Gyms love machines. They look expensive, accessible, and require little to no supervision, allowing potential members to sign up, pay up and get started. Exercise machines allow the user to sit or stand and simply push or pull weight along guided rails isolating the particular muscle that the user wishes to stimulate. Safe and easy right? But wait, aren’t we training to be athletes for life, to better perform day to day functions in the real world? Remind me, when was the last time you sat down on a bench and leaned over a padded arm rest to “preacher curl” your bags of groceries into position? So whats the alternative? Exercises using free weights simulate and build neuromuscular pathways, challenge full body stabilizing strength, mimic our real life day to day activities and effectively build bigger, stronger and smarter muscles. In order to help make your body a machine, here are three BIG full body exercises that are going launch your strength gains into overdrive, challenge your balance and co-ordination, and fire up your metabolic engine!
Greg Glassman the founder of Crossfit has the following to say about the deadlift: ”Regardless of whether your fitness goals are to ‘rev up’ your metabolism, increase strength or lean body mass, decrease body fat, rehabilitate your back, improve athletic performance, or maintain functional independence as a senior, the deadlift is a marked shortcut to that end.”
There is simply no question that the deadlift can create fullbody strength and power that no machine can. Never deadlifted before? Start light and follow Greg’s cues to a perfect deadlift…
- Natural stance with feet under hips
- Symmetrical grip whether parallel, hook, or alternate
- Hands placed where arms won’t interfere with legs while pulling from the ground
- Bar above juncture of little toe and foot
- Shoulders slightly forward of bar
- Inside of elbows facing one another
- Chest up and inflated
- Abs tight
- Arms locked and not pulling
- Shoulders pinned back and down
- Lats and triceps contracted and pressing against one another
- Keep your weight on your heels
- Bar stays close to legs and essentially travels straight up and down
- Torso’s angle of inclination remains constant while bar is below the knee
- Head straight ahead
- Shoulders and hips rise at same rate when bar is below the knee
- Arms remain perpendicular to ground until lockout
The Push Press is an essential exercise for increasing full body pushing strength and power by linking the legs and shoulders for explosive movement. Not only will you experience and feel great upper body strength gains but the aesthetic payoff will be equally as pleasing.
The following video uses dumbbells which is a great alternate to using a bar:
The Back Squat is often described as the king of all exercises. Unfortunately it often gets written off as just a lower body exercise. But unlike it’s machine confined little brother, the leg extension, it is anything but. The Back Squat requires a massive amount of lower body and core strength, core stability, and plenty of mental discipline. Engaging the quads to perform the back squat releases large amounts of the hormone testosterone into the body making it ideal for beginning a workout with. Just be sure to treat this exercise with the respect it deserves as performing it incorrectly has the potential to cause some serious injury.
*Remember to keep the chest up and forward and the butt back and down!
Just a quick note on safety. When performing a new exercise always be sure to start with a light weight while learning proper lifting form. When you are ready to add more weight, make sure your lifting in a space free of any debris or obstacles and in front of a mirror for visual cues. Don’t hesitate to ask somebody to “spot” you. Before you begin any exercise program visit your doctor for clearance to exercise and always perform a proper warm up. Finally, do yourself and your body a favor, and unless you can find me a physical sport that requires you to sit on a bench and perform X amount of repetitions, get off your ass in the gym and start maximizing your potential and your results.
Submitted by: Timothy Simpson
B.C.R.P.A. Certified Fitness Leader
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