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by Emily Wheeler

W.O.W. Review #1: Basic Weightlifting Terminology and Exercises

Goblet squats, bench press, RDL, bent row… what do all of these words mean!? For those of you who have weight lifting experience, these terms are probably already familiar to you, but they’re relatively new to my vocabulary. If you remember the article I wrote a while ago about the specialty fitness classes offered by the campus rec, then you’ll recall that I mentioned that a new class would be starting for the first time this semester entitled “Women on Weights,” or W.O.W., for short. I have the opportunity to participate in the class this semester, and after only three classes, I’ve learned a ton of new things about weightlifting vocabulary, proper stances for the exercises, and other bits of knowledge to help me become more comfortable with weight-lifting exercises. Throughout the semester I’ll be updating about my progress and things that I have learned from the class! Today, I’d like to start with a few of the basics, and I’ll continue on Friday so that it doesn’t run too long.

When does the class meet?

The class started on October 23rd, and is a five-week program that meets for one hour, two days per week. The times and dates will change every semester if the program continues due to continued interest.

Can anyone attend?

This specialty fitness class has a limited number of participants allowed so that the instructor can give specialized attention to each participant. The cost of this particular class was $30 per person, or $25 each if you signed up with a friend. That’s less than $3 per class.

What is the purpose of this “specialty class?”

This class is designed to help women become familiar and comfortable in the weight room with both the equipment and traditional exercises, and to teach the participants proper bodily alignment for each exercise to allow maximum effectiveness of the exercise and to prevent injury.

Why is this class valuable to me?

As a woman (and this could definitely also apply to men) who has not had much experience with weightlifting in my life, the big open weight room full of clanging metal, sweaty guys with big arms, foreign machines, and about a thousand things too heavy for me to lift is not exactly a welcoming environment.  In fact, it can be quite intimidating, because no one wants to make a fool of themselves or feel ashamed of the fact that, especially for women with small frames, just the bar itself (45 lbs.) can feel heavy sometimes.  And if you’re inexperienced, it’s hard to know what exactly to do with all of the different machines and pieces of equipment in the weight room, and how to lift things without hurting your back or other muscles. This class creates an environment separate from the noise and perceived judgment of the weight room and makes it perfectly ok if the bar is heavy, or if you can’t figure out how to do something right the first time, or if you feel awkward because you have to stick your butt out ridiculously far to do a proper squat. Questions are welcome, mistakes are welcome, and help is always there if you need it, and by the end of the class you leave feeling more comfortable than when you came, and feeling strong because you’re using your body in a way you’ve never used it before.

woolenweightroomSquatting rack and barbell in Woolen weight room, where our classes take place.

Now, in the first three classes, we have been learning basic names for different weightlifting exercises and how to properly execute them.  Here are four of the main exercises that we’ve learned so far, with some of which I was already familiar, and others that were completely new to me:

Squat: This is pretty much what it sounds like, if you’re familiar with a basic squat exercise, but the difference with this one is that because you’re adding weights as you do it, it becomes extremely important to have proper alignment.  Before you pick up the bar, you should stand in front of the rack with the bar to your back and your feet a little more than shoulder distance apart.  Ideally, it’s best to have both feet facing directly forward, but for some people they begin to turn out automatically as you do the squat.  Once you are ready and have picked up the bar against your back, you begin to squat down and lower your butt behind you as if you were sitting in a chair.  You want to keep your chest up and keep your gaze as forward and upward as possible.  Your knees shouldn’t protrude over your toes very much as you squat.  Forming a 90 degree angle with your legs so that your thighs are parallel to the floor is an ideal squat, but some people can’t go down quite as far due to tight leg muscles and some people can go even further so that their butt almost touches the floor (which is impressive), depending on the strength and flexibility of the person.  Now, I know all of that was confusing, so here’s a great video to show you what a proper squat actually looks like. Right above the video window, notice that there are two tabs, male and female, depending on who you would like to see demonstrate the exercise.

Front Squat: This exercise is very similar to the squat explained above, but the difference is that you are holding the barbell in front of you against your clavicle (collar bone) instead of behind you and resting on your upper back. It is expected that your feet will need to be pointed slightly outward during this squat, and it is extremely important to keep your elbows up high and your head up as well during the squat.  Here is another video demonstration.  Notice that the guy in the video crosses his arms to hold the barbell in front of him.  This is not required but could add some stability.  Don’t forget to keep those elbows up, people!

Goblet Squat: Once again similar to the basic squat, but this time you are holding either a kettlebell weight or a single dumbbell in front of your chest as the weight instead of the barbell. As you watch the demonstration video, notice that as he stands back up, his hips push forward to bring his body back into a straight line.  This is important for all squats, and should be a conscious movement at the end of every squat.  Many people think about just squeezing their glutes (butt muscles) as they stand up, because it results in the proper motion.

Lunge Squat: For this squat, you stand in place but alternate stepping one foot forward at a time and lunging down on that leg, extending and lowering your back leg as you do so with the barbell held against your back.  Here are pictures of a proper lunge squat.

So there are four basic exercised that we have learned to properly execute so far in Women on Weights! Try doing three rounds of twelve repetitions each of those exercises and I guarantee your legs and butt will be feeling it in the morning! Check back in on Friday for more weightlifting terminology and exercises explained!