The Big Three – Part 0

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The “Big Three” are three exercises that have been deemed by the world of Powerlifters as the essential movements by which to gauge strength. They are compound movements done with a barbell and consist of the Deadlift, the Squat and the Benchpress. Now there is much debate on why these exercises should be praised so highly and to anyone who trains in any other sport other than Powerlifting, an argument can be made that training these movements will not help you and in fact will be detrimental. I’d like to argue that there is much to gain from learning to do these movements well. The typical reason would be to gain muscle and get bigger and stronger. However, women especially and athletes can also benefit from regularly doing heavy deadlifts, squats and yes, the loved and hated benchpress.

This will be a three-part series detailing each of the movements. Why do them, potentially why not, key pointers on doing them correctly and what vital reminders to keep in mind. While they will not be full guides on how to do them (if you’re a complete beginner, please find a coach to teach you properly), we will offer an overview aimed more at the intermediate fitness enthusiast and link to resources and other videos that go further in-depth on each movement. But before getting to all that, why do you even want to do these lifts? Why do you even lift? Do you even lift?

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Now before we completely alienate our female audience with pictures of Arnold and Dom, like I said, women have much to gain from strength training with these three compound movements. As Mark’s article outlined earlier this week, strength is a key component to looking good. And if as a female, you’re concerned about getting too bulky, let me break it down. Training to get stronger will build leaner more powerful muscle. This raises your basal metabolic rate, which will burn fat faster. This is will result in the ever elusive “toned” look. If you need any more convincing, read Staci’s story.

In addition, doing the Deadlift, Squat and Benchpress properly will keep the body in good proportion. These are primal movements that aid in every day activities such as opening doors and picking things up off the ground. Especially when these things are socks I am taking out of the dryer and bringing upstairs. Ensuring you have the flexibility to do these movements will keep your body moving optimally and keep the bigger muscles doing their job (exerting force) and smaller muscles doing theirs (supporting and stabilizing your joints). Sorry Dom, no curls today.

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With this in mind, there is a balance to strike between getting your numbers up (increasing your 1 rep max for each exercise) and neglecting other important elements of training. This is a great article that points out an often misguided reason for training the big three is ego. While the article states that many people have let this blindly push them to injury, it instead offers alternate exercises to replace the original three to avoid pain. I whole-heartedly disagree with this approach. While the alternate exercises can be used as progression-tools, fixing the root issue is a better long-term approach to alleviate these pains. If you can’t deadlift fearing back pain, how will you pick up a dropped shampoo bottle in the bath tub?

Our articles aim to help solve the issues you might be having. If you’re having none, hopefully a few key reminders from us will allow you to reach a new Personal Record. And if you’re not doing these movements at all, it’s about time to get started. Stay tuned for Part 1, the Deadlift.

And here are Part 2, the Squat and Part 3, the Bench Press.

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