Strength Training With Proper Form: Advice (And Video Links) From An Athletic Trainer

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

When it comes to gaining muscle strength there are numerous ways to work out. From traditional Olympic lifts, single muscle lifts to newer and trendy Cross Fit style strength training, the sky’s the limit to what you can do to gain strength.

So today’s post is going to focus on basic lifting and technique in order to give you a springboard into the world of muscle strength training.

Note: It is important to make sure you have gained basic strength and balance before branching into the world of explosive training. Only once you are sure of your strength and balance should you attempt to flip however many tires, whip ropes or rotate planks to your heart’s desire!

And make sure you have checked with your physician to make sure strength training is safe for you and your medical status.

Okay, disclaimers are over. Here’s what I want to share with you:

Today I am going to list off basic strength training exercises for each muscle group, list the muscles that are trained and link you to a visual aid to show you how to complete each exercise.

Remember these are standard strength training exercises, very basic and straightforward. They will allow you to begin to improve your strength.

Basics for Every Exercise
·         Always make sure to keep your core engaged, which means chest up (as if a string is pulling your breast bone to the ceiling) and belly button pulled in towards your spine and feet shoulder width apart for balance.

·         When completing lower body activities requiring knee bends, the knee never should cross over (stick out beyond) your toes.

·         When lifting dumbbells or weighted bars, having a spotter is smart. You don’t want to drop the weight and hurt yourself. Heaven forbid you have a bar with 200 lbs resting on your chest until someone happens to find you!

·         Finally, if it causes pain stop. Expect some soreness when beginning weight training or after increasing you weight loads. 

Ok, now… How much weight should I be lifting?

Start slowly and be patient.

·         First, begin with your own body weight. Make sure you can properly execute the chosen lift with proper form.

·         Only after you have mastered the technique, begin to add weight.

·         Before increasing weight, you should be able to complete 3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions, with the last few reps of each set being challenging.

·         You can also “max out” this means adding weight and seeing the maximum amount of weight you can move one time. HAVE A SPOTTER if you “max out”!

·         Once you determine your max, you want to train at 80-90 percent of your max in order to increase strength. To increase endurance aim for 60-75 percent of your max.

If this is totally confusing, consider using a gym and take advantage of the personal trainers. Make sure they have certifications and ask for references. (American College of Sports Medicine, Certified personal trainer, NSCA CSCS certification, Hammer Smith, etc.)

Standard Weight Training Exercises

So… here goes my list of standard weight training exercises.  Click the exercise for a link with visual directions.

Squats: Gluteus Maximus, quadriceps
                Alternate 1: bodyweight
Lunges: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings
Hamstring curls: Hamstring 
Lateral squats  Hip adductors, gluteus maximus, quadriceps
Toe raises: gastrocnemius, soleus
Crunches: rectus abdominus 
Sit ups: rectus abdominus 
Planks abdominals, deltoids, quadriceps 
Oblique crunches: internal/external oblique, iliopsoas 
Back Extensions: Erector spinae
Bent over row: Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids, middle trapezius
Dumbell Flys: Pectoralis
Reversed flys: Middle trapezius
Upward rows: Upper traps and with wide grip, middle deltoids
Lateral/side raises: Posterior (back) Mid Deltoids
Front raises:  Anterior (front)Deltoids
Pushups: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, serratus anterior and abdominals
                Alt pushup: beginner pushups
Military press/shoulder press: Anterior deltoids
                Alternate 1: tricep kickbacks
Dips: Triceps
Bicep curls: Biceps
Forearm curls: flex and extend.  Brachioradialis, pronator teres, flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris  longus, flexor digitorum superficialis, pronator quadratus,  flexor policis longus, flexor digitorum profundus, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum

For a full body diagram of all muscles, click here

Whew, alright guys and gals, that should give you some homework to complete. Don’t be afraid to try new exercises and gain some lean muscle mass.

Stay healthy my friends!

For Jessica’s previous posts about fitness, use the blog’s search box, above on the right, and type in Jessica Poole.

To learn more about Gwinnett Medical Center’s complete sports medicine program, including our Running Clinic, visit


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