Mastering Proper Form for the Foundational Compound Lifts: A Guide for Beginners

Strength training is an essential part of any well-rounded fitness routine, and compound lifts play a crucial role in building and maintaining the main muscle groups. These lifts are multi-joint movements that engage numerous muscles simultaneously, providing an efficient and effective way to develop overall strength. At Strongway Gym Supplies, we understand the importance of proper form in these foundational lifts, and we're here to guide beginners through the process of mastering these techniques to ensure optimal results and prevent potential injuries.

In this comprehensive guide for beginners, we will delve into the proper form for each of the four foundational compound lifts, explaining step-by-step how to execute each movement correctly. Furthermore, we will discuss common mistakes and how to avoid them, and provide tips for progressing in your strength training journey. By following our expert guidance, you can feel confident in your ability to develop proper form and create a strong foundation for your continued fitness success. Make sure to consult Strongway Gym Supplies for all your gym equipment needs and to further enhance your strength training journey.

The Squat - King of the Compound Lifts – Achieved safely by squat rack

When it comes to setting up equipment for squats, there are several essential items you'll need to perform the exercise safely and effectively. Here's a list of squat equipment:

  1. Squat Rack or Power Rack: A squat rack or power rack is the primary piece of equipment for performing squats. It provides a stable framework to hold the barbell at the desired height. Look for a rack with adjustable J-hooks or safety bars to accommodate different lifters and squat variations.
  2. Barbell: You'll need a standard Olympic barbell to perform squats. Ensure it's rated for the weight you plan to lift and has proper knurling for grip.
  3. Weight Plates: Load weight plates onto the barbell to adjust the resistance for your squats. Start with lighter weights if you're new to squats and gradually increase as you become stronger. 

The squat is a fundamental compound lift that primarily targets the lower body, specifically the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. To perform the squat with proper form, follow these steps: 

  1. Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and position the barbell on your upper back (trapezius muscles), securing it with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. 
  1. Brace: Engage your core and take a deep breath, holding it in to create tension in your torso – this helps protect your spine during the lift. 
  1. Descend: Keeping your chest up and back straight, bend at the hips and knees as you slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor or slightly below. Ensure your knees do not cave inwards or push out beyond your toes. 
  1. Ascend: Push through your heels and drive your hips forward to return to the starting position, exhaling as you stand up. 

Avoid These Common Mistakes: Pay attention to your knee alignment, barbell positioning, and the depth of your squat to prevent strain or injury. 

The Deadlift - Engaging the Entire Body 

When setting up equipment for deadlifts, you'll need a few key items to ensure safety and effectiveness. Here's a list of essential deadlift equipment:

  1. Barbell: A standard Olympic barbell is typically used for deadlifts. Ensure it is rated for the weight you plan to lift and that it's in good condition with proper knurling for grip.
  2. Weight Plates: You'll need weight plates to load onto the barbell. Start with lighter weights if you're new to deadlifting and gradually increase as you become stronger.
  3. Deadlift Platform or Gym Mats: While not strictly necessary, a deadlift platform or lifting mat can help protect your flooring and absorb some of the impact from dropping the weights. It also provides a designated area for deadlifting.
  4. Spotter (Optional): If you're lifting very heavy weights, having a spotter nearby can provide an extra layer of safety in case you struggle with the lift.

The deadlift is a versatile compound lift that engages multiple muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back muscles. Proper deadlift form involves these steps: 

  1. Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and position the middle of your feet under the barbell. Bend down by hinging at the hips while keeping your knees slightly bent and grab the bar with an overhand or mixed grip.
  1. Brace: Engage your core and take a deep breath to create tension in your torso. Keep your chest up, back straight, and shoulders back – this helps maintain a strong, safe posture throughout the lift.
  1. Lift: Push through your heels and extend your hips and knees simultaneously, raising the bar as you straighten your body. Focus on driving your hips forward, not pulling the bar with your upper body.
  1. Lower: Reverse the motion and return the bar to the ground with control, maintaining a straight back and chest-up position throughout.

Avoid These Common Mistakes: Pay attention to your body alignment, grip, and lifting pace to maximise strength gains and prevent strain or injuries.

The Bench Press - Great for Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps

The bench press is a classic upper body compound lift that mainly targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. To perform the bench press correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Setup: Lie on a flat bench with your feet firmly on the ground. Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and wrists straight. 
  1. Lower the Bar: Unrack the bar and lower it in a controlled manner towards your lower chest, engaging your lats and keeping your elbows slightly tucked in. Your forearms should stay vertical throughout the movement. 
  1. Press: Push the bar away from your chest, straightening your arms, and propel the bar in a straight line upwards. 
  1. Return: Carefully return the bar to the starting position, being mindful of your shoulder position and maintaining tension throughout the lift. 

Avoid These Common Mistakes: Keep your shoulder blades pinned back and down, wrists in a neutral position, and remain mindful of your elbow positioning to avoid unnecessary stress. 

The Overhead Press - Strengthen Your Shoulders and Upper Body 

The overhead press is an essential compound lift for developing shoulder and upper body strength. To perform the overhead press with proper form, follow these steps: 

  1. Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Position the bar at collarbone level, resting it on your chest and shoulders. 
  1. Brace: Engage your core, take a deep breath, and create tension in your upper body. 
  1. Press: Push the barbell upwards in a straight line until your arms are fully extended overhead, exhaling as you press up. 
  1. Lower: Lower the barbell to collarbone level in a controlled manner, maintaining tension throughout the movement. 

Avoid These Common Mistakes: Keep your core and glutes engaged, and ensure your wrist alignment is correct and your shoulders are stable during the lift.


Mastering proper form in the foundational compound lifts is a crucial step towards a safe and efficient strength training journey. By focusing on technique, beginners establish a solid base that helps them progress and avoid injury as they advance in their fitness routine. Consult with Strongway Gym Supplies for high-quality and cheap gym equipment and expert advice to further enhance your workouts and achieve your fitness goals.