Blog Fitness Foundational Exercises For Strength And Stability

Foundational Exercises For Strength And Stability

The benefits of weight training are well-documented. Not only can lifting weights lead to greater physical strength, but it can also result in better mental health, improved bone density, and fat loss (4).

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But before you start loading up the barbell you need to master some basic exercises that will build a foundation for a strong and stable body. These will help you develop the strength, mobility, and control that you need to stay safe and injury-free while you’re lifting weights.

Executing these exercises with proper form is essential, as improper technique will mean you take longer to see results and might even have to start from scratch if you get injured.

The good news is you won’t have to work with a qualified personal trainer or fitness coach to ensure that you’re doing these exercises correctly. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to show you how to master the six most important foundational exercises for strength and stability.

Foundation Exercise 1. The Deadlift

The deadlift is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it an incredibly efficient way to build strength. It primarily targets the muscles in your posterior chain, which includes your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back (1).

Deadlifts can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells, and they can be done with conventional or sumo techniques. In general, most people will find that the conventional deadlift is easier to learn and perform, so we’ll focus on that variation here.

How to do it: 

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Bend at your hips and reach down to grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keeping your back straight, drive your heels into the ground and lift the barbell up until you’re standing upright. 
  4. Reverse the motion and lower the barbell back to the ground, then repeat.

Deadlift Variations

If you find the conventional deadlift difficult, you can try the sumo variation.This exercise is performed with a wider stance and a narrower grip, which can make it easier to keep your back straight.

To perform the sumo deadlift:

  1. Start by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly. 
  2. Grip the barbell with your hands closer together between your knees.
  3. Keeping your back straight, drive your heels into the ground and lift the barbell up until you’re standing upright. 
  4. Reverse the motion and lower the barbell back to the ground, then repeat.
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Read More: The Best Standing Core Exercises For Strength, Stability, And Function

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Foundation Exercise 2. The Squat

The squat is another compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It’s an incredibly effective way to build lower-body strength, and it also engages your core muscles to a significant degree (2).

Squats can be performed with or without weight, but using resistance will help you see results more quickly. If you’re new to squatting, start without weight to get a feel for the movement, then progress to using a barbell or dumbbells when you’re ready.

Here. We’ll focus on the basic barbell squat.

How to do it:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it across your upper back.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. 
  4. Drive through your heels to stand upright, then repeat.

Squat Variations

If you find the basic squat challenging, you can try one of the following variations:

1. The front squat: 

This exercise is performed with the barbell positioned across the front of your shoulders, rather than your upper back. This position can be harder to maintain, so it’s generally recommended for more experienced lifters.

To perform the front squat:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it across the front of your shoulders.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. 
  4. Drive through your heels to stand upright, then repeat.

foundational exercises

2. The overhead squat: 

This exercise is performed with the barbell positioned overhead, rather than on your back or shoulders. This position requires a great deal of shoulder and core stability, making it one of the most challenging squat variations.

To perform the overhead squat:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it overhead.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. 
  4. Drive through your heels to stand upright, then repeat.

3. The Goblet squat: 

This exercise is performed with a dumbbell held at chest level. This position makes the squat easier to perform, as it’s more stable than holding the weight in your hands.

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To perform the goblet squat:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip a dumbbell with both hands and hold it at chest level
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Drive your heels through, stand upright, then repeat.

4. The Bulgarian split squat: 

This exercise is performed with one foot elevated on a bench or other surface behind you. This position puts additional emphasis on the working leg, making it a great exercise for targeting muscle imbalances.

To perform the Bulgarian split squat:

  1. Start by standing in front of a bench or other surface that you can place your foot on. 
  2. Position your left foot on the surface behind you, then bend your knees and lower your body down until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Drive through with your right heel to stand upright, then repeat.

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Foundation Exercise 3. The Pull

“Pulls” are a class of exercises that involve moving a weight from a lower position to an upper position, using your back and arm muscles. The most common pull exercise is the row. It also includes exercises that require you to pull your body toward a fixed object, such as a pull-up or chin-up.

To execute pull movements, you need to stabilize your torso while contracting your back and arm muscles to move the weight. This combination of stability and contraction is what makes pull exercises so effective at building strength and muscle (3).

1. The Row

The row is a staple exercise for targeting the back muscles. It can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or a resistance band.

To perform the row:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it at waist level.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s parallel to the ground. 
  4. From this position, drive through your heels and row the barbell up to your chest. 
  5. Lower it back down and repeat.

2. The Pull-Up

The pull-up is an exercise that requires you to lift your entire body weight up to a bar overhead. It’s a great exercise for targeting the back and arm muscles.

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To perform the pull-up:

  1. Start by grasping a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Hang from the bar with your feet off the ground and your knees slightly bent.
  3. From this position, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. 
  4. Lower yourself back down and repeat.

3. The Chin-Up

The chin-up is similar to the pull-up, but it’s performed with your palms facing toward you. This position puts less emphasis on the back muscles and more on the biceps.

