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Weight training answers for beginners.


Coach Kenneth Rippetoe


Health, Fitness, and Beauty

Kenneth is the founder and head coach of One with the Water, a nonprofit swim school that offers need-based scholarships to children with special needs, adults, low-income families, and service-disabled Veterans. He is a certified US Paralympic Disabilities Swim Coach and a strength and conditioning coach.

There's a wealth of conflicting information out there on the topic of weight training and it's easy to get overwhelmed. We've run across some common questions offered up by beginners in weight training, and I'd love to take a minute and address them from the perspective of a strength training coach.


A. I have decent abs, but they don't quite pop. What are some things I can do to change this? Start squatting and don't worry about what you look like. Add some chin-ups, not pull-ups, to your workout. That will work your abs.


B. My elbows hurt whenever I do barbell and dumbbell rows. What are some other ways to work my back sans the pain? If your elbows hurt when doing barbell or dumbbell rows, then stop doing dumbbell and barbell rows. Start doing squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.


"Next time you get under the bar, use the following procedure: 1. Secure your hands on the bar. Put the bar way down into your palm. Don’t slide the bar down onto your wrist.


2. With your hands locked in place, squeeze your traps hard and pull your shoulder blades together. Get under the bar, continuing to tighten your traps and shoulder blades. As your back comes in contact with the bar, take the pressure completely off your arms, hands and elbows.


3. Stand up and take the bar out of the rack using your upper back to hold the bar in place. Keep your elbows down, chest up, and think about squeezing into the bar with your back and holding it with your traps. Remember that your arms are there to wedge the bar in place and not to apply forward pressure into the bar, and remember that “chest up” does not mean a vertical back angle when you squat. If you don’t feel the tightness in your upper back or you need to push into the bar with your hands, come back out from under the bar and narrow the grip another finger width. Once you’re back under the bar, take a second and make sure you can distinguish the feeling of pushing with your arms and squeezing with your back to secure the bar.


4. Keep the upper back tight and elbows down as you squat. After each rep, do a quick check to make sure you haven’t started pushing with your hands again."


5. Another unconventional way to get rid of elbow pain is to do 10 chin-ups, take a lap around the building. Repeat that until you've done 100 chin-ups and 10 laps. Do that every 2 days until the pain is gone.


C. I'm looking to put together a small home gym. What are the essentials I should invest in, and how much will it cost? Home gyms - this is the largest mistake we see people make - spending too much money on a home gym. All you need is a bar, some plates, and a power rack. We recommend all of these items be purchased from Rogue Fitness. You can get an Olympic Rippetoe Bar, rack and weights for usually under $2,000. As you start to get stronger, buy some more plates.

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