Beginner's Guide to Athleticism & Strength Development
I will be adding new information, pictures and video to this page regularly, but I wanted to provide an area for people who have no idea where to start. I feel this is a good jump off point to start learning about strength training and why it is important. Humans have only a few basic movement patterns, but infinite variety within those patterns. Pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging and carrying pretty much cover the basics, and we can talk about rotation/anti-rotation as well. Putting your focus on achieving competency in those fundamental human movements is paramount to your success as an athlete looking to enhance your strength and skill development.
Simple Progression Rules - by Bret Contreras
It is of utmost importance that lifters, personal trainers, strength coaches and physical therapists know the optimum starting point and stairway to success in all the major lower body movement patterns. All lifters need to demonstrate proficiency at step one before moving onto step two. I can’t tell you how often I see lifters and coaches performing variations that are too challenging for them at the moment. I see them shifting, squirming, and leaking energy because their bodies cannot provide the dynamic stability or they don’t have the mobility necessary to allow for proper exercise performance. Rather than sticking with the challenging movement pattern and eventually “getting it,” I believe it is more advantageous to regress to an easier variation and eventually work back up to the more difficult variation once the simpler pattern is mastered. There are several rules of thumb that you should know about exercise progressions. In no particular order of importance, they are:
1. Bilateral before Unilateral - (squats before one legged squats) 2. Stable before Unstable - (parallel bar dips before ring dips) 3. Partial ROM before Full ROM - (elevated trap bar deadlifts before conventional deadlifts) 4. Bodyweight before Loading - (bodyweight squats before barbell squats) 5. Slow before Fast - (controlled strength & stability before momentum, speed and power) 6. Simple before Complex - (squats & deadlifts before snatches & cleans)
Check the video section at the link above for more exercise descriptions and tutorials. Several great resources are provided below to give you great information for getting started safely and correctly. Never increase the intensity until you are performing the simple movements satisfactorily. I also highly recommend you read the Strong Lifts 5x5 guide, as it is a preferred method for beginners to start weight training, and very similar to the Starting Strength guide by Rippetoe and Kilgore.
From Bret Contreras: The box squat is the key type of squat for laying the foundation for the squatting pyramid. When you know how to box squat, you know how to use your hips. When Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters are asked to perform deep squats, the weightlifters naturally use more quadriceps and less hip musculature, whereas the powerlifters naturally use more hip musculature and less quadriceps. Though strong quads are essential for proper squatting, most individuals are “quad-dominant” or perhaps more accurate, they are “hip-deficient.” When you teach the box squat, you’ll quickly realize that most lifters absolutely suck at sitting back in the squat.
The box squat is characterized by the following:
1. Ideally you have a box squat box that you can situate with the corner placing forward, which allows you to make contact with the calves and the box from a standing position for some proprioceptive feedback so you know you’re in the right place. If you don’t have a box squat box, then you can use a bench or some aerobic steps stacked to proper height. Most newbies can begin with a box height that has their thighs parallel to the ground when seated. 2. The lifter lines up with a fairly wide stance, usually with the feet flared. 3. The lift is initiated by imagining that an individual is behind the lifter with a rope around their waist pulling their hips rearward. The hip break comes first and the torso leans while the knees bend. 4. The knees do not migrate forward; the tibias stay vertical and perpendicular to the ground. 5. The knees are forced outward to prevent knee valgus and they track over the middle of the feet during the movement. 6. The chest is kept up to prevent spinal rounding. 7. The weight is kept on the heels. 8. The lifter has three options; he or she can simply tap the box and rise, or the lifter can sit for a second before initiating the rising motion, or the lifter can rock backward and then forward prior to performing the concentric portion of the movement. 9. The lifter does not plop down on the box; the eccentric motion is controlled all the way down for a soft landing. 10. The lifter never loses the spinal arch when seated. NEVER! 11. Squeeze the glutes to lockout.
The hip hinge is an essential component to long-term lifting success. If you can’t hip hinge, then you won’t be able to squat, deadlift, good morning, bent over row, kettlebell swing, or bent over rear delt raise properly. The hip hinge requires adequate spinal and pelvic stability and hip flexion mobility/hamstring flexibility. Grooving proper bending patterns takes some time, but perfect practice makes perfect. There are two good methods for teaching the hip hinge. The first is the wall Romanian deadlift (RDL), and the second is the dowel hip hinge.
1. The lifter positions himself or herself approximately 6 -12 inches in front of a wall with a shoulder width stance and feet straight forward. 2. The head and neck stay in line with the body which requires the gaze of the lifter to look down as the movement descends. 3. The lifter sits back and envisions having glue on the buttocks while trying to capture hundred dollar bills that are stuck to the wall. 4. The knees bend but the hamstrings are stretched as the movement descends due to lengthening at the hip and a good low back arch and anterior pelvic tilt. 5. The weight is kept on the heels. 6. The chest stays up to prevent spinal rounding.
1. A dowel, broomstick, or pvc pipe is held behind the back while the lifter stands upright with a shoulder width stance and feet straight forward. 2. One arm is placed behind the low back and grasps a hold of the dowel, while the other arm is placed behind the neck and grasps a hold of the dowel. The curves in the lumbar and cervical spines create perfect grooves to allow the hands to sink into. 3. The dowel has three points of contact; the head, the thoracic spine, and the sacrum. 4. The lifter bends forward while sitting back and keeping the chest up. The dowel maintains the three points of contact throughout the duration of the movement. 5. All good with two legs? Now try the same form with one leg while keeping the non- grounded leg straight and in line with the torso. You’ll have to remind yourself to “sit back” while on one leg Single Leg Dowel RDL - video
This is the most basic, simplest and most effective training program available for the average trainee to begin their strength building journey. Simply train 3-4 days a week alternating between workout A and B. Start light and easy and practice the techniques in the videos and descriptions provided. Every week add just a few pounds to the bar and you will progress and change for the better every day you train.