To perform the chin-up:

  1. Start by grasping a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing toward you. 
  2. Hang from the bar with your feet off the ground and your knees slightly bent.
  3. From this position, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. 
  4. Lower yourself back down and repeat.

foundational exercises

4. The Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a great exercise for targeting the back muscles, particularly the lats. It can be performed with a cable machine or resistance band.

To perform the lat pulldown:

  1. Start by sitting at a lat pulldown machine or attaching a resistance band to a sturdy object. 
  2. Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it above your head.
  3. Keeping your back straight, lean back and pull the bar down to your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Read More: 12 Of The Best Bodyweight Tricep Exercises

Foundation Exercise 4. The Push

Pushing exercises are the opposite of pulling exercises. Instead of moving a weight from a lower position to an upper position, you’re moving it from an upper position to a lower position.

The most common pushing exercise is the press, which can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine. Push exercises also include those that require you to push your body away from a fixed object, such as a push-up.

Pushing exercises require you to stabilize your torso while contracting your chest, shoulder, and arm muscles to move the weight. This combination of stability and contraction is what makes push exercises so effective at building strength and muscle.

1. The Press

The press is a staple exercise for targeting the shoulder and chest muscles. It can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine.

The overhead press is a compound exercise that works the deltoids, triceps, and upper pectorals.

To perform the overhead press:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip a barbell or dumbbells with your hands shoulder-width apart and position them at shoulder level.
  3. From this position, press the weight overhead until your arms are straight. Lower it back down to the starting position and repeat.
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The chest press is a variation of the press that targets the chest muscles.

To perform a chest press:

  1. Start by lying on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. 
  2. Grip a barbell or dumbbells with your hands shoulder-width apart and position them at chest level.
  3. From this position, press the weight up until your arms are straight. Lower it back down to the starting position and repeat.

The difference between the shoulder press and the overhead press is that the former is performed while seated and the latter is performed standing.

To perform a shoulder press:

  1. Start by sitting on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. 
  2. Grip a barbell or dumbbells with your hands shoulder-width apart and position them at shoulder level.
  3. From this position, press the weight up until your arms are straight. Lower it back down to the starting position and repeat.

foundational exercises

2. The Push-Up

The push-up is a bodyweight exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and arms. It can be performed with your hands on the ground or in an elevated position.

To perform a push-up:

  1. Start by lying face down on the ground with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet together. 
  2. Keeping your back straight, push yourself up until your arms are straight. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat.

3. The Triceps Pushdown

The triceps pushdown is an exercise that targets the triceps muscles. It can be performed with a cable machine or resistance band.

To perform the triceps pushdown:

  1. Start by attaching a resistance band or cable to a sturdy object. 
  2. Grip the band or cable with your hands shoulder-width apart and position it at shoulder level.
  3. Keeping your back straight, lean forward and push the band or cable down until your arms are straight. 
  4. Keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the movement. 
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

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The Top 5 Abs Exercises You Should Be Doing For A Six-Pack

foundational exercises

Foundation Exercise 5. The Carry

The carry is an exercise that targets the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and core. It’s the simplest of the foundation exercises, but don’t let that fool you—it’s extremely effective at building strength and stability.

In day to day life, we are constantly lifting and carrying objects. The carry is designed to mimic this movement pattern and help build the strength and stability needed for everyday life.

The farmer’s carry is the most common type of carry, and it can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells.

To perform a farmers carry:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip a weight in each hand with an overhand grip and let them hang at arm’s length by your sides.
  3. From this position, lift the weights off the ground and walk forward. Keep your shoulders down and your core engaged throughout the movement.

The overhead carry is another variation of the carry that targets the shoulder muscles.

To perform an overhead carry

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 
  2. Grip a weight in each hand with an overhand grip and position them at shoulder level.
  3. From this position, lift the weights off the ground and press them overhead. Walk forward while keeping your shoulders down and your core engaged.

foundational exercises

Foundation Exercise 6. The Lunge

The lunge is an exercise that targets the muscles of the legs, hips, and core. It’s a great exercise for building lower body strength and stability.

There are many variations of the lunge, but the most common is the forward lunge.

To perform a forward lunge:

  1. start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides. 
  2. Step forward with your right foot and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is just above the ground.
  3. From this position, press through your front heel to return to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat with the left leg.

Lunges can also be performed in a backward, lateral, or rotational direction.

The Bottom Line

Foundational exercises are essential for building strength and stability. They should be a staple in any workout routine, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete.

If you’re new to exercise, start with the bodyweight exercises and work your way up to using dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. Focus on quality over quantity and make sure to keep your form in check.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 9 Benefits of Deadlifts (2021, origympersonaltrainercourses.co.uk)
  2. How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading (2018, nih.gov)
  3. Pulling Exercises (n.d., gymless.org)
  4. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health (2012, nih.gov)
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