Get Back to Basics With The Big Three – Squat, Bench Press And Deadlifts
As any dedicated fitness enthusiast knows, there is no such thing as one perfect way to train, or one ideal approach to getting fit. There are, however, some exercises that you should never neglect in your routine, whatever it may be more broadly. And in this piece we’re focusing on three of them: the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift.
To give you an idea as to why these three exercises should be staples in your routine, we’ll consider the case of current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Jones has had his issues outside of the UFC octagon (and in it, for that matter), so this is not meant to condone his behavior. However, from a fitness and athletic standpoint, he makes for an interesting study. After all, he rose to fame in part because he was given the nickname “Bones” for looking frail compared to his fellow competitors, as Bleacher Report explained. He’s since worked to bring about a fairly dramatic physical transformation, and is now a powerful, muscled beast in the light heavyweight division.
Jones will actually be defending his title soon, so if you’re curious to see his new physique in action, you’ll have the chance to. He’ll be taking on Brazilian challenger Thiago Santos at UFC 239 in Las Vegas early in July. U.S.-run sportsbooks online have by and large tabbed Jones as the heavy favorite (though the specific odds may vary from one book to another), and it’s likely the event will see him retain his belt. But it’s how he got to the point of being able to hold this title that we’re most interested in here. Yes, Jones is a gifted and technically refined fighter – anyone competing at this level more or less has to be. However, it’s Jones’s fitness efforts that led him to overcome his “Bones” days and rise to the top of UFC. And as was noted in the aforementioned piece on Bleacher Report, these efforts revolved largely around the three exercises we’re highlighting here.
The Bench Press
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Jake Boly hails the bench press as the king of upper body lifts. He contends that a strong bench equals a strong upper body, given that the exercise increases upper body push strength. Essentially, it works and strengthens all of the major and minor muscle groups in the upper body – primarily the pecs, deltoids, triceps, and forearms. Moreover, the bench press is a power-building exercise, and can also improve the density of the bones in your arms, hands, shoulders, and chest (as it causes bone cells to be deposited in the bone tissues of these areas). Considering all of these benefits and effects, it’s one of the most all-encompassing lifting exercises we have – as Jon Jones would no doubt attest!
If the bench press is the king of the upper body lifts, then squats are the king of all leg exercises. It’s another of just a handful of exercises that are recommended to just about everyone and for pretty much any reason. Mainly, this is because the squat it is a compound move; it works various muscle groups all at once, from your leg muscles, to your stabiliser muscles, and even to the supporting ligaments in your lower body. Squats can also help in injury prevention, as they can, when done properly, enhance the flexibility and strength of your hips and ankles.
As noted by The Foundry director and founder Dave Thomas, lots of people struggle with the deadlift. This can be due to immobility, weakness, or poor proprioception (the awareness on how your body moves in space). When done correctly though, the deadlift can correct those deficiencies. “You’ll develop better posture, glute and back development, lower body power, enhanced grip strength and a better hip hinge,” Thomas explained. He added, “It’s also the most bad-ass primal exercise. You find a big weight and pick it up off the floor!” That’s a thought we imagine might appeal to some, but the real point here is the deadlift’s range of benefits. These are not the only exercises you should do regularly if you’re making a fitness push, and other athletes every bit as impressive as Jon “Bones” Jones will have worthwhile recommendations as well.
However, if you’d like a small number of go-to exercises to rely upon no matter what else you do on a given day, these three are excellent choices.