10 Rules to Lift By

Strength Training 5 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

I asked the coaches what are their top 10 rules to lift by, and this is what we got.

Some of it’s advice for beginners. Some of it took us years to learn.

I’ve condensed it all for you here.


1. Never Use the Squat Pad

It’s that black velcro thing that goes around the bar to make it hurt less on your shoulders.

Toughen up buttercup, and never use it again.

If the bar hurts your neck/shoulders/spine it could be for a few reasons:

1. You have the bar in the wrong position.
If it hurts your neck or spine you definitely have it in the wrong spot. Move it back so it rests on your traps. I recommend learning the low bar squat because it eliminates this issue entirely.
2. You have too much weight on the bar.
With a proper progression, your shoulders will adjust to the weight of the bar as it increases. Drop the weight, improve your form, and develop real strength.
3. You need bigger traps
You’ve got a built-in squat pad–your traps. Ensure your shoulders are squeezed together so your traps bulge to create a platform for the bar.

Another issue with the squat pad is that it adds instability to the bar on your shoulders. Instead of the barbell being in direct contact with your body it is now separate and is more likely to roll off your shoulders.

2. Never Wear Gloves


If you wear gloves because the bar hurts your hands you need to get over that. Your hands will gain calluses for protection as you lift and each session that pain will be less until it is no more.

If you wear gloves because you want to keep your hands soft, well, get over that too. You aren’t a masseur, and tough hands come with the territory.

Wearing gloves weakens your grip because it artificially increases the diameter of the bar, and it creates a barrier to friction. This can actually increase the chances you will develop callouses because the skin in your hand will be pulled more.

3. Always Rack Your Weights


This is your duty as a good human being. Leaving plates on bars, not replacing dumbbells, or dropping extra cable attachments wherever is the gym’s equivalent of littering.

Just like throwing garbage out on the highway, cluttering the gym makes you a shitty person that no one likes.

Don’t be that person.

Put weights back in their proper place every time.

You might be able to use 10 plates on the leg press machine but the next person may not. They might avoid the machine all together because they lack the strength to rack that many weights and now you are preventing their growth.

4. Always Record Your Workouts

This is the biggest mistake newbies make. Whether you use an app, a spreadsheet, or a notepad you need to record every workout.

Scientists take meticulous notes when performing experiments so they know what actions produced what results, and what changes to make for future desired outcomes.

Your time in the gym should be no different.

This allows you to look back and gauge your progress. It helps you recognize patterns(like how you always skip leg day because it’s later in the week) in your training, and optimize future workouts.

5. Compounds First

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Good strength training programs (like The Seriously Strong Beginner Program) always focus on compound lifts. Those are moves like the bench, squat, and deadlift that involve movement in multiple joints and multiple muscle groups.

Good strength training programs always put them at the beginning of the workout because these movements are the most difficult, involve the heaviest weights, and are the most technically demanding.

Leave the isolation work for the end.

6. Plan with Purpose

You need to have a good training split.

Push, pull, legs. Upper/Lower. Full-body. Bodybuilding style. There are a lot of ways to split your strength training up, but the important part is that you choose one and stick to it.

Your workouts should be planned to ensure you are moving towards your goals(you do have goals right?) with every session. This ensures you allow for adequate rest for your muscles and that you don’t forget any.

7. Remember your “Go” Muscles

It’s been said the muscles in the front of your bod, your mirror muscles, are the “show” muscles.

The muscles on your backside, your posterior chain, are your “go” muscles. The hamstrings, glutes, and back are the muscles responsible for athletic prowess. These are the muscles that will be your go-to’s when push comes to shove.

But they are the most often forgotten muscles.

Remember back day. Hit your glutes & hams. Work on low back strength.

8. Check Your Ego

Stop the set when your form breaks down so you don’t break down.

You should know before you even unrack the bar that you will be able to lift it. Make sure you have a spotter or safety arms in place.

Respect the weights. They will hurt you when you turn your back on them.

9. Bring up Your Weak Points

If you hate training a lift or body part it’s because you are weak there.

This is not an excuse to ignore that muscle.

It’s a red flag that you NEED to bring it up to par.

10. Set Goals

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It gives you a finish line and means you know when you make progress.

Losing weight is not a goal. Losing 10lbs of fat in 60 days is.

Get stronger is not a goal. Hitting a 315lb deadlift is.

Build bigger arms is not a goal. Growing your arms to 16″ is.

Your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T.(specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive).

Wrapping it up

These are the top 10 rules to lift by according to the Seriously Strong Training coaches.

These are the things we always remind ourselves, and our clients when we step into the gym.

What are your rules to lift by?

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.