Workout Tips

The 5 Most Intimidating Moves for a Weightlifting Beginner

Here's how to make these popular lifting exercises less daunting to a newbie.

Barbell Back Squat
Edgar Artiga / M+F Magazine

Edgar Artiga

So the New Year is upon us, and you’ve decided it’s finally time to put some serious muscle on your frame. You do your due diligence in signing up for a gym membership, but seeing all of the workout machines and tools leaves you feeling a bit intimidated. The thought of stepping into the free weight section is daunting enough, but actually performing some of the weight room's most popular lifts is downright frightening.

Here are five important moves that may seem overwhelming at first, but with the right instruction can be mastered in short time.

1. Squats

One of the most generally agreed upon result-producing movements is also one of the most intimidating when it comes to performing them correctly with weight. The most commonly used variation of a loaded squat is the back squat. When you're ready to give this king of legs exercises a try on your own, make sure to follow this checklist:

  • Start with an empty bar to master the correct form. Remember, form matters above anything. Once comfortable with movement, you can add a gradual load.
  • Set the bar holsters at just below shoulder-level, so you can easily remove and return the bar.
  • Make sure the bar rests on your upper back, not your neck.
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together to make the chest tall, and to support the load on your back. It’ll make things more comfortable.
  • Set your hands on the bar just outside shoulder-width, and apply more tension through your upper body by squeezing outwards on the bar with your hands.
  • Get into position by setting your feet at a comfortable width (this may take trial and error via a few bodyweight reps beforehand to determine).
  • Breathe in, hold it, and then squat “tall”—keep your heels on the ground at all times, spread the knees, and let the butt sit back and down. Aim to keep your torso as upright as you can, and focus on keeping the chin tucked the entire time.
  • Stay tight, and drive up through the full foot, exhaling near the very top of your rep.
  • Keep the reps low (5-6 reps per set) to ensure quality.

One more thing: If these cues give you a hard time, dumb things down by going to an easier lift that can prepare you for the back squat. The kettlebell goblet squat is a good option that will encourage a tall spine and enforce good form.

For access to exclusive fitness advice, interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!