Mastering the Basics- Weight training fundamentals aren’t optional; they’re necessity.

Master the basics


No one teaches anything because they believe it to be unnecessary. I am convinced fitness professionals teach the doctrine they do because they believe it has merit. That said, I also believe there is a trend currently underway to teach stuff that is flashy, cool looking and designed to make the client feel as if they are Olympic hopefuls- at least for that training session.

Recently I heard a member from the club, complain about spending too much time working on weight training fundamentals. Let me make this perfectly clear: weight training fundamentals are absolutely necessary; they’re indispensable and essential. It doesn’t matter if you are weight training recreational or competitively, your ability to control the weight with correct tempo, maintain proper posture, unhindered movement through full range of motion, and breath correctly is non-negotiable.

While they might not be as fun as “advanced” skills, it would be wise to remember the words of Bruce Lee: “Advanced skills are the basics mastered.”

I have been training individuals for over seven years and I wish I had a dime for every complaint I’ve heard while spending training time to anchor these essential skills. I often hear “They’re boring.” or “We’ve done these before!” My response is usually something like: “Yes, you have practiced these before. The problem is you suck at them.”

The goal behind instruction followed by practice is to absorb and then master a particular skill, to try to anchor it in one’s skill set as best as time will allow. Just because one can perform a particular essential without stress doesn’t mean he or she can perform it well enough to move onto the next progression. Thus we continue to practice.

The brain is a funny thing. It can remember doing something in the past, but the brain leaves out the part where it takes three to five seconds to complete the given act, which when it comes to Olympic weightlifting is mechanically unacceptable.

The take home point is this; be patient, learn the fundamentals and master the basics. Only when you master the basics can you rise to full potential.

Please leave your comments in the section below. Thanks for reading.

Vincent A.

“I wasn’t real quick, and I wasn’t real strong. Some guys will just take off and it’s like, whoa. So I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals.”~Larry Bird

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Vincent has been a fitness professional since 2006 and is nationally certified by the ISSA and is a USA Weightlifting Strength Coach. Currently Vincent operates VGA Strength & Conditioning as a distance fitness coach and is contracted as a personal trainer at North Idaho Athletic Club in Moscow, Idaho. Specialties include: Weight Management, Endurance Sports, Performance Enhancement Training, Nutrition Counseling, Partner Assisted Stretching. Certifications: ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, ISSA Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, ISSA Specialist in Youth Fitness, USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sport Performance Coach, Partner Assisted Stretching Practitioner, Adult CPR & AED Certified.

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There are 4 comments left Go To Comment

  1. Karie Spaet /

    Love! If you don’t have the basics you’ll either hurt yourself or not perform the exercise to its fullest capacity. You’re cheating yourself if you don’t do it correctly.

  2. Sean Honeywell /

    I agree with you Vince. Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Learning the basics first is key and for new people (like me, I’m slowly learning) it takes a long time to get the right form dialed in correctly. Good thing my coach at my box has a lot of patience because my Power Cleans/Power Snatches need work. There is a lot going on with those Olympic lifts. Good post!

  3. Christina Coffman /

    I understand learning the basics but wonder how long you should wait before increasing weight/moving on to more advance lifts? Is it based on repetitions you can correctly execute at the current weight?

    1. Vincent Allen / Post Author

      That’s an excellent question Christina. Your line of thought is on the correct path. Progression in weight lifting is relative to the individual and you should progress when the load you have been doing are no longer feeling like a challenge. So, the question boils down to “how and when should a progression take place”? There are several ways this can be done.

      The common methods of weight training progression are as follows: increase the load being lifted, increase the number of reps, increase the number of sets, and lastly increase the difficulty of the exercise. Depending on your goal and experience, some of these methods are more or less ideal for you than others.

      The most basic form of weight training progression looks like this:

      1. Meet the desired sets and repetitions for the exercise.

      2. Increase the load being lifted for that exercise (start by increasing with slightly heaver weight).

      3. Accomplish the sets and repetitions with the slightly heavier weight.

      4. Repeat this process again.

      Once the process has been complete above; change one variable of your program at a time. Here are a few examples:

      1. Switch from dumbbells to a barbell.

      2. Add a super set (complete the set of an exercise and immediately follow into another exercise then rest).

      3. Progress the exercise i.e. Static Lunge to Walking Lunge, Dumbbell Goblet Squat to Barbell Front Squat, Dumbbell Flat Bench Press to 1-arm Dumbbell Flat Bench Chest Press to Barbell Flat Bench Press.

      Keep in mind the main focus of weight training progression is what type of exercises you need to do. A good routine will include a variety of exercises to build your “foundation” and then become more specific to your goals. Also, a fitness professional can help integrate all of these pieces into a program that can be followed and adjusted as needed.

      I hope this helps and thank you for your comment.

      Vincent A.

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