Friday, 30 July 2021 12:39

Weightlifting 101 - Learning the Proper Form

Weightlifting is a great way to tone your muscles, boost your metabolism, and improve your overall health and physical fitness. However, without proper form and basic knowledge of weightlifting movements, you can be at serious risk of injury. Whether you are new to weightlifting or returning to the gym after COVID restrictions have been lifted, we’re breaking down the proper form for weightlifting as part of our weightlifting 101 blog series.

With our helpful guidance, you’ll have a firm understanding of everything you need to know before getting started with weight training.

Weightlifting 101: Breaking Down The Basics

Whether you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or bicep curls, achieving the proper form is key. That’s why you must keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Always remember to warm up and cool down properly
  • Use spotters when you try major/heavy lifts
  • Never lock your joints; always leave a slight bend in your knees and elbows when lifting weights
  • Remember to breathe out when you are lifting or pushing, and breathe in as your slowly lower or release the weight
    • Never hold your breath while lifting! This activity may inadvertently raise your blood pressure
  • Keep your back straight when lifting
  • Wear shoes with good traction to avoid slipping
  • Listen to your body before, during, and after your exercises to avoid injury

If you feel pain at any point when lifting weights, stop the exercise. You may have caused an injury, so it’s better to let your body rest than exacerbate the injury even further. If your injury doesn’t improve in a few days, consult with your primary care provider.

Now let’s dive into our weightlifting 101 lesson for today and break down a few weightlifting exercises.

Compound Lifts

Whether you are looking to gain muscle or just get toned, compound lifts are extremely beneficial for your physical fitness. This is because compound lifts engage multiple muscles simultaneously, which allows you to get a better workout for your entire body.

Each compound exercise requires a specific technique to help you stay safe and avoid injury. Here are the main types of compound lift exercises and how you can achieve the proper form for each one:


To do the squats correctly, get beneath the bar, and make sure it is comfortably resting on your rear shoulder muscles. Lift the weight with your body and take two steps back. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly out. Stand upright, keep your head up and your chest pushed out, and then begin to lower yourself to a seated position.

Slowly bend your knees, hips, and ankles, and go as deep as you can comfortably. Then press into your heels and straighten your legs to return to a standing position.


For deadlifts, place the barbell on the floor in front of you and set your feet hip-width apart. Bend over with straight legs and grip the bar. Then lower your hips so that they are parallel to the floor. Engage your chest to pull your back into a neutral position. Then squeeze your glutes as you rise and remember to maintain a straight back. Rise to a standing position and lower the barbell back down in a slow and controlled motion.

Bent-over Rows

Stand with your feet just under the barbell and roughly shoulder-width distance apart. Bend over and grab the bar with your palms down. Unlock your knees while keeping your hips high and be sure to keep a slight bend in your knees. Keep your back straight as you lift your chest slightly. Then pull the bar against your lower chest, holding it for a moment or two when it’s closer to your chest. Remember to maintain control throughout the entire exercise.

Overhead Press

For the overhead press, stand up straight with the bar on your front shoulder. Your hands should be loosely gripping the bar and should be next to your shoulders. Press the bar over your head until it is balanced over your shoulders. Hold the bar at the top of the exercise for a second or two and shrug your shoulders too. Then lower it back down and repeat.

Bench Press

For the bench press, like back onto the bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Make sure your eyes are directly below the bar. Grip the bar with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Create a slight arch in your back to generate more power during the exercise. Un-rack the bar and, in a smooth and controlled motion, lower the bar to your chest and drive it straight up again. Repeated until the set is finished.

To learn more in-depth details about these compound movements, seek out the guidance of a personal fitness trainer.

Isolation Lifts

On the other hand, if you want to target a specific muscle, isolation lifts are the way to go. One of the main benefits of this form of weightlifting is that it helps target the muscles you may have missed while performing compound lifts. Here are just a few examples of isolation exercises and how to perform them correctly:

Bicep Curls

Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand and make sure it is the appropriate weight for you too. Start with your arms hanging by your side. Keep your elbows close to your torso and your palms facing forward. Keep your upper arms stationary and exhale as you slowly curl the weights up to your shoulders while contracting your biceps. Hold the weight at your shoulders for a brief moment and then inhale as you slowly lower them back down.

Tricep Cable Extension

Approach a cable tower apparatus and move the pin height to the highest setting. Then attach the rope with the two knots or knobs (one at each end) to the cable and select your appropriate weight.

Then take a tall upright posture close to the cable machine. You may stagger your feet slightly if you’d like. Keep your back neutral and upright at all times. Brace your abs and begin pushing the rope downwards. Keep your elbows in a fixed position in line with your torso throughout the exercise. Push down until your arms and elbows are straight and repeat.

Dumbell Lateral Raises

Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand. With your arms at your sides and your palms facing in, position your feet roughly hip-distance apart. Raise your arms simultaneously just a couple inches out to each side and pause to disengage your traps and instead engage your deltoids. Lift the dumbbells up and out to each side, keeping your arms almost completely straight. Stop when your elbows reach shoulder height and pause for a moment or two. Then slowly lower the weights back down and avoid swinging through the momentum for your next rep.

Dumbell Fly

Lie down on a flat incline bench. Place your feet firmly on the floor on either side of the bench with your head and back firmly pressed into the bench. Get 2 dumbbells from your spotter or pick them up from the floor. Lift your arms above your head so they’re extended, but not locked. Make sure there is a slight bend at your elbow and that your palms are facing each other.

Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells in an arc motion until they’re in line with your chest. Don’t drop your arms lower than your shoulders. Exhale and slowly press the dumbbells up in the same arc motion. Repeat for the rest of your set.

As a final weightlifting 101 tip for best results and to avoid injury, it is best to start with a lower weight and higher reps. Try to gradually increase the weight as you progress in your fitness journey.

Achieve The Proper Form For Weightlifting With Whole Intent

At Whole Intent, our fitness trainer has years of experience under her belt and always ensures that her clients are performing each exercise properly and cautiously. She can provide you with all of the information that you need prior to and during your weightlifting exercises. Being active is extremely important to our health, and weightlifting complements that by offering many benefits for our bodies.

If you want to learn more about weightlifting, read more helpful weightlifting 101 articles today. Or if you are ready to start lifting weights to achieve better health, contact Whole Intent today to schedule your first consultation with us and learn the proper form for weightlifting!