As we wrap up the holiday season, there’s usually something on a lot of our minds this time of year… New Year’s resolutions! Fitness and getting back in shape are some of the most common goals this time of year. And of course, that makes sense after all the delicious food we’ve all consumed over the past few weeks.
To start your New Year off right, with the fitness goals you want in mind, I’d like to fill you in on why you shouldn’t ignore barbells and strength training in the New Year. We’ve also included a Christmas workout for you to focus on to start your New Year’s resolution off right!
Avoid This Mistake
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a New Year’s Resolutioner is to avoid strength and barbell training. No matter what your goals are, there are lots of benefits to be had from training with heavy barbells and applying the principles of progressive overload.
Raw strength has a massive carry-over into almost everything you will do in your life, whether it be longevity, health, or avoiding injury. Strength plays a vital role in all of these things. Strength can be built with time and dedication in the gym and will help you out in almost all physical aspects of your life.
Get A Head Start & Know Your Space
If you’re going to start training at the gym as a New Year’s Resolutioner, I would strongly encourage you to start now and beat the crowds by a couple of weeks. By doing this, it would give you a jump start on learning how to work out properly. In this time, you’ll also learn which equipment you like and which will help you in your fitness journey, as well as which equipment will not be as helpful.
It will be beneficial for you to have a general feeling for the gym before it becomes extremely packed with people. Likewise, it will be much easier for you to learn the barbell movements without crowds breathing down your neck.
Recommended Movements for Beginners
Some of the important movements we would recommend most for beginners are the barbell back squat, barbell deadlift, and barbell overhead press. Through these three movements alone, you can build a foundation of strength throughout the entire body.
The back squat will heavily work the muscles of your legs, your core, and stabilizers throughout the movement.
The barbell deadlift works the entire body but is great for the muscles of the posterior chain.
Barbell Overhead Press
Last but not least, the barbell overhead press will be what drives upper body strength and progression.
As someone who works in the trades, I am constantly encountering people who have destroyed their bodies with injuries that would have been completely preventable with strength training and the benefits that come with it.
It is very common for people to injure themselves by picking things up off the ground. Someone who deadlifts regularly is a lot better suited to keeping good form while picking up heavy objects. This will also help to prevent bad habits such as rounding your back and lifting with your spine instead of properly hinging your hips and driving the weight up with your legs.
The more you train the squat and deadlift, the easier it will become to move around everyday objects and bend down and pick things up, as starting strength coach Mark Rippetoe says, “Strength is never a weakness.”
Christmas Workout for Beginners
A good workout to get you started on the basic barbell movements would be a simple “5 x 5” program that has you lifting a minimum of three times a week. This program takes advantage of beginner progression and also uses basic progressive overload to strengthen you and to allow you to become more efficient at the movements over time.
The main focus of these movements is to increase the weight every week on your squat, deadlift, and overhead press by 5 pounds. The goal will be to do 5 sets of 5 reps on 1 main movement per workout and increase the weight used by 5 pounds every workout. Once the weight becomes too heavy and you start to miss reps, you will simply do one less set to maintain progression and the ability to add 5 pounds to the bar every workout.
So, for example, if you fail to get 5 reps on your last set of deadlifts with 135lbs, for your next workout, you will do 4 sets of 5 with 140 instead of 5 sets of 5. If you fail again, you would do 3 sets of 5 and so on. You will just lower the volume when necessary to allow for continuous progression in weight.
Although the barbell movements are the focus of that program, accessory movements are equally important. In the following workout breakdown, I will include some of my favorite accessories, as well as why I do them.
Week 1 of Christmas Workout
– Squat 5×5
– Hamstring curls 4×10
– Quad extensions 4×10
– Crunches 3×20
– Deadlifts 5×5
– Lat pulldowns 5×10
– Hammer curl 3×12
– Single-arm dumbbell row 5×8
– Overhead press 5×5
– Tricep extensions 5×10
– Face pulls 3×10
– Dumbbell flat bench 5×8
Week 2 of Christmas Workout
– Squat 5×5 (+5 lbs from the previous week)
– Romanian deadlifts 3×10
– Close stance leg press 3×12
– Leg raises 4×10
Deadlifts 5×5 (+5 lbs from the previous week)
Barbell curl 4×10
T bar row 3×10
Assisted pullups/pullups 4x (as many reps as possible)
– Overhead press 5×5 (+5lbs from the previous week)
– Close grip bench 3×8
– Face pulls 4×8
– Dips/assisted dips 4x (as many reps as possible)
Tips & Tricks To Follow
– The accessories are not intended to be a big focus of the program, however, they should not be ignored either. They function to help you gain strength toward your main lifts and activate muscle groups that may not see as much fatigue during the barbell movements.
– Doing some kind of hamstring movement on your squat day will help you balance out your legs and prevent you from becoming overly quad dominant.
– Hamstring curls on a lying hamstring curl machine are an excellent exercise and one that has been a staple of my routine for years and years. Pair this with quad extensions on a seated leg extension machine, and this will be a great way to finish your leg workout.
– On deadlift day, similarly to how we picked the leg accessories, all the accessory movements trained will be done with the specific goal of hitting muscle groups that may not have been the primary movers and helping to drive progress on the main lift.
– Lat pull-downs are a great movement to hit the lat muscles and are a great exercise to add volume to any back workout.
– Curl movements are always a good idea to train your biceps, and having strong biceps will be an important link in any pulling exercise.
– Single-arm dumbbell rows are a staple for me in my exercise routine. I believe they are one of the best exercises for building strength in the upper back, traps, and forearms.
The accessory work I suggested are movements I use daily to prevent injury, promote joint health, and promote strength gains. Doing the right accessory work is just as important as the main movements and, if used correctly, can have a massive carry-over into your main barbell movements.
Barbell strength and conditioning will allow you to go through body recomposition that you cannot accomplish with cardio alone. You will be able to tone and tighten your body along with losing weight in the process. Not only will you look better, but you will also feel better, be healthier, and have more energy for your day-to-day life.
The gym also can serve as a great stress reliever and a way to let out any negative energy that has accumulated through the workday. There is really no downside to barbell training and any new gym-goer should implement this into their New Year’s routine. Additionally, any current gym-goer who is not currently implementing barbell training should be encouraged to start. Everyone starts somewhere. Let the New Year be the beginning for you.
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