Weightlifting Exercises -- Squats, Deadlifts, & Others

Young or old, male or female, weightlifting exercises benefit everyone. From beginners onward, these exercises promote health and burn more calories 24 hours per day!

Why can we all benefit from strength exercises? Well, we all have the same muscles. Just as all adults can benefit from fitness exercise, all adults can benefit from strength exercise.

Before using any of the exercises set out on our site, please also read the Strength Training Exercises page. (The link for that page awaits you near the bottom of this page.) Reading that page will help to ensure that you understand how to train safely and how to maximize the benefits from your training.

Weight training exercise benefits everyone! A routine of weightlifting exercises matches specific exercises to specific muscles (muscle groups).

So, let's find out more.

Weightlifting Exercises Overview

The most effective routines consist of the most effective exercises properly arranged. Which exercises are the most effective?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a critically important tool in designing effective routines. Wouldn't it be terrific to be able to see inside the soft tissue of a human body? MRI is the best technology available for doing that.

The best book that applies the results of MRI research to weightlifting exercises is Per A. Tesch, Ph.D., Target Bodybuilding. When you reach the intermediate stage and want to design your routines, we recommend consulting it.

Here in this section we have used it for discussing the best weightlifting exercises and for designing the best routines using those exercises that we provide in subsequent pages.

MRI does have its limitations. It's terrific for arm and leg exercises, but it's not very useful for torso exercises.

The judgment of Dr Dennis E. Bradford (co-webmaster of this website) has gained from over forty years of training and studying exercises and routines is particularly important, therefore, with respect to torso exercises.

When you actually begin using the exercises, please consult either Stuart McRobert's The Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight-Training Technique or his more recent Build Muscle Lose Fat Look Great for proper exercise technique. Also, we use his terminology to eliminate confusion about exactly which exercises we are recommending.

On the powerlifting exercises, you'll find some excellent tips (and programs) in the Wendler book listed near the bottom of this page.

In addition to having available the descriptions and photos from books as guidance about various weightlifting exercises, we add some comments and emphasis of our own about various routines and exercises.

Please don't rush through them!

Take all the time you need to learn how to perform each exercise with flawless technique.

Because you may be training in a home gym, we limit our discussion to free weight exercises. You'll be able to use the exercises and routines recommended here to train in any decent commercial gym as well.

Besides, there are just too many different kinds of resistance machines available these days to cover in short compass. Once you learn how to use free weights correctly, you may later, if you want, experiment with different machines to see if they provide satisfactory results for you.

Squats and deadlifts are the key exercises in any serious weight program designed to increase lean muscle mass significantly.

Done correctly, each of these exercises, by itself, can constitute a good workout!

Never do a whole-body workout without some variety of either squats or deadlifts (or both).

Weightlifting Exercises: Squats

Please study McRobert's description before picking up a bar for squats. Beginners should start with an empty bar and add not more than 10 pounds each training session.

Even if you are not tall, we recommend using either a cambered (Buffalo) squat bar or a safety-squat bar (rather than a straight Olympic bar). Use a medium stance with your toes flared out at about a 45 degree angle. (Do not force your knees straight in front of you, and do not do squats using a Smith machine.) Ensure that your knees track out over your toes during the stroke.

It's best to stand barefoot on the floor. (An inexpensive pair of black thin-soled slippers will keep your feet clean.) Do not "cut" the squat: go down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to (or, better, slightly below parallel to) the floor.

Never use a board under your heels. Never squat in a Smith machine. There's a right way and a wrong way to do weightlifting exercises; please ensure that your technique is perfect.

We recommend that all intermediate and advanced trainees use a tightly cinched weightlifting belt on work sets (but not on warm-up sets).

We recommend using rubber knee warmers to keep your knees warm. If you are over 40 or have any knee problems, we recommend wrapping your knees with elastic bandages instead of just using rubber knee warmers.

Of course, always get a good warm-up before doing squats or deadlifts.

For at least the first six months or year, we recommend that beginners never use either knee wraps or a belt on any exercise.

You may use back squats, front squats (with an Olympic bar), hip belt squats (even if you don't have any shoulder or back issues), breathing squats, or dumbbell squats (if you happen to have access to heavy dumbbells that you are able to strap to your wrists).

(Though we haven't personally tried it, if you have any shoulder or back issues, consider using Dave Draper's The Top Squat tool.)

Though a small percentage of trainees cannot use them effectively for various reasons, squats may be the best of all the exercises.

Sidebar quotation from Dave Draper: "Training without squatting is like lightning without thunder."

Weightlifting Exercises Deadlifts and Dennis

This is Dr. Dennis E. Bradford the co-webmaster of this site (at age 61) doing reps of stiff-legged deadlift partials with 405 pounds in the basement gym at home. (Taken 28 August 2007.)

