Creating a solid workout plan can be challenging, so fitness and training expert Harry Wilkinson at Bulk.com has put together some of his most trusted and essential moves in the gym to get your confidence sky-high and your body in shape.
This is why, whether you are a total beginner at the gym and in need of some workout ideas or you are a fitness fanatic who is looking to update and improve your workouts, this guide will help you perform to the best of your ability, get you to your fitness goals fast and get you seeing results straight away.
Deadlifts are strength-building exercises using weights to gain lower body strength, especially in the quads, glutes, abs, and core. They are also great for hip mobility and stability and a great way to add definition to your body. You can use kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell.
How to: Start with a comfortable weight and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your core, squat, bend, and grasp the bar outside the knee line. Lift the bar by pushing it upwards through the knees, making sure to breathe out on exertion. The bar should align with the thighs or shins when at full height. Do not bend your back or raise your hips before the bar reaches full height, and make sure to keep the shoulders as far back as possible without leaning back.
How long: Perform at least 3-4 sets of 2-6 reps if you are a beginner, gradually increasing as strength builds. Make sure to use a weight that allows you to keep your form and technique perfect throughout each set.
A lateral raise focuses on strength and isolation through weights, working the shoulders and upper back. This exercise involves lifting away from your body and out to the side.
How to: Stand or sit with a weight in each hand with arms by each side. While keeping your back straight, engage your core muscles and slowly lift the weights to the side, in line with your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Then, slowly lift your arms back to the starting position, keeping them under control and not losing your form. Do not exceed your shoulder line when lifting or lean forward when performing the exercise.
How long: Perform this move with a weight you can control; try out with 3-4 sets of 8-12, 12-16 or 20+, repeating 3 or 4 times a week.
Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a squat variation focusing on the lower body. The quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes are all engaged during this move.
How to: Start by standing in front of a knee-level bench or step (exercise can be done without a bench or step). Pick up a comfortable weight for each hand, keeping your arms flat against your side throughout the exercise. Lift one leg and place it on the top of the bench so your shin rests flat on its surface; your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Your standing leg should be far enough in front of you to lunge comfortably while engaging your core, keeping your shoulders back while beginning to lower down on the bending knee. Ensure to engage the core and keep form while returning to the original position.
How long: If you are new to this move, start with 6-8 reps in sets of 2 and increase according to comfort.
A bench press is a compound chest, arm and shoulder, and total upper-body exercise.
How to: Start by choosing a weight that is comfortable for you. Lay flat on your back, on top of a bench, with your legs bent to each side with your feet on the floor. The barbell should be directly over your shoulders while your hands grip the bar slightly further than shoulder width. Engage your core and keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the exercise. Slowly lift the barbell off of the rack, lower it to the chest, and bend your elbows to the side, away from the body. Lift till arms are extended, then lower the bar again, making sure to hit just below the bench line.
How long: Start with a comfortable weight for between 5-10 reps for a set of 3. Increase as strength builds.
Lat pulldowns are a staple for.
How to: Start by sitting with legs in front of you, facing the lat pull machine. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees, and sit perfectly under the pad with your feet flat on the floor. Reach up, grab the bar with hands wider than shoulder width, and extend your arms fully, ensuring you aren’t shrugging or lifting your bum off the seat. Pull down on the bar towards your chest just below your collarbone and hold the bar at your chest for a few seconds before returning to the start position. Make sure to squeeze your shoulders back and down throughout. Do not lean too far back when pulling.
How long: Beginners using the lat pulldown machine should try completing 2-3 sets of 8 reps, increasing as strength builds.
A Romanian deadlift is a strengthening exercise focusing on your hamstrings, core, and glutes.
How to: Start with a comfortable weight; you can use dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells. Your feet should be hip-distance apart with a small bend in the knees and your weights ready in front of you. Hinge forward while your torso parallels the floor, remembering to keep your back straight. Grab the barbell with both hands shoulder width apart, push your shoulders back and engage your core. Aim your eyes forward but slightly down to keep your neck in the perfect position, avoiding hyperextension. While pushing your feet firmly into the floor, straighten your back and legs, squeeze your glutes and push out your hips when you reach the top. Repeat by lowering the weight between your legs around knee length, all while maintaining a flat back and slight bend in the knees.
How long: Start with 8-10 reps in sets of 3-5, increasing as strength builds.
Squats are brilliant for developing leg strength, increasing core strength and stabilising muscles.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; your feet should be turned out slightly to open up your hip joint. Lower your body until the back of your legs and thighs parallel the floor. Place your hands on the top of your head for ease and help with positioning. Repeat.
How long: Beginners should be completing around 10-20 full squats per day, increasing as comfortability increases.
Hammer curls target all the muscles in your lower and upper arms.
How to: Start with a comfortable weight, either in the form of a dumbbell or kettlebell. Hold your weights in each arm while standing or sitting but with a straight back, with palms facing each other. Bend your elbows whilst lifting the weights towards your shoulders, keeping your palms facing each other. When the weight reaches shoulder height, hold for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower the weights to the original position, arms at your sides. Repeat.
How long: Beginners should try performing this move for 2-3 sets of between 8-15 reps, increasing as strength builds.
Bent over row
The bent-over row is a back strength-building exercise that works your back and shoulder muscles. It is ideal for those who want to improve their posture and hip stability.
How to: Start with a comfortable weighted barbell, standing shoulder width apart, bending the hips but keeping your back straight. Your body should be around 45 degrees, grasping the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width and palms facing towards your shins. Engage your core and tighten your glutes as you pull your elbows behind you and the bar to your midriff. Keep lifting your elbows backwards while your shoulders are squeezed and your back is straight. Hold each pull for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower back to the original position.
How long: Beginners should repeat for 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
Face pulls are a great shoulder-targeted exercise which improves posture, protects rotator cuffs and aligns shoulders.
How to: Use the rope attachment on a cable pull machine and start with a comfortable weight. Stand with your body facing the machine, feet shoulder width apart and leaning back around 20-30 degrees. Grip the rope with both hands and feel the weights rise. While keeping your knees slightly bent and your back straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring the cable to your face at eye level. When your arms reach a 90-degree angle, pause for 1-2 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat.
How long: You should start with 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets, increasing according to strength building.
Expert Harry Wilkinson at Bulk.com commented: “It is crucial you know how to do each exercise you perform at the gym perfectly; otherwise, you may injure yourself. Not only is injury a negative when executing moves wrong, but it can also seriously hinder your progress when it comes to your fitness goals.
The key to getting great results is making sure your form and technique are always on point; it is pointless grabbing the heaviest weights and hoping to fast-track your results because all you will do is make it harder for yourself in the long run”.