Barbell Training

Barbell Training – 7 Important Barbell Exercises

Barbell Training

7 Important Barbell Exercises

A classic but still one of the best training devices for many training goals: the barbell training! Barbell training is not only demanding but also effective and a lot of fun. Compared to a guided exercise machine, barbell workouts have many decisive advantages. The classic exercises such as deadlifts, bench presses, and squats are some of the best exercises in strength and fitness sports.

It’s no secret that the barbell is the main tool in weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. With the help of only one barbell, you can qualitatively work out any muscle group in your body. In this article, we look at a list of the best barbell exercises that you are sure to use to achieve good results in your workouts.

What Are the Benefits of Barbell Workouts?

Barbell exercises have the great advantage that your entire body has to work during the training. You mainly train a specific muscle that you want to strengthen specifically. Incidentally, other muscle groups that are not actively involved in the contraction process must also have a stabilizing function.

A good example is a deadlift, in which you want to specifically and mainly strengthen your back. Other muscles, such as your leg, arm, and abdominal muscles, are also involved in this exercise and must hold the barbell or support the back while performing the exercise.

Of course, you can also do barbell exercises with the barbell (such as the deadlift again) on a machine. All you have to do is guide the barbell up and down. This means that you are training the back almost completely in isolation, and no other muscles involve that have a support function.

But if you want to lift a heavy object similar to the deadlift in your everyday life, this is rarely installed on a machine as a relief. Barbell training prepares you a lot more for the daily challenges of life.

Furthermore, barbell training is intended for exercises that you can do with both hands simultaneously compared to a dumbbell. When doing dumbbell training, you usually have one dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbells also lift less weight overall than a barbell. Dumbbells are more intended for the isolated training of individual muscles (e.g., biceps). Barbell training primarily aims to strengthen the large muscle groups (legs, back, and chest).

When to Use Barbell Workouts in Your Training

We have listed all the barbell exercises below, but you shouldn’t do them at once as you will be punishing your workout routine. You should be wise when including these workouts in your fitness program to minimize the risk of injury and get the most benefits from them.

You can incorporate these workouts at the start of your training session because they include several motor units and significantly boost the central nervous system. With that, you should start with a gym warm-up, then an empty barbell as you progress, adding weights until you reach your target.

Involving the upper and lower parts of your body is also essential. This allows you to do more work within a short period because less recovery is needed. There is also improved blood circulation, which is vital for faster fat burning.

Let’s have a look at the 7 best barbell workouts in detail.

1. Bench Press 

Lie up straight on a weight bench (at home on the floor, too) and make sure that your lower back always stays on the bench! Your feet should be stable on the floor or the weight bench. Grasp the barbell with your ring finger at the respective markings or a little more than shoulder-width in the clamp grip. Keep your wrists stable, and don’t move them.

With your arms locked and the bar above your chest, bring the barbell down over your chest in a controlled manner so that the bar lightly touches your chest for a brief moment. Hold the bar as straight as possible and inhale.

Push the barbell explosively upwards out of your chest to be back in the starting position above your chest. Do not stretch your elbows all the way. Stop shortly beforehand. Breathe out consciously.

Target: Chest, front shoulder, and triceps

The bench press is an absolute classic and has been an excellent basic exercise since weight training. The bench press mainly trains the muscle groups in your upper body. Your chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles are particularly stressed.

Beyond the Chest

Control your shoulder blades by ensuring they are fixed on the bench. The bench needs a lot of pushing power. This will ensure you are in a more stable position for your lifts.

Stay Single-Minded

Having strong chest muscles with weak shoulder stabilizers makes it difficult for you to lift the right amount of weight on the bench press. You can try an assistance exercise like the single-arm dumbbell press to ensure your shoulder joint is in the perfect state of health and give yourself room to lift a serious amount of weight. This will help you achieve a perfect balance if one part of your shoulder is stronger than the other.

Utilize Your Body

Controlling your body weight is vital in ensuring you lift a serious amount of weight. You can perform controlled bodyweight reps like close-grip pressing or dips. This will work your muscles in a slightly different movement pattern. With time, you will start adding some weight.

 

2. Bent-Over Row (Barbell Row)

The starting position is similar to the deadlift. You stand with the barbell in your hands and now bend your upper body forward so that you reach an angle of about 45 °. During this exercise, the barbell is about at the level of your belly button under almost straight arms away from the body and maybe a little further away from your thighs.

You pull the barbell explosively between your stomach and your chest. Make sure that your elbows are brought to the side, close to your body. Your back stays straight or slightly arched. Exhale.

