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close up of a man ready to deadlift a weighted bar

Strength Training: The Big Three  


When it comes to lifting and training throughout life, there are many different methods. There are complex programs where you may feel you need an exercise science degree to understand what is going on, and there are programs where you walk in and do the same thing every single day. But nothing makes training as effective and simple as training the big 3 lifts: Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. 



When it comes to squatting, it is the pattern of motion that is the most simplistic in daily life. We sit down to eat with our families. We squat to duck under tree branches walking on trails. We even come out of the bottom of a squat to get out of bed in the morning. So why not perfect this pattern by adding weight to motion? As we age, this motion begins to get harder because our muscles and bones begin to become weaker, but the common theme that will arise here is, strength training the squat makes you stronger and able to do the activities you longer. Having one day dedicated to working the squat can help stave of some of the negatives of aging in your body.  



The bench press follows suit with the squat. Benching helps with overall upper body strength and allows you to strengthen your bones and muscles through repeated weight training. Getting in the gym to strengthen your bench-pressing ability at least twice a weak can help maintain and grow your strength. Over time, the transition in overall ability will help lead to stamina and work capacity improvements in the upper body, as well as overall more ability to do movements adjacent to the bench press, such as lift with your arms, pushing the grocery cart, or getting up from the ground. 



Finally, the deadlift. This lift has the reputation of being the exercise that does the most damage, but that is simply not true. The deadlift helps both teach the body and the mind that we can do much more than we limit ourselves to. It is the hardest lift, but with repeated effort and implementation, the exercise will help lead to muscle development and reinforced patterns that will benefit a person in their everyday life. From pick your kids up to hold them to simply standing up straight, the deadlift affords the lifter to much more untapped potential that was is normally perceived. These benefits can be seen by simply adding one day into the week of lifting dedicated to this lift, no matter how it is done. 


Now when it comes to training these lifts, they do not need to be approached by just doing them all on a barbell with as much weight possible loaded on. Variations and weight fluctuations can play a key role. For example, changing the squat to any of the various machines and equipment we have in our 13 metro Omaha YMCA wellness floors to accommodate injury or fatigue will drastically help any individual reach their goal. Exercises like box squats, perfect squat machines, or even leg press will help engrain the pattern and create muscle growth stimulation. For bench, this would be chest press machines, dumbbell press, or even a simple push up. Deadlift can be modified to just picking up a kettlebell, doing kettlebell swings, or even holding a band with tension from the floor and standing up straight.  


Ultimately, the goal is to do everything in one’s power to stave off the effect of aging and stay strong as long as they can so life is enjoyable. There are many options out there, squatting, benching, and deadlifting are great options, and all it takes is giving it a try and committing to yourself to accomplish your goals.

Need assistance with how to perform these lifts correctly and safely? Chat with one of our friendly wellness staff members!



Matthew Sundling, Charles E. Lakin YMCA Health & Wellness Director

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