the larges muscles in the lower body- the glutes. In addition to that, they can also work the legs and core. This exercise is done by lying down face up, arms at your sides, and bending the knees with your feet flat on the floor. Then simply push your hips toward the sky. Your knees, hips, and shoulders should look like a diagonal line. Squeeze the glutes at the top and keep your core tight to prevent back strain. Hold for a few seconds then ease back down to your starting position.
You can also perform this exercise with a barbell or dumbbell by holding the weight across your hips instead of keeping your hands at your sides. This is a good way to increase the level of difficulty and build more muscle in the glutes and core.
This might seem like a boring exercise for some, but this tried-and-true exercise is a great move that works your arms, back, chest, and core. Being able to lift your own body weight is an excellent sign of strength. If you are not able to do a standard push-up, you can modify it by putting your knees down to make it easier.
The great part about this movement is that both toe push-ups and knee push-ups activate the same muscle groups and as long as you are putting in the effort you will see results. You don’t have to keep up with everyone around you as long as you are pushing yourself.
The bent-over row, AKA the barbell row or barbell bent-over row, is another compound exercise. This movement utilizes muscles in both your upper and lower body such as latissimus dorsi (the large back muscles), middle and lower traps, rhomboids, and posterior delts.
This is an excellent exercise for those who want to be able to do pull-ups but are not quite strong enough yet. It strengthens the pulling muscles in your upper body, including the back, shoulders, and biceps which are the same muscle groups required to perform a body-weighted pull-up.
This total body exercise is excellent for core stability which will in turn assist with many other compound exercises like deadlifts and pull-ups by strengthening your abdominal muscles and stabilizing your spine. The muscles affected are the hip flexors, quadriceps, rectus, and transverse abdominals, as well as the internal and external obliques.
To perform this exercise, lie face up on a yoga mat or carpet, make sure your arms and legs are straight, and press your lower back to the floor. With zero space between your back and the floor raise your arms and legs off the floor about 2-3 inches. The goal is to fully engage your core. Then lift your head and shoulders off the floor, but don’t tuck your chin into your chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds to start and as you get stronger move to 20 seconds and then 30 and so on.
Just as it sounds this exercise focuses on the chest, but it also works the arms and shoulders. You can also use an adjustable bench to get into different angles which will focus on the lower or upper part of your chest muscles. This is a great exercise for both men and women and should be a staple for any strength training routine.
Though this exercise is primarily used to strengthen the core muscles, it’s a total body exercise working muscles from head to toe. Some of the major muscles include the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, serratus anterior, and glutes. This is a must if you want to develop a killer core and help reduce the risk of injury when performing other exercises.
Altogether, any one of these exercises is a great foundational movement that can be built upon by adding weights or changing the positioning as long as you retain proper form. Anyone can achieve the level of fitness they desire given enough discipline and consistency with their routine. Now is the best time to get started.