Bring the bar back down in a controlled manner so that your elbows are (only) almost fully extended. You must not guide the barbell directly on your thighs but move it freely and in a controlled manner through your back muscles. Breathe in consciously.

Target: biceps, core, and lats

Bent over rowing is an exercise designed to strengthen all of your back muscles. This mainly addresses the latissimus, which is responsible for the popular V-shape of the body. The rear shoulder muscles and neck are also trained.

Engage Your Shoulder Blades

Setting your shoulder blades is essential to initiate a row. Your starting position is essential if you want to lift a decent weight and activate specific muscle groups. Pull your shoulders back by squeezing the muscles between them and expanding your chest.

Use the Correct Muscles

Get the muscle you want to use active before moving through the full range. You can quickly lose form and lower your movement range by loading the bar with excess weight. Regulate your weight and heap tension on the muscles.

Underhand Tactic

Once you know how to make a move perfectly, you can start playing with variations to get a different barbell training effect. If you want to build your armor – your large back muscles – in particular, try using a tight hand grip because this will target your armor and lower back. Rows are more effective at making your lats than even pulling out lats.

Include Dumbbell Rows

Assistance barbell exercises can help you improve at rows. The best assistance exercise is the dumbbell row. With one hand on a bench, maintain a wide posture with your feet, pressing through your trunk.

The dumbbell should hang down before you pull it back and up through a curved line to the bottom of your ribcage. Swinging with one arm creates room for improved range movement and is vital in building your obliques and core.

3. Deadlift

Like the squat, your feet should be more than shoulder-width apart, and your feet are rotated slightly outward. The bar lies directly in front of your legs and is also about shoulder-width apart in the clamp or comb grip. With your back straight, lift the barbell off the floor or remove it from its device.

Your knees should be slightly bent. Bring the barbell down your body slowly and in a controlled manner. To do this, bend your upper body forward (your back is tense and straight or slightly arched). The barbell slowly descends on your thighs or lower legs until it is just in front of the floor. Breathe in as you do this.

Now bring your upper body back up a little faster by moving the barbell along your legs as well. When you reach the top, pull your shoulder blades together and stretch your chest forward. You should still keep your knees slightly bent. Exhale on the first upward movement.

Target: Whole Body

The deadlift is a barbell training option for many muscle groups in your body. Accordingly, arm, leg, shoulder, and abdominal muscles are used. However, the largest muscles that are trained here are the entire back and hamstring muscles.

Brains and Muscles

Deadlifting requires serious strength and sound technique. Poor technique can result in serious injury. Always pull your shoulders back and chest out to lock down your shoulder blades for this kind of exercise. This lowers the chances of having your hips come back too fast or rounding your lower back by creating enough tension.

Hard and Fast

Rack pulls are essential if you are having a difficult time performing a deadlift with a serious technique. It’s all about setting the bar up at a distance of about 30cm off the floor. You will gain strength in a small range of movement. Kettlebell swings can also help you improve your deadlift speed.

4. Back Squat

The correct execution of movements naturally plays a significant role. In the starting position, the barbell is behind your head. Your hands grip the barbell as far outside as possible in the clamp grip. Your feet are a little more than shoulder-width apart and rotate slightly outward.

Bring the weight down slowly and in a controlled manner by pressing your buttocks backward. Actively tense your legs and back! Make sure that your knees do not protrude above your toes as much as possible.

To protect your knee joints, you shouldn’t go more than 90 ° in depth. Always keep your feet completely on the ground (never lift your heels!) And keep your knees rigid (never rotate inwards!). Inhale.

Now push the weight up again at increased speed, mainly using the strength of your legs for this. Make sure that your feet are stable and do not move too much on the ground. Do not fully bend your knees at the top, but check the weight shortly beforehand. Exhale on the first upward movement.

Target: Quads, hamstrings, and glutes

Back squats or Barbell squats work all of your leg muscles and lower back. The so-called quadriceps, i.e., the front of your thigh, are particularly stressed here. Incidentally, the quadriceps are the largest and most powerful muscle in our body.

No Half Measures

Chances are you have seen people loading the before doing half reps in the squat rack if you have visited any gym. This is quite a waste of time. The best squat should have the hips come down to a level with your knees.

Failure to go deep will not help you achieve bigger and stronger muscles. Perfect your mobility for a few minutes before any squat session to avoid injury and get the best results.

Complete Body Benefits

Squats may be seen as a legs exercise, but it also benefits the upper part of your body, which is highly involved. The upper part of your body is essential during these exercises, especially if you include more weight. Always ensure your chest is high and your back is tight to improve your squat.

