The 3 big lifts at the gym – the bench press, squat, and deadlift – are among the best options available for building size and strength. The sport of powerlifting is based solely on completing these three controlled, heavy lifts, whilst Olympic weightlifting focuses on performing two ballistic lifts overhead known as the ‘Clean and Jerk’, and the ‘Snatch’.
While there are many weightlifting exercises, the Big 3 lifts – bench press, squat and deadlift – provide the best results at the gym.
One reason they are so effective is they are compound exercises, involving multiple muscle groups and a variety of joints. Isolation exercises train individual muscles or small muscle groups (biceps, triceps, etc.) while compound exercises build up size, strength and power while improving athletic ability. While you cannot target every muscle group using only these three moves, you can build up a very strong and powerful foundation. The Big Three include:
The deadlift is the most complete (full body) movement out of all weight training exercises: they work your entire back including your lats, your lower back, your rhomboids, and rear delts. Deadlifts strengthen your posterior chain including your hamstrings and glutes, developing both strength and muscle mass. They are vital for increasing your grip strength and, to a lesser degree, work your biceps, building solid core strength while training virtually ALL of your pulling muscles.
“How much do you bench?” You’ll hear that question often as the bench press is known as the king of chest and upper body exercises. Bench presses, when done correctly with a heavy weight, will work your pecs (pectoralis major), all 3 heads of your triceps and your anterior delts (the muscles on the front of your shoulders). Bench pressing is the best exercise to increase your overall upper body size and strength: remember to focus on heavy training, controlled, smooth movements and ALWAYS use a spotter for safety.
SQUAT (Front Squat)
Unless you are training specifically for powerlifting events, choose the front squat over the back squat. Front squats are safer for you and your lower back, if something goes wrong, drop the barbell forward as you quickly step back. But more importantly, front squats blast your quads (thighs) while also training your core and abs and will help you to develop strong abs and a solid midsection without the need for countless sit-ups.
Final words on the 3 Lifts You Must Do At The Gym
Your body works as a system, therefore the best way to train your body is as a complete system rather than a series of isolated body parts. Compound lifts engage and train the largest muscle groups in your body, as well as many of the supporting muscles required for stabilizing the barbell.
Engaging these largest muscle groups can also stimulate a more pronounced hormonal response. By performing these big three compound lifts that stress your biggest muscles, you can stimulate your body to release more growth hormones and testosterone, boosting the results of your workout.