Weightlifting can be intimidating for any beginner. All those grunts, clanging metal, and biceps as big as tree trunks might be enough to have you rethinking your fitness journey. But we’ll let you in on a little secret: we were all beginners once. And with these essential CrossFit lifts, you’ll be raising that barbell over your head in no time.
Of course, we don’t expect that you’ll magically become an expert after reading this post (we wish we were that good!) You should always have a trained professional help you with your technique to prevent injury and make sure your form is correct.
Why We Love It: The Front Squat is a compound movement targeting the entire lower body. And with the bar in front, there’s less stress on your spine and hamstrings. An excellent lift for beginners.
What It Works: Glutes, quads, core, and hamstrings.
How to Do It:
- Start by mastering the Air Squat (a squat without the bar, using your body weight). This movement is critical to doing a Front Squat properly.
- Load the bar in the front rack position, with the weight resting squarely on the upper chest and shoulders. Elbows should point forward.
- Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward.
- Sit your hips back and bend your knees into a squat. Keep your chest and shoulders upright. Elbows should maintain a forward position with upper arms parallel to the floor.
- Continue bending your knees, with weight over the mid-foot, until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. Your knees may push out slightly.
- Stand up by driving your weight through the mid-foot until you return to a standing position.
Why We Love It: The Deadlift is an essential lift, not just for weight training, but also to build and maintain important muscle groups as you age. While some might say it’s dangerous (nonsense), this lift helps you learn how to lift heavy items properly without hurting your back. Plus, it feels pretty badass to lift super heavy things off the ground.
What It Works: Mainly posture muscles and lower body, including core muscles, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
How to Do It:
- Start light. Doing this lift incorrectly can cause injury, so don’t pile on too many plates too quickly.
- Position yourself with your toes under the bar, feet slightly narrower than hip-width apart.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip, with hands slightly wider than your thighs.
- Start with butt back, knees bent, and shoulders slightly over the bar. The bar should be brushing against your shins. Keep your heels flat on the floor.
- Initiate the lift using your hip joint, maintaining a straight lumbar curve. The bar should stay close to your legs as you lift off the ground. Complete the lift with the bar hips, arms straight, with hips and knees extended.
Why We Love It: This slightly more advanced lift uses multiple muscle groups and can improve overall strength, power, and speed. But it’s easy enough for beginners to master quickly.
What It Works: Just about every major muscle group, including the trapezius, abs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
How to Do It:
- Start standing upright, holding the bar about a thumb’s length away from your hips. Feet about hip-width apart. Hook grip.
- To initiate the lift, lower the bar along your thighs, stopping just above the knee. Maintain your lumbar curve, keeping your chest up. Your heels should be flat and your arms straight.
- Next, you’ll “explode” into the next phase of the lift. All at once, use your hips and torso to rise rapidly, and shrug your shoulders upwards to create momentum.
- During the shoulder shrug, you will do a pull under, shifting the bar to a front rack position. At the same time, perform a squat. You should complete this portion of the movement at the bottom of a Front Squat position.
- Complete the lift by standing upright to extend hips and knees, with the bar in front rack position.
Why We Love It: The Push Press is another important foundational movement for female lifters. This movement will really target those arms and shoulders. Plus, it’s super empowering to lift something heavy over your head.
What It Works: Mostly upper body, including deltoids, pecs, and triceps. The glutes, hamstrings, and quads are secondary, but will assist with this lift.
How to Do It:
- Begin with legs hip-width apart, with the bar in the front rack position, hands slightly wider than your shoulder. Elbows should be forward and slightly in front of the bar.
- Perform a quarter squat while moving your torso straight down.
- Using your legs for power, extend hips and knees. At the same time, extend arms upward to lift the bar straight overhead, reaching full arm extension.
- Weight should be over the middle foot, with a straight line from your hands, through your shoulders, down to your feet.
Why We Love It: A more complex movement from the Front Squat, the Overhead Squat is a great way to increase your skill and challenge your muscles. Plus, this is a great movement for strengthening your core, improving balance and posture, and increasing flexibility in your hips and ankles.
What It Works: This one is a total body workout. You’ll engage nearly every muscle group: arms, shoulders, core, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It’s a one-stop-lift.
How to Do It:
- Start with your legs shoulder-width apart, toes slightly outward, and the bar overhead with a wide grip.
- Lower straight down into a squat, keeping your knees in line with your toes and the bar directly overhead. Maintain a lumbar curve, and do not let the bar move too far forward or backward as you perform the squat.
- Continue the squat until your hips are lower than your knees. Only squat as far as possible with your heels flat on the ground.
- Complete the lift by extending knees and legs to return to a stand. The bar should remain overhead and in line with your mid-foot for the entire lift.
Why We Love It: The Snatch is more complicated than the other lifts on our list, but mastering it makes you look completely hardcore. It combines several movements, working multiple muscle groups all at once.
What It Works: The better question is, what doesn’t it work? The Snatch hits it all: arms, shoulders, core, hamstrings, glutes, quads, and muscles you won’t remember you had until tomorrow.
How to Do It:
- Begin with a hip-width stance and a wide grip. The bar should sit in the crease of your hip when you stand upright.
- Set up in a position similar to a deadlift, with your shoulders slightly over the bar and shins close to the bar.
- Maintain your lumbar curve at all times.
- With explosive power, move upward to standing. Use your momentum to lift the bar upward.
- Continue upward using a shoulder shrug, and perform a pull under until the bar is overhead with your arms extended.
- At the same time, perform a squat. You will complete this portion of the lift when you are at the bottom of an Overhead Squat, with hips lower than your knees.
- To complete the lift, stand straight upward, keeping the bar overhead until hips and knees are extended.