Include Bulgarian Split Squats

The lack of balance between your right and left sides can lead to poor movement patterns and injury in the long run. You should involve yourself in an exercise that will help you develop uniform strength to prevent that from happening.

Bulgarian split squats are the best option after doing your squats. Assume a split posture while holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you and the other behind before placing your back foot on a surface like a bench.

Lower your back knee to perform a split squat as you ensure your front knee remains vertical. This will ensure you develop leg strength, balance, and it is a perfect move for back squats.

5. Overhead Press

Putting your feet and shoulder wide apart, keep the bar in a position next to the upper part of your chest as you grip it with your hands shoulder-width apart. Your hands must be shoulder-width apart, and the bar is under your head at the level of the upper chest muscles. Take a slight lunge forward with your legs.

Your back stays straight again. Support your glutes, abs, and quads while pressing the bar straight up. Hold on slightly at the top before lowering gently. Lower the barbell back down in a controlled manner.

Deliberately stop the barbell briefly so that you don’t just push back up while swinging. As you do this, inhale to prepare for the next concentric movement. You will find yourself lifting more weight by tying up your thumbs almost the same side as your fingers to keep your forearms in the best position.

Target: Shoulders and triceps

The overhead press is an exercise for the entire shoulder muscles. The core muscles are also trained, as they have to stabilize the barbell during the movement.

The Only Way is Up

If you want to go heavy, you should press the weight overhead directly instead of slightly in front of you. Make sure it is over your center of gravity, going through your head, hips, top of the spine, and ankles. Squeeze your abs and glutes in line before pushing your head through after the bar is past your nose. Keeping your core tight adds about 10% to your weight lift. Remember to squeeze those glutes.

Keep Your Neck Protected

Start the move with the weight behind your neck for the best mobility in your overhead press. It is also applicable when you start the exercise with the bar behind your back. This move is vital for your back and rear delts, but you have to take a slightly wider grip and reduce the weight by around 30%.

Include the Landmine Press

Performing the landmine press after your overhead exercise is essential in improving shoulder stability. Squeeze one end of a bar in the corner of a room before doing the single-arm shoulder press. Stay firm and let your shoulder blades move as your abs remain firm.

6. Lunge

The starting position is the same as for the squat. Your bar should be behind your head and your hands as far apart as possible in the clamp grip around the barbell for stabilization. Take a backward lunge so that you reach an angle of 90 ° with your front leg. Your back knee should touch the floor briefly.

The knee of your front leg shouldn’t protrude above the tip of your foot. Your upper body stays straight, and your lower back, in particular, is tense throughout the exercise. Inhale throughout the phase. Push the barbell explosively back up to the starting position. Use the strength of your bent leg for this. Exhale on the first upward movement.

Target: quads, glutes, and hamstrings

Lunges or lunges are primarily aimed at strengthening the entire leg muscles. In particular, your gluteal muscles are stressed here. You can also use lunges to train your core, i.e., your abdominal and lower back muscles.

Tight Trunk

Weight on your back heaps forces on the trunk despite the lunge being a lower body exercise. You should keep your trunk tight to become more powerful and feel more stable. Make yourself as tall as you can by pulling shoulders back and abs in.

Reverse to Progress

Making this move in reverse can benefit you in so many ways. You will develop balance, improve your body’s ability to feel one position, and harmonize movements. The reverse lunge is an excellent progression if you struggle with lunges due to flexors and tight hips.

Take a Long Lunge

There are multiple ways to perform lunges and get top-level benefits. Longer lunges are essential for developing power and speed. You should also engage your glutes by driving up through your front heel.

7. Power Clean

With your barbell on the floor, hold it as you maintain a shoulder-width grip. Lift your heels off the floor and lift the bar to your knees to your chest level. Hold on for a second before gently lowering the barbell for the next rep.

Target area: Whole body

Power clean is one of the best barbell exercises to increase your speed and power. It is highly preferred by athletes to improve their field performance. To build power, you have to improve speed against resistance. Power clean combines hang clean and deadlift, which allows you to develop full-body strength.

Warm Up Correctly

Always ensure you have perfectly warmed up and your lats and shoulders are mobile for smooth lifting.

Hang Clean

If you are used to putting on tracksuit bottoms and are not worried about getting trunk-tree legs, you can opt for the hang clean version of this move. Here, you have to begin the move while holding the bar.

This move boosts your grip strength, which is vital for your squat clean ability and power. The version where the bar originates from the hips instead of the floor is the best if your main focus is on the upper body.

Power Through

Power clean barbell exercises impose a high energy demand on your body, which shouldn’t be a reason to slow down after getting to your final set. Thrusters and box jumps are the best movements to use in a single session.

