POPSUGAR Fitness

8 Beginner Strength-Training Moves to Master

Jan 6 2014 - 3:06pm

Want to start a strength-training routine but don't know where to begin? Some of the most effective moves are the simplest or ones that build on the basics. Here are eight beginner strength-training moves you should master, along with tips and variations to make your workout even better!

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The Squat

The basic squat should be a normal part of your routine, since squats tone and strengthen your lower body: calves, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Improper form while doing squats can lead to knee pain or other discomfort; learn how to do a squat correctly — and try different variations to work all of your body — with our seven ways to work your lower body with squats [2].

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The Lunge

If you hate squats, chances are you're not a fan of lunges, either. But don't skip out on this move! Along with working your lower body, lunges also challenge your balance and core. When you lunge, make sure that your lowered knee doesn't touch the floor and also keep the upper knee parallel with your ankle, not past it. Read more on how to perfect different types of lunges here [3]. One of our faves is the curtsy lunge — it's great for toning your bum.

Source: Megan Wolfe Photography [4]

The Plank

The plank makes you sweat for a reason: it's a great all-over body workout that focuses on building a strong core. Common mistakes people make when in a plank position are rounding their spine or sinking in the pelvis, both of which make this move dangerous to your lower back if you aren't careful about your alignment. From classic plank to a walking dolphin plank, learn how to hold your plank stance the right way [5].

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The Sit-Up

A classic move from gym class, the sit-up works the abs and hip flexors through a wide range of motion. When doing sit-ups, remember not to lace your hands behind your head, which can put too much pressure on your spine and neck. Instead, place your hands behind your ears with palms facing forward, making sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor. Now that you've mastered the basic sit-up, here are three more sit-up variations [6] to challenge yourself.

The Push-Up

Push-ups get your heart pumping while working your arms, back, and chest. When my trainer first showed me how to do a push-up the right way, I realized how incorrect my form had been all along. When doing a push-up, make sure your arms are aligned, your belly button is sucked in, and your hands are steady with fingers spread out. Read more on what to remember when doing push-ups [7], and try these 14 push-up variations for a total-body workout [8].

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Triceps Dip

Triceps dips are a simple way to tone shoulders and upper arms, but while the move seems basic, it can be easy to do it incorrectly. Make sure you aren't rolling your shoulders forward [9], and don't just lift and lower your butt; focus on bending your elbows and strengthening your arms to ensure you're focusing on your triceps. Find out how to do a triceps dip here [10].

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The Bicep Curl

The bicep curl [11] is one of the most basic strength-training moves to master. Make sure you start with weights that allow you to keep proper form throughout your set; if you find yourself swaying back and forth while you're making a curl, try a lighter weight or stand in front of a wall, keeping your back straight while you do the exercise. Once you've gotten the hang of the bicep curl, try multitasking with lower-body moves (like a squat or lunge) to save time in the gym.

The Overhead Press

Another basic move for your upper body is the overhead press. Standing up while you complete this move works more of your body since you have to keep your core engaged, but if you find that standing is too hard, try doing the exercise while sitting on a chair or weight bench. To start, find two dumbbells that are at a weight you can safely lift over your head for eight to 12 reps (err on the safe side and start with lighter weights until you know which weight is right for you for this exercise). Read our instructions on how to do an overhead dumbbell press here [12].

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