Squats & Deadlifts: Why Weight? Two Strength-Training Exercises for Beginners
Beginning a strength-training regimen can be intimidating. ManyÂ cardiovascular exercises like running and bicycling involve movements and techniques that you probably learned when you wereÂ very young. But unless you were an athlete in high school, thereÂ is a good chance that you may not have picked up a dumbbellÂ until well into adulthood (or maybe you’ve never even picked upÂ a dumbbell!). And while cardiovascular exercise is important, itÂ is only part of a well-rounded exercise program; developing yourÂ muscles with strength training can help protect your bones fromÂ breaking and keeps your muscles from deteriorating. That’s inÂ addition to the obvious benefit of becoming stronger!
Simple isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and tricep kickbacks may provide a comfortable entry point for someone whoÂ does not have experience lifting weights, but their overall benefitÂ to your health is relatively limited when compared to compoundÂ exercises. Compound exercises generally focus on one major muscle group but also recruit secondary muscle groups inÂ support of the exercise, whereas isolation exercises focus on justÂ one muscle group. Both types of exercise have their place in aÂ strength-training workout, but if you are looking to get the mostÂ bang for your buck, two wonderful compound exercises to try areÂ squatting and deadlifting.
There are several different ways to perform a squat, but they allÂ have the basic principles and guidelines that should be followed.Â Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, withÂ your toes turned slightly out at a 30-degree angle. As you beginÂ to squat down, be sure that your back is straight and your chestÂ and shoulders are upright, as a bent back could lead to painfulÂ soreness and potentially injury. Your knees should stay inlineÂ with the direction that your toes are pointed. Your weight shouldÂ primarily be on the heels of your feet, as you do not want to leanÂ forward. In order to keep yourself from leaning forward, makeÂ sure that your knees are behind your toes at all times.
As soon as your hips are beneath your knees, engage your coreÂ and drive yourself back up straight to the beginning position,Â with the primary push coming from your heels. You can performÂ squats with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or just your ownÂ body weight; you can even use a chair to start out with as anÂ aid if you fear that you might fall down. The motion of the squatÂ may seem to only work the lower body, but upper body stabilityÂ and balance are needed once free weights are added. LearningÂ a new exercise can be difficult at the start, but with practice theÂ squat can be extremely helpful for making your body’s everydayÂ movements seem a little bit easier.
The deadlift can also be performed with a barbell, dumbbells,Â or kettlebells. Like the squat, the guidelines are very importantÂ to follow in order to keep from straining your back or causingÂ other musculoskeletal injuries. For the standard barbell deadlift,Â you are going to approach the barbell with your feet hip-widthÂ apart. Starting the motion at your hips (like you are going to sitÂ down in a chair), bend down and grab the barbell with your handsÂ shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Your legs will alsoÂ be bent to almost a full squat, keeping the same guidelines asÂ for that exercise. The barbell will start at your shins. Make sure that your back stays straight and that your shoulders are pulled back. Your chest will begin to rise and the barbell will rise with it. You will want to shift your weight onto your heels, engaging your hamstring muscles. Once you have lifted the bar up to hip level and are standing upright, you have completed one repetition and are ready to bring the weight back down to the ground. You are going to want to follow the same guidelines for lowering the weight as you did for lifting it, just in the reverse order. The main thing to remember when performing the deadlift is to keep your back straight and not try to lift the weight with your arms, but with your legs; the deadlift is a simple movement of bending down and picking up a heavy weight. Your hamstrings and lower back will feel the most tension during the deadlift; these are two very important muscle groups for everyday living. You will also be utilizing a lot of secondary muscle groups as well!
Performing squats and deadlifts might seem like a difficult or possibly intimidating task for you at the moment, but by starting with little to no weight and following these instructions, they should become an instrumental part of your exercise routine and a great benefit to your balance, functional strength and mobility. If you feel you need more guidance or have lingering injury issues, especially to your back and legs, consult with a fitness professional so that you do not end up doing yourself more harm than good; a lack of mobility in the hips, knees, or ankles can make these lifts difficult to perform correctly. Do your body a favor and get started with this new way of developing a stronger and healthier life.