Box jumps enhance your power and speed, while thrusters are like a continuation of the movement because you switch from a front squat to a shoulder press. They help strengthen the link between the upper and lower body.

 

weight bench

Weight Bench Workout for Beginners

Starting On the Bench 

The weight bench is an excellent piece of equipment to take start with building a new body. A weight bench helps you get a better strength-training workout.

There could be some flat benches, some upright, while some with padded backs. You can even find the adjustable ones to slide them to an incline or a decline position.

Aren’t you sure how to use a weight bench at its best? Not a big deal! It’s just like a regular bench which people mostly use for sitting.

Today, we are here to help you find the best weight bench exercises to help you achieve drastic results. This beginner guide is specially sorted to initiate an impactful workout routine.

Just grab a pair of dumbbells and get yourself a workout bench, and here we go!

Weight Bench Workout for Beginners

  1. Chest – Dumbbell Bench Press

If you want to build your chest muscles, then a dumbbell bench press is a perfect option! It focuses on pecs, triceps, deltoids, and lats. Simply lay down on the weight bench, hold dumbbells in both hands while placing your legs on either side, keeping your feet flat to the floor.

You need to lift the dumbbell so that it keeps your arms straight and then moves toward the ceiling in a very controlled and calm manner. The arms should be straight right above the chest. Then slowing lower down them and repeat the process.

Pro Tip: Carefully adjust the gap between arms to work multiple muscles.

  1. Arms (Biceps) – Bicep Curls

Bicep Curls is a great way to build your arm muscles. It targets the big muscles in your arms. To perform this, sit on a bench, keeping your legs wide apart, flat touching the floor. Pick up a dumbbell with one hand, and lock elbow against knee joint on the same arm side. Remember to keep your wrist firm and controlled. Now raise the dumbbell to the shoulder and then lower it. While doing so, always keep your elbow pressed against the knee whenever you lift.

Pro Tip: Swap your arms while performing it. Place your hand on the thigh to improve the overall posture.

  1. Arms (Triceps) – Lying Triceps Extension

This exercise targets your triceps and shoulders muscles. To perform this, lay on a bench while keeping head at edge level. Grab dumbbells vertically in both hands, start moving them upwards towards the ceiling, and simply lift them over the head while your arms are bent.

You need to lift the weight behind the head to above the chest while keeping your arms out fully straight. You need to repeat this process.

Pro Tip: Initiate with light, and then gradually increase to main good posture.                         

  1. Back – Dumbbell Row

The weight bench is not just good for shoulders and chest muscles but also for back and dumbbell row. Straight upright and place left knee of weight benchtop while keeping right leg straight. This particular exercise works on rear deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius. You may require to lean all your weight onto extended left arm and slightly pressed against the bench. Now extend the right arm toward down, and push the weight out towards the floor.

Pro Tip: Squeeze back muscles while lifting weight level with the chest.                    

These are some of the amazing exercises you could perform with a weight bench; it provides an extremely rigid platform to help focus on specific muscles easily.

Give this beginner guide a thorough read, and ask questions, if any!

Squat rack

How to utilise a squat rack

If you want to start training at home, then purchasing a good quality squat rack is essential. With the help of a squat rack, you can get a full-body extensive workout. Having a rack is important for initiating safe training. It allows you to get a loaded bar safely on the shoulders and stop the bar from falling.

Squats are functional exercises that help our body perform real-life activities and are considered effective ways of toning the body. Contrary to what many of us think, squats are not just for the weightlifter or bodybuilders; In fact, they are for everyone who wants to tone up the body at any age. The best thing is these can be done anywhere, anytime.

Below we will share some great full-body exercises that you can do with a squat rack. So let’s get started to get the most out of your squats.

Full Body Squat Rack Workout

If you have decided to buy a squat rack, it’s recommended to go for an adjustable one, such as the OW150 Power rack with pulley system as it gives you the freedom to adjust the weight bench and include variants like incline and decline bench presses with weight bench lateral flyes.

So below are some top exercises that can help you build ultimate strength and let you go under all-around workout.

Ultimate Exercises Using a Squat Rack

  1.     Back Squat

The back squat is a lower-body exercise that works on glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It is also called ‘the king of all exercises.’ This classic basic exercise can build great strength and power.

You place the barbell behind the neck— retract the shoulder blades super tightly, and rest the bar in the upper traps’ meat.

Pro Tip: 

Place both feet between hip and shoulder-width with your toes turned out. This helps to increase the depth of a squat.

