As you walk into your gym, the first thing you see is that handsome Brad Pitt (or Orlando Bloom or whatever) look-alike curling a barbell relentlessly and vigorously on the squat rack. Sets after sets after sets, you stand in awe as you see the grotesque veins bulge on his biceps as he stimulates every square inch, every nooks and crannies of its muscle fibers. The girls on the treadmills would surely fall for him.
Two month later, you see him again, strenuously curling his barbell in the squat rack like the champion that he is. However, something in the back of your mind senses that something is wrong. Well, at a glance, everything appears to be normal: he's got a great form in his curl, he's got that look of fearsome, hardcore intensity in his eyes, and his veins are jutting out majestically. The only problem is, he is still 6 foot tall and weighs a buck fifty and he's still curling that same barbell with ten pound plates on each side: he didn't make any progress at all. And chances are, if you haven't received instructions on how to properly lift or base your entire workout on a bodybuilder's regimen in the latest issue of a muscle magazine, you're not making any progress either.
And then there are people who will steadfastedly stand by their magazines and assert, "No! I've tried the latest Coleman/Cutler sets and my strength/arm size/ego doubled!" Okay, fine. But stick with the regimen for a few more months and see what happens. Nevermind the fact the people who use them or similar variations are hardcore steroid users and possess one of the most freakish genes on the planet. In other words, those that are normal will usually stagnate in their size and strength and achieve a total burnout.
Okay, you're ready to reform or if you're completely new to the iron game, learn the right way to lift. First step, buy the book. It will teach you the five compound lifts: the squat, the bench press, the standing press, the deadlift, and the power clean. To progress, you must do the compound lifts. To get bigger, stronger, faster, sexier, you must do the compound lifts. What are compound lifts? Compound lifts are movements that utilize two or more of your muscles. For example:
The Squat mainly targets the legs, the butt, lower back, and the abs.
Bench press - the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Press - shoulders, triceps, traps
Deadlift - upper back, lower back, legs, traps, abs.
Power clean - the power clean is a variation of the olympic clean. It starts as a deadlift, but utilizes speed and it is pulled up and racked on the deltoids. This is the king of all movements, it works out almost everything.
You must do this as opposed to the isolation movements, which - you guessed it - only works out one measly muscle. For example:
The (squat rack) Curl - biceps
Biceps don't make the man. The whole body does.
In addition to the instructions, Rippetoe meticulously explains the correct forms of these movements, which are illustrated by numerous photos. The author also takes pains to show scenarios of erroneous lifts and advises how they can be corrected to avoid serious injuries. REMEMBER: it's the form that counts, not the amount of weights that you can lift. A big lift with a bad form can otherwise produce a horrendous injury that will cut short of your weightlifting career or produce minimal strength gain (quarter squats, anyone?).
Near the end of the book, the author provides a program that utilizes all the five compound movements with the right amount of sets and repetitions for all to follow. For those who have rose to the intermediate or advanced level, I highly recommend that you get Rippetoe's other book, Practical Programming, which has a better treatment on individual regimen programming. Also check out Madcow's 5x5 (google madcow 5x5) website. His program works evenly great.
Oh, and the squat rack is for squatting only, not for curling.