> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Lifting and strength training - Intro and the Big 4



Lifting and strength training - Intro and the Big 4

I grew up a computer/video game nerd and have zero strength training background and little natural athletic ability. Early this year, I decided to get myself into lifting, get strong and get in better shape.

I have been pretty committed, dedicated and have found myself enjoy time with the weights. I am by no means an expert, but I've learned a few things so far that I thought could be of help to those thinking about getting into lifting.

When we talk about serious strength training, nearly all programs focus on the big 4: squat, bench, deadlift and overhead/military press. There are lots of great YouTube videos on the correct form for each of these--search them up and watch. Having good form is important for not only helping you lift the most weight, but also ensuring you stay injury free.

Of the big 4, I've found the squat hardest to perform. I have tight, not very flexible hips, and have had to focus on improving my mobility there. YouTube up "Mobility WOD" if you run into similar issues--lots of excellent stretches to help loosen things up.

Though most agree that the big 4 should be the foundation of any program, there's less consensus on other program variables like number of reps, sets, frequency of training, progression and what, if any assistance work one should do. That's where the differences come in when you look at programs like Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5x5, 5/3/1 or whatever else. More on programming to come.

The big 4 are all barbell exercises, so you'll need to hit a gym or invest in some home gym equipment to perform them. I went the route of setting up a garage gym, and it took me several months to put together all of the needed equipment. The wait and expense has been well worth it and the best way for me to ensure I can lift 3-4 times a week. More is in the works to discuss the equipment side of things. I have become a huge fan of Rogue Fitness gear -- a bit pricier than some of the Chinese-made stuff, but super solid, great company and made in the USA.

Whatever program you choose, adding incremental amounts of weight, tracking your progress and tracking your personal records (PRs) is key and part of the fun. Watching your strength progress is awesome. Crushing reps with weights that you couldn't even lift once...pretty sweet, and the progression quickly becomes addictive.

More to come. Hit me up with questions or requests in the comments section.


  1. I think this is also one of the most overlooked aspects of being prepped. It is easier to buy a bunch of beans and bullets than it is too put in the work to lose weight and get strong. I'd recommend reading Tactical Barbell and Tactical Barbell Conditioning as well. I've gotten a lot of millage out of the first book (I make noting off this recommendation). It helps explain progressions using the big four (five if you count pullups) and ways to customize it to your scheduled and needs. A lot of police and military use it to great success. I wish I had a rouge gym at home, mine is scrapped together from craigslist and amazon, but still gets me what I need.

    1. I will have to check those out. Pat Macnamara and Dom Raso are two trainers who have been doing the cross-over between tactical and strength training.

      There are some great deals out there on Craigslist and other places if you hunt around and can stay flexible.

    2. I concur. I got some good bumpers and a rowing machine for dirt cheap. Horse stall mats and plywood go a long way towards saving the garage floor too. I forgot to mention the books are less than 10 bucks each on amazon. My dead lift went up 80 lbs and my bench went up 40 lbs after about 2 months. It's good stuff.

  2. 5x5 was where I just rocked. Unfortunately I can't find a happy place because I guess I'm OCD about working out. Now I'm more crossfit and MMA and have leaned out a lot but can't toss around 115 pound dumbbells anymore. I know, boohoo, but its a lil sad.

  3. If you are having problems with the squat try substituting leg presses. Also make sure you are not going pass 90 degrees on the motion of the rep. Guys who put their butts to the floor on squats will always need knee surgery at some point. Once pass 90 degrees all the stress is on the joints and not the muscles. I have been doing this for about 25 years now and will turn 50 next month, and to date no elbow, shoulder, or knee surgery due to a weight lifting injury. Also gets some cardio doing sprints verse long distance running. Sprints will prepare your heart for adrenaline dumps during high stress situations.

    1. I am good on squats, just need to do some extra stretching before I do them to loosen up hip flexors.

  4. Great seeing the subject. It reminds me to get off my ass and stay flexible. I started crossfit late last year and ended up with a neck and arm injury. After surgery I'm still not back to where I should be. Picked up some weight over the winter while under restriction and just haven't taken the time to drop it. I can still ruck 50# 12 miles in a day with zero issues, but it could be 80 pounds if I got my stuff together.

    I really enjoyed Crossfit, but my competitive and stubborn nature pushed the envelope of my 40+ year old body past the breaking point. Getting back into the low impact flexibility and body weight only stuff will be my goal for the winter.