  1.     Shoulder Press

The shoulder press, also known as overhead press, is a super-solid upper-body exercise that utilises a collection of muscles to help achieve the desired body. Clubbed together is even one of the most effective compound exercises along with squat, bench press and deadlift; the shoulder press exercise is the key to gaining toned muscles.

Pro Tip:

Always bring the barbell down to ear height before pushing it back. Never lock your elbows when reaching the top of this exercise.

  1.     Flat Bench Press

Flat bench presses are the most recommended ones for building the largest and strongest chest muscles. It reduces the risk of workout injures, making it a simple exercise to perform. Moreover, it increases lifting power, helps you build the overall body strength, and target the major muscles, triceps, deltoids, and serratus anterior.

Pro Tip:

Keep your elbows tucked in slightly while performing it. Don’t put back your shoulders too far as it could strain your muscles.

  1.     Barbell Lunges     

The best thing about lunges is they don’t demand a very high level of hip flexibility to get to the full depth. It puts great pressure on the glute and hamstring to build them. Along with the barbell lunges, you can combine Bulgarian split squats for building ultimate strength and make your workout more exciting and challenging.

Pro Tip:

Always start with barbell lunges initially with the weight bar to check how much pressure you can take on both legs as the muscles in both legs are slightly different.

  1.     Dips

The dip is an effective exercise that mostly targets the chest and activates the shoulders, triceps, and abdominals. It all depends on the body’s angle during the exercise; you can simultaneously increase the chest or the triceps’ demand. So this means this useful exercise can be an extremely effective way to grow and perfectly strengthen the two different body parts.

You should go with the adjustable squat rack kit, which can easily slide in the form of a dip station.

Pro Tip:

You can vary the dip stance to target the chest and triceps to get an extreme upper body workout.

  1.     Bicep Curl

Bicep curls are the best exercise for getting stronger and more intense and well-defined biceps.  It targets the vanity muscle and gives quick pumps in the arms. When the arm fills up with blood and put under the bicep curl’s stress, the arms look insane.

Pro Tip:

You can introduce variation in a bicep curl, from full extension to half extension, back down, then half extension, and go for full contraction.  It’s up to you!

  1.     Hip Lifts

If you want to target the trio of glutes, hamstrings and lower back, then hip lifts are a perfect choice. These lifts tone the back’s spinal erector muscles boosts core strength for improved power and performance in daily life activities.

The reason is, it feels good because, at the top of the move, one feels a deep stretch in the front of the hips and torso. The position is to sit with the weight bench, so the edge is near your back’s middle. Bring both knees in, and squeeze glutes as lift up.

Pro Tip:

Always use a barbell squat pad for the ultimate protection of hips while using a loaded bar.

  1.     Box Squats

Box squats help build strength as these are a dominant hip movement. Such squats emphasise the glutes, hamstring, and erector spinae muscles—these help build strength in the posterior chain. Simply by utilising a wider stance and squatting backwards, the movement emphasises your posterior muscles.

Pro Tip:

Bring a weight bench, and place it parallel into the squat rack to ensure it stays balanced. Now start squatting down and use your bench for support.

  1.     Barbell Rows

It’s a basic upper back exercise, perfectly works on rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius. These entail pulling the weight as quickly as possible without any breaking form, making the pull super explosive for you.

Pro Tip:

Always pick the bar on the spotters and simply squat down so that the back keeps align to the floor, keeping the spine straight. Move bar toward the bottom of abs, squeeze the shoulders a bit and release back down. You can add dumbbells for better performance.

So How Often Should I Increase The Weights?

Well, it all depends on your experience, the ability, and what your primary goals are! If you want to see improvement, you should keep on increasing weight load through each cycle. You can think of adding more weights when you can do 5 reps maximum and increasing the reps until it reaches 12 reps with the same load. Otherwise, stick to the same weight for some time, and improve your performance.

These are some effective exercises that could be performed easily with a squat rack. People often commit mistakes while performing squats and keep repeating them; that’s why understanding those mistakes is necessary to avoid any severe injury.

Squat Racking Mistakes

  •         Not Improving Ankle Flexibility:

This is the most common mistake beginners make! Bad positioning and movement ultimately lead to injuries. All this happen due to inflexible ankle movements.

  •         Positioning Bar Too High on Neck:

Never position the bar too high on your neck, especially if you are just a beginner. Bad positioning can put a lot of pressure on the base of your neck and upper spine.

  •         Don’t be a COPY CAT:

People have different body alignment, so follow a different setup, that’s why never try to copy anyone, especially when you are unaware of your potential power. So always go with what suits you!

  •         Wrong Bar Positioning:

Always take the correct bar positioning; if you are a low bar squatter, then the squat bar always aligns with your chest’s center.

