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Squats, Deadlifts, Standing Press, Bench Press

Strength training with the “big four” exercises for gym longevity and to maintain your New Year’s resolution.

So here’s what happens: You look in the mirror, and say to yourself ” Why don’t I look like I did in high school? ” And you commit to getting your weight under control.
It’s no secret, right? All you have to do is move more and eat less, right??
So you join a gym -maybe a yoga-Pilates- body pump class and you go at it! You even outlast all the newbies who lose interest by February. You learn to train yourself harder then ever before. But then you tweak your back or your shoulder or a knee. Doc says to rest it. You do .
After awhile it gets better. But you aren’t in the same zone you were. Your energy is lower.
You leave the gym. “Sure,” you tell yourself, “you’ll go back.” One day. Problem is it takes till next January when you wonder yet again where your high school body went.
So you go back to the gym. Maybe this time the weight doesn’t come off so easily. So you work a little harder. Maybe you buy a px90. Or commit to 90 consecutive days of hot yoga. By March you are hurt. Or just spent. So you stop.
Sound familiar? Happens to all of us. Happened to me.
“Next year I am really goin’ out for a rip, bud!” You are in a never ending spiral of trading off more effort for less gains resulting in injury/loss of enthusiasm/sickness. You’ve fried your adrenals. You have become a pool of cortisol.
Would it shock you to hear that that’s exactly where they want you to be?
Who’s they?
You know- THEM. The ones who want you to be sick and fat and spend your money on what they tell you to.
There is no end to this assault via the fitness marketing machine-
” Have you tried this diet?”
” Have you heard of that workout or class?”
” You need to run 4 miles a day to lose fat.”
” If you’re not doing this you aren’t working hard enough!”
How do you cut through all the noise? Could there really be a simple solution?

Squats, deadlifts, standing press, bench.
These are the core movements that all others come from.
There is nothing that these exercises cannot accomplish when properly implemented. Fat loss? Yup. Spine stability? Check. Power? Size? Uh-huh. core strength? Don’t make me laugh! These are the best core strengtheners on the planet. Think about it: you are a quarter back on a football team. Who would you rather have on your defensive line? The guy who won the Crossfit games? Or Dave Tate? ( dude, you want Dave Tate- and he doesn’t spend much time on a Bosu ball).
In fact I’d go as far as to say that every exercise from a “core” or “functional fitness” program is designed in vain to somehow replace these big four exercises.(disclaimer: I could be wrong on that, don’t quote me). But after 32 years working with weights, I can honestly say no exercises will ever be as effective as squats, deadlifts, bench press and standing press.
So why not do them If they replace hundreds of other less effective exercises?
Excuse #1

“Oh I can’t squat because of my knees.”
Probably not true. In fact I fix a lot of knees with deep squats. Knees are a funny thing and yes, You absolutely can injure a knee squatting improperly. But a full squat- performed below parallel, where the hamstring covers the calf, has been proven to remove forces from the knee, and activate the relative musculature properly , creating proper tracking and stability.
Excuse #2

“Deadlifts are bad for your back”

Nope. They are not. When performed correctly, They are damn good for your back and hips and arms and…you get the point-
Excuse #3

“I do 16 variations of lateral raises so I do not need to perform a standing press.”
It’s important to assess proper shoulder function and train the musculature properly. But if you cannot perform a standing press with proper form, it is an indication of a dysfunction. Get an assessment from a qualified pro.
Maybe you are just afraid of a bar over your head. If that’s the case then you need to develop some self confidence. May I suggest standing press for your confidence?
Excuse #4

“I heard Bench press could be bad my shoulder if I touch my chest with the bar.”
Elbow and shoulder dysfunction comes largely from range variations of the bench press that do not allow for the proper musculature to be engaged through a full range of motion. The half range bench press( the one performed to 90 degrees of elbow flexion) is just such a dangerous movement.
Excuse #5

” I don’t want to get bulky.”
First of all- you do want hypertrophy. Trust me. There’s parts that should get bigger. Who doesn’t want a killer ass? But as far as becoming the next Ronnie Coleman…You won’t. Making muscles bigger is a matter of volume intensity and time. It takes a lot of intention. However, keeping the weight relatively high (65-95% of single repetition max), and the rest relatively long (3-8 minutes), is no recipe for muscle mass. Strength yes. Mass, no.


Bringing it home:

I don’t want to make it sound like these exercises are easy. It is difficult to show up for your workout, and get your reps in. Very few people can do it consistently.

“Life is hard,  just by being in it.”-Louis C.K.

So why not give yourself every advantage by allowing yourself to reduce the intensity? If there was a way of reducing your intensity and increasing your fat loss would you do it?
All of these movements are total body exercises that when done properly train correct movement , produce a favorable hormone environment [and therefore fat loss environment] and therefor reduce injury risk and increase strength.

Take the time to learn these movements. Properly implement them into your routine. Make them the center piece of your training. They’ll make everything else better.


author: ryanbooth