If you are starting weight training, it can be a big jump for some. Once you have made that commitment to start, it is important to start at the right level depending on your experience and abilities.
Your end goal might be to be able to lift X amount doing bench press/squats/deadlifts. To reach that goal, you have to learn the fundamental movement patterns required to execute these movements safely and correctly.
What you should not do is start straight away with a barbell, loading it up with weight and trying to increase your weight until you reach failure.
Fundamental Movement Patterns
If you are starting as a novice, or even have experience but have plateaued, you should have mastered the following four Fundamental Movement Patterns before starting your strength training.
Push Ups: If you can’t push your own body weight off the floor then you will not have the stability, mobility or strength to perform a bench press. Master this movement first, working on the eccentric portion (the lowering) where you are at your strongest, then progress to more advanced positions and weighted push ups. This will get you strong and confident enough to perform a bench press without injuring yourself.
Hip Hinge: This can be the most complex move to master but is vital to be being able to deadlift without hurting your back. The hip hinge is a ‘single joint roll’ that requires you to maintain a neutral posture. This is best learnt with a stick held on your back to maintain your posture as you hinge forwards. If you break one of the 3 points of contact (back of head, upper back and lower back), you may need to work on technique or mobility.
Squat: The best way to learn to squat I have found is the “Box Squat.” This simplifies the movement and encourages the correct movement pattern whilst letting you confirm the depth of your squat. The two main points to remember when doing the box squat is “hips back, knees out.” Once you can do this successfully with your bodyweight, you can progress onto a goblet squat before using a barbell.
Lunge: Learning how to do a unilateral movement like the lunge is important as it will show up any differences in strength or mobility on either side of your body. The best way to learn this is by starting from the bottom. Set yourself up on the floor in the optimal position: front shin vertical and neutral posture (you can use a stick as a reminder to maintain neutral posture or hold one to the side for balance). Perform these lunges on the spot before progressing to slow eccentric lunges, reverse stepping lunges and weighted lunges.
Mastering these four movements will set you up for success and build a solid strength foundation, helping you master strength training with a barbell without injuring yourself in the process, because you will have learnt the correct development first. Building a strong foundation for compound movements is what builds lasting strength, as opposed to vanity training which comes and goes.