 

Wrap Up

Many people make the mistake of assuming that squats are all about legs, but it’s a wrong perception. In fact, you should activate the core and upper back muscles to perform squats perfectly. It helps to tighten your core and strengthen your muscles. So when are you going to start your journey?

Lady rolling work out mat at home

Home workouts – The basics

Have you finally converted that spare room into your dream gym ready for home workouts? Or have you moved your car out of the garage to make room for your new adjustable bench, squat rack and barbells. If the answer is yes, then you are ready for the next step. Here we will take you back to basics with what you need to know.

First, Plan Your Home Workouts Program

What’s your home fitness goal?

General health and fitness? Bodybuilding and adding new lean muscle? Strength training? Why not all three?

Different goals require different approaches

In this case the amount of weight used, intensity and the number of sets and reps. As a beginner, It is possible to “mix it up” and gain size, strength and improve your overall health by combining the best components of each approach during your home workouts.

For example, for each exercise you should include 1-2 sets using lighter weights at 8-12 reps 1-2 sets of using moderate weights at 5-8 reps and finish each muscle group with heavy weights in the 3-5 repetition range. This approach will work for men and women and will develop a well defined physique, burn stored body fat and prevent muscle loss caused by aging.

Progressive Overload

Strength training and bodybuilding (adding size and strength) are the result of a theory known as progressive overload. As an example, if you lift a 25 pound dumbbell 8 times (reps) today but can lift it 12 times (reps) two weeks later, your body has “adapted” to that weight.

To become stronger (and more muscular) you must now use a 30 pound dumbbell and repeat the process. Increasing the weight over time is progressively overloading the muscle to make it grow. The entire process is known as “resistance” or weight training and can also help your body burn fat. As you add new lean muscle to your frame, your metabolism will speed up causing your body to burn more calories throughout the day.

Design A Full Body Home Workout

Regardless of the number of sets and reps or weight you use, ALWAYS train your entire body and since you are a beginner. NEVER train more often than every other day in order to avoid injury and overtraining. Full body workouts using compound or multi-joint exercises will help you build a strong foundation and core. This supports your strong legs, chest, back and shoulders!

Focus On Compound (Multi-Joint) Exercises

Compound exercises activate (involve) multiple joints and multiple muscle groups. As a beginner you will be tempted to do countless repetitions of curls. This is an isolation exercise that only works the small muscles on the front of your arm (biceps) and your elbow. Your biceps might grow a little, but you’ll always be the skinny guy with biceps – don’t be that guy!

Your time and effort would be better spent (with better results) performing compound exercises which build size, strength and power while improving your athletic ability.

As a beginner (or intermediate) trainee you can build a very strong and powerful foundation using only FIVE basic exercises:

  • Squats
  • Bench Presses
  • Military Presses
  • Barbell Rows
  • Deadlifts

These five basic exercises, performed every other day during your home workouts, will train your entire body most effectively, with the maximum results in the minimum amount of time!

Four Home Gym Essentials For Your Perfect Home Gym

Are you planning the perfect home gym? Smart move, as your home gym will eliminate every excuse for not training: “I don’t have time, it’s too far, but it’s raining…” Once you find the perfect home gym equipment, simply walk in and start training. You can get in a workout before work, in the evening after you get home, or if you work from home, you’ll be able to train whenever you feel motivated to burn fat and build muscle.

Affordability

Can you afford the perfect gym equipment for your perfect home gym? You can! Especially if you focus on the home gym essentials. Plus, the money you used to spend each month on gym dues and fees can be used for the “must have” equipment to get started at home. Here are a few suggestions for essential gym equipment as the core of your home gym:

1. A Rack

Start with a squat rack. Or, if you have the space and funds, upgrade to a sturdy power rack for safety and functionality and build your perfect home gym around it. A power rack is perfect for squats, deadlifts and overhead presses.

2. A Bench

You’ll need to train your chest, and the safest way to do that is on a sturdy weight bench. Your perfect home gym needs a strong adjustable bench to support those heavy bench presses. And an adjustable bench will also help you to train your upper chest and shoulders.

3. Dumbbells

Before you jump into buying bars and plates for your home gym, remember that any exercise you can do with a barbell, you can perform with a pair of dumbbells. As a bonus, the dumbbells will increase the intensity of the exercise. When using dumbbells you must stabilize each dumbbell which activates your core and many of the smaller supporting accessory muscles. You have two styles of dumbbells to consider, individual hex dumbbells that don’t rust or roll OR adjustable dumbbells. If you have limited space (or funds) start with the adjustable dumbbells!

