Why You Should Focus on the Three Big Lifts If you have spent some time in the gym, you have probably heard someone mention, “the three big lifts”. For a powerlifter, their strength sport is focused on these three lifts: the bench press, squat and deadlift. However, you do not have to be a powerlifter to incorporate these three dynamic movements into your workout program. In fact, if your fitness goals involve building muscle and shredding body fat, these three lifts will give you the most bang for your buck. Bench Press Bench Press is the king of upper body lifts. A bench press increases your upper body strength, improving the overall amount you can push/press. In addition to building the chest muscle (pec major and minor), it also builds the upper back, lats, delts and triceps. Ladies, this movement is not just for the guys. Whether you want to build muscle size or simply tone your upper body, this compound movement allows you to hit multiple muscle groups at the same time. Many people are afraid to attempt the bench press or steer clear of it due to a previous injury incurred while performing this exercise (usually due to poor form). While form can differ (e.g. bodybuilder vs. powerlifter), in general, it is important to “tuck” your elbows towards the bench during the movement and keep your wrist straight throughout. Take a deep breath at the top of the lift, contract your abs and squeeze your gluteus. Squat If you want bigger, more defined legs, you need to add the squat to your workout program. This movement is one of the most athletic exercises you can perform. When done with correct form and under a load, it has the potential to make you stronger and more mobile both in and out of the gym. The squat incorporates many major muscle groups (not just your legs): upper back, abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, thigh adductors and calves. While there are many variations of a squat, the most common is a barbell squat. The barbell is held with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip (typically). The position of the barbell – a low-bar or high-bar squat – will depend on personal preference, mobility and body composition; this is also true for the lifter’s feet placement. Other variations of the squat include: the front squat, overhead squat, bodyweight squat, hack squat, Bulgarian split squat (unilateral movement), among many others. Deadlift The deadlift. It can seem so intimidating for the new lifter, but this movement is one of the best for building total-body strength, burning fat, increasing size and athleticism and improving your posture. Another compound movement, the deadlift incorporates the quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back, traps, adductors, gluteus, abdominals, upper back, calves and oblique. A deadlift with good form involves feet hip-width apart (unless your performing a sumo deadlift), and your back should be flat. The barbell should remain in contact with your legs for the entire range of motion. If your spine rounds or hips and knees fail to move in unison, the weight is probably too heavy. Focus on moving efficiently and with good form first, and then slowly add weight as your strength increases. By now, you have probably grasped why the three big lifts are so important for overall strength and muscle mass. Remember: form is everything. Each of these movements will require practice, but over time you will be able to add weight and see incredible results.