If squats aren't the king of weightlifting exercises, deadlifts are. Study McRobert's descriptions of both bent-legged and stiff-legged deadlifts.

Bent-legged and stiff-legged deadlifts are magnificent weightlifting exercises. Please try to master them both.

Once your loads become heavy enough to exhaust your forearms, you may use wrist straps or hooks on all kinds of deadlifts.

As with squats, beginners should start with an empty bar and add weight slowly.

(If and when you advance to the point where you are using 315 lbs. or more for a significant number of reps on deadlifts, your grip may become the weak link. In order not to retard your leg and back training, you should then begin to use wrist straps or hooks.)

We recommend that all intermediate and advanced trainees with respect to exercises such as squats and deadlifts use knee warmers and a tightly cinched weightlifting belt on work sets (but not on warm-up sets). Use knee wraps instead of the warmers if you wish.

If you are a beginner, we do not recommend that you use either knee warmers or a weightlifting belt for deadlifts. The loads won't be that heavy for a while, and it's important to strengthen the stabilizing muscles.

At least until you are using an Olympic bar with a 45 pound plate on each end (i.e., 135 lbs.), you should instead use the lowest pin placement in a power rack. The pins or the large plates will automatically prevent you from going too low.

You may use bent-legged deadlifts, trap-bar bent-legged deadlifts, Sumo deadlifts, or stiff-legged deadlifts.

Other Weightlifting Exercises

Here are the best other weightlifting exercises.

Hamstrings leg curl (supine, seated, or standing).

Chest barbell incline press, dumbbell incline press, barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, incline dumbbell flye, flat bench dumbbell flye, parallel bar dip, Rader chest pull or "breathing" pullover (after heavy squats or deadlifts).

Shoulders & Traps military barbell overhead press, dumbbell overhead press (using one or two dumbbells), dumbbell lateral, dumbbell rear lateral, l-fly (using a ShoulderHorn if you have one), shrug (using two dumbbells or a barbell).

Biceps standing biceps curl with straight bar and arm blaster, standing biceps curl with straight bar and narrow grip, standing dumbbell curl with palms up.

Triceps French press with EZ bar on decline bench, seated overhead triceps dumbbell extension, rope pushdown, bench dip, close-grip bench press.

Forearms standing reverse barbell curl, hammer curl, standing behind-the-back forearm curl using Olympic bar in power rack, grip machine training, lever bar work, pinch grip lifting, thick-bar hold, wrist roller training.

Hands finger extension.

Lower Legs standing calf raise (two-legged or one-legged), seated calf raise, D.A.R.D. raise [for the muscles in the front of the lower leg], donkey calf raise.

Neck 4-way neck work with towel, 4-way neck work with headstrap (using slant board).

Web Pages Related to Weightlifting Exercises

In this the strength/weight training section of our website we have the following pages:

  • 1. Strength/Weight Training main page
  • 2. Strength Training Orientation
  • 3. Weightlifting Exercises (this page)
  • 4. Weightlifting Program Beginners
  • 5. Weightlifting Tips, Part 1
  • 6. Weightlifting Tips, Part 2
  • 7. Exercising Safely
  • 8. Workout Protein Shakes
  • 9. Weightlifting Routines Intermediates

We also provide additional pages on midsection exercises.

You will find the direct links to those pages on our Sitemap/Index.

Below are the first two of the links.

Let's use these exercises to design some effective workouts. The links below lead to the relevant pages.

Weight Lifting (for beginners)

Weightlifting Tips (part 1)

In addition, before actually using any of the weightlifting exercises please remember to read the Strength Training Exercises page. You can find that link at the very bottom of this page. Reading that page will help to ensure that you understand how to train safely and how to maximize the benefits from your training.

Weightlifting Exercises Recommended Books

The books are available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, usually in Kindle and paperback form, and sometimes as hardbacks. If you enjoyed the weightlifting exercises page, these books are excellent further reading suggestions.


  • Wendler, 5/3/1


On most pages of our website, we aim to recommend the very best books available according to the topic of each page.

We endeavor to make the best suggestions based on experience and our many years of work and research in the fields of health and fitness. We suggest only books that we have read and can wholly commend.

Two useful video examples of weightlifting exercises

Example of a bench press variation

This is a good example of a bench press variation. Ignore the poundages here, just focus on the technique.

A link to the external video, for those who might want to save it.

Range-of-motion triple add sets squats

Instead of adding additional poundage to squats, here's a way to use range of motion for the same purpose. They'll give you an excellent squat workout.

This completes the page. We do hope that you found the information useful.

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