4. Kettlebells

If you are really short of cash or space any home gym equipment, consider training with one or two moderately heavy kettlebells. You can train your entire body with a single kettlebell. As you become more fit you can progress to a heavier kettlebell. When your budget allows, add a pair of dumbbells, then add your bench and a barbell. You get the idea, grow your home gym as you grow!

Conclusion

Your perfect home gym will allow you to perform the same workout you do at the gym, without the monthly fees or having to leave your home. Investing in good quality equipment will not only eliminate the stress and hassle of traveling to the gym, but it will allow you the perfect balance between exercise and your life. Your investment in your home gym equipment may be one of the best things you can do for your health and fitness, get started planning today!

5 Healthy Habits to Start in the New Year

A healthy, active, sustainable lifestyle must have a strong foundation. This short guide will teach you 5 healthy habits to start in the new year. It’s based on foundational principles and associated habits that will help you keep crushing life on a daily basis in this new year and for years to come.

1. Sleep

Sleep is the most beneficial performance-enhancing activity we use each day to prepare us for the rigors of tomorrow. However, most of us don’t get nearly enough hours in the bedroom. The minimum I want my clients to get is seven hours per night in a dark room with zero electronic distractions. This is the bare minimum that is widely accepted by sleep experts and health professionals. Optimally, we would all get 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep.

I say this with the understanding that we lead very complicated, demanding lives. I’m in the same boat. Instead of wagging my finger at you about hours of sleep, here are some ideas on how you can set yourself up for quality over quantity approach to your sleep habits.

Environment

  • Cool and dark bedroom: Your room should be around 62-67 degrees Fahrenheit and as black as Darth Vader’s hatred for the Rebel Alliance–DARK. Use blackout shades on your bedroom windows or wear a sleep mask, if possible.
  • Dim lights and limit electronics usage about 30 minutes before bed.
  • Keep bedroom free of electronics, like your phone, tablet, computer, and television. We KNOW this is hard, but give it a try.
  • If you need an alarm to wake, buy a cheap alarm clock at your local drug store with dim, red numbers. Position the clock so it’s facing down or away from your line of sight.

Sleep-Promoting Habits

  • Every evening, do 8-10 minutes of soft tissue work. Incorporate contract/relax and slow inhales and exhales. The Ready State Virtual Mobility Coach has Daily Maintenance videos you can follow along to in the evening before bed.
  • No caffeine after 4PM: Caffeine, coffee in particular, is a favorite of ours at The Ready State. However, caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours, so if you drink a cup of coffee with 100mg of caffeine, you’ll likely still have about 50mg of caffeine in your blood five hours later.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Yes, that glass of wine feels like it helps you downregulate, but having two or more drinks just a few hours before bed can greatly affect your ability to sleep deeply.
  • DO NOT USE THE SNOOZE BUTTON: Quality sleep begins when you wake-up. Wake and get moving immediately. The snooze button increases sleep inertia, which makes the waking process more difficult and painful than it needs to be.
  • GET THE [email protected]%K TO BED: Find a reasonable bedtime for your schedule and stick to it. We thrive on routines and rhythms. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day goes a long way when trying to have a successful day.

2. Stress Management

Stress is unavoidable. Having some stress in our lives is great. It drives us to chase goals, complete important projects, gives us purpose, and makes life interesting. Stressors are neither good nor bad. It’s how we react to the stressors in our lives that shape our perception. Each stressor will elicit its own unique stress response.

Stress Management Habits

  • Practice at least one activity that brings you some joy or calmness each day:
    • Get outside in the sun and move
    • Spend time in a sauna or hot tub
    • Get a massage
    • Meditate
    • Practice a hobby
    • Spend time with a loved one or pet
    • Take a quick nap
    • Unplug from social media
  • Find balance in your exercise routine: Many of us use exercise as a way to release stress. That’s great! However, intense exercise is also a stressor, so please find a day or two to rest or actively recover with low intensity, cyclical movement (light walking, jogging, rowing, cycling, etc.).
  • Practice a bit of self-compassion:
    • Ask for help when needed.
    • Unplug from the Internet once per week and unfollow social accounts that bring about negative thoughts or feelings.
    • Be realistic about the goals you set and how they fit into your life.
    • Test your limits, but know them and honour them.
    • If you are so stressed that you feel helpless, please seek counselling.

3. Hydration

Water is essential to our very existence. Here are a few reasons why we need to make sure to drink plenty of water daily:

  • Essential to the lubrication of our joints
  • Helps the body regulate temperature through sweat
  • It’s the main mode of transportation of nutrients, oxygen, and waste across our cells and through our blood.
  • Keeps tissues (eyes, mouth, and skin) moist
  • Our muscles are 75% water, so yeah, it’s important.

