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Barbell Training 101


At a certain point in your training, especially if you are trying to build strength, it will be time to pick up a barbell.

Barbells can help you to perform basic strength training moves like deadlifts, squats, presses and rows with far more weight than is possible with dumbbells or kettlebells.

Barbells are the perfect tool to ensure you are continually challenged when it comes to strength training, allowing you to build and add on weight so that you are always progressing and getting stronger.

If you are not familiar with the barbell, it is a metal bar that can be loaded with weights. They are normally found in the weight training section of the gym, or can be purchased for home use, alongside a variety of weights which can be added to suit your ability and strength-training goals.

Barbell benefits: a general overview

The great advantage of training with a barbell is that it has a long, fixed, stable shape that allows for weights on each end to be changed as needed for your workouts. This adds an element of customizability and adaptability to strength training that dumbbells and kettlebells, for all their merits, don’t have.

While dumbbells and kettlebells are available in heavier, more robust weights, the bigger they get, the harder they are to grip and maneuver, meaning that if you want to lift heavier, a barbell may be a better option.

Another great thing about the barbell is that you can add weight in small increments, tailoring your workout to you before progressing to a heavier load.

If it is your goal to build and maintain strength, then barbell training can be