Let's be honest, when you walk into a gym for the first time it can be uh....a bit overwhelming.
There are so many pieces of equipment, so many people, and what muscles do we even focus on?? Well, I'm here to tell you beginners to take a deep breath and KEEP IT SIMPLE! Before we can start doing crazy plyometric (jumping) movements and throwing weights around, there are 5 major movements which everyone should master before progressing.
*Tip: have someone a bit more experienced with you or ask a trainer at the gym to watch your form and help correct you.
This is the mother of all moves. Squatting properly improves strength, power, glute activation, core strength, balance, and prevents injury. To squat properly, start at the bottom and work your way up.
- Feet - Feet will be a little wider than hip width, toes slightly turned outward. Focus on digging your heels and pinky toes into the ground to stabilize.
- Knees - Externally rotate your knees out, avoiding caving them inward (this can cause tearing of your ligaments)
- Hips - Sit back as if you were trying to sit in a chair, keeping weight in your heels. How low you squat will depend on your hip mobility.
- Core - Keep your core engaged. Inhale before you squat and exhale back at the top.
- Chest - Keep your gaze forward and chest up. Avoid rounding your back and dropping your shoulders
The deadlift is a functional movement which we do nearly every day! When you pick up your dog off the floor, grab your groceries to put them away in the fridge, or on moving day picking up and setting down boxes. Deadlifting teaches us to NOT use our back/spine to lift things, but to use our legs. Working from the ground up:
- Feet - Hip width apart for a regular deadlift. Sumo deadlift they will be further apart and turned outward.
- Knees - slight bend in the when you are hinging. You want to avoid lowering down by bending your knees like you would a squat
- Hips - HINGE is the word we want to pay attention to. Pretend someone has a string on your tailbone and is pulling you backwards.
- Core - Core is tight and your back should be tabletop
- Shoulders - Shoulder blades are back and lats are engaged. Have a "proud chest" before you begin hinging down. Look in a mirror and make sure you are not rounding your shoulders forward.
- Neck - Keep your spine in line. Avoid looking up while you are tabletop.If you are deadlifting and experiencing lower back pain, stop and ask for assistance.
3. Push - Up
A push-up is more than just a chest exercise. It involves core strength, upper body strength, and even ability to engage your glutes and not collapse your shoulder blades. Here is how to get the perfect push-up:
- Keep your spine in line - When it comes to going down and coming back up, it's common to let your head drag in the opposite direction. Try to keep your gaze in one spot and keep your neck aligned properly.
- Elbow position - There are several positions you can be in for a pushup: tricep, normal (45 degrees), wide (90 degrees). The pushup you want to learn and perfect is the normal pushup where your arms will be at a 45 degree angle. Hands will be aligned with your shoulders and elbows will go 45 degrees away from the body.
- Feet together or shoulder width - Having your feet close together will cause you to use your core more. Feet wider apart, on the other hand, will allow you to be more stable and be slightly less difficult.
- Core and glutes engaged - Before you even go down into the pushup, squeeze your core and glutes. This will allow your body to come up together and avoid doing " the worm"Ways to progress into a pushup:
- Perform on an elevated surface like a bench or your couch
- Knee pushups
- Add a resistance band around your hips to help pull you upWays to advance from a pushup:
- Perform on a TRX
- Clapping pushups
- Declined pushups (feet elevated)
- Add a weighted plate on your back
4. Dead Bugs
A dead bug is a great beginner core exercise performed on your back with your legs 90 degrees, hands up with palms facing your legs, and extending the opposite arm and opposite leg at the same time then returning to neutral positions. This is a great way to train your core with limited ability of injuring the spine. You want to focus on keeping your back flat on the ground while extending your limbs.Add a stability ball or pillow in-between your legs and arms for a bit of a challenge.
Lunging is an amazing lower body exercise that can be performed in all planes of motion (reverse, forward, lateral). It can also work all parts of the legs and glutes! For a lunge, we're going to focus on perfecting a reverse lunge.
Starting with feet together, take one step back and lower your knee close to the ground, lightly tapping it. You want to look for making two 90 degree angles with your legs. Once you lower down, push back up through the front heel and come back to standing.
You do not want to feel this in your hip flexor, back quad, or lower back. It means you are either leaning over too far or stepping back too far. Perform in a mirror sideways to check your form if needed.