Dehydration can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Here are some symptoms of dehydration:

  • Decrease Performance (in life tasks and on the field/in the gym)
  • Dizziness/Light-headedness
  • Fatigue (General, not activity-induced)
  • Moodiness/Irritability
  • Lack of motivation to train/perform
  • Cramping
  • Nausea

Hydration Habits

  • Aim to drink about ½ your body weight in fluid ounces of water per day.
  • Monitor the colour of your urine each time you urinate. If it’s dark yellow, you should definitely drink some water. If it’s nearly clear, hold off on consuming water for a little while or until you’re thirsty. Aim to have your urine be a pale yellow colour.
  • Add a pinch of salt to your water glass or bottle each time you fill it. Fancy pink salt, Morton’s…it doesn’t matter. The sodium will assist in helping your body absorb the water you drink. This is especially important when training for an extended time in the heat.

4. Food Hygiene

Like hydration, eating is essential to our performance in all aspects of life. We have all been fed narratives about food that shape our view on certain macronutrients, micronutrients, the evils of one ingredient vs. the virtues of another, etc.

To help wade through the confusion that you’ll find when researching nutrition methods on your own, here are some key ideas and habits you can use as a “home base”:

Key Food Hygiene Ideas

  • Focus on food quality. Go with the best quality your budget allows. When on the road, go with the best option available.
  • Choose whole food sources for the vast majority of your meals.
  • Prioritize protein and vegetables/fruit
  • Honor the digestive process. Chew your food for better absorption of nutrients.
  • Get used to the idea that foods are not “evil” or “bad”. They either help you work toward your goals or they do not. Those chips aren’t out to get you.

Food Hygiene Habits

  • Consume a lean, whole food protein source at each meal
  • Consume at least two types of vegetables and/or fruits at each meal; the more variety, the better
  • Try to eliminate vegetable, canola, and any other industrial oils from your cooking. High quality, single-source oils, such as olive, coconut, and avocado oils are much better for daily consumption.
  • For at least one meal per day, put down the phone, close the computer, and eat without distraction. Take a few deep breaths, smell your food, and chew your food slowly to a paste-like consistency.

5. Movement

If you’re reading this article, I assume you have a movement practice or sport that keeps you regularly challenged and entertained. As humans, we do best when we can move–a lot. Exercising at the gym for one hour per day isn’t enough. We should also be performing physical tasks, getting-up from our desks to walk around, and finding ways to get our blood moving throughout the day.

The main idea is to challenge yourself and move blood several times per week. Here are some ideas and habits for exercise and non-exercise activities that are useful:

Exercise Habits

  • Train 2-5 days per week with weights, following a progressive program. Loading the skeleton is essential to long-term health.
  • Perform conditioning workouts at varying levels of intensity a couple of times per week. These can be paired with your weight training sessions.
  • Use movement as a recovery tool: Sitting on the couch all day after a workout is not recovering. Mobilize the body shapes you made that day, go for a walk, ride a bike, or stretch
  • Plan your rest days just like you plan your training days. It’s great to get after it in the gym or on the field, but you do have to rest.

Non-Exercise Movement Habits/Activities

  • Step-up your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) game:
  • Walk the dog or yourself
  • Walk/bike/skate to work or school
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Go dancing, or just dance at home
  • Wash the car
  • Perform any free task that helps you expend more energy through movement each day

Putting It Together

This article outlined a lot of information, and each category warrants its own article. How do we put it all together? We do it slowly and methodically. Trying to do all of this at once is unrealistic, so let’s try to parse it out over a six-week schedule.

Over the next six weeks:

Weeks 1-2: Pick one item from any one category that you think might help you and seems doable. Spend the first two weeks injecting the new habit into your life. For example, you might try to add 8-10 minutes of soft tissue work to your night.

Weeks 3-4: Pick another habit from one of the categories. Spend the next two weeks practicing the new habit, while also practicing the first habit. You continue trying to get in 8-10 minutes of soft tissue work each night, and you add a pinch of salt to your water each time you fill a glass or bottle.

Weeks 5-6: Pick the third habit and continue refining the first two. By now, the first habit will likely be ingrained and the second should be pretty easy to perform each day. You might try to fit more movement into your day as a new habit. While you try to add more movement each day, you continue trying to get more sleep each night and add a pinch of salt to your water.

This pattern can continue indefinitely. Acquiring nutrition and lifestyle habits is a skill and should be treated as such. It’s just like in the gym, there’s always a way to scale a movement or workout up or down so it suits the individual. Habits work in the same manner.

Which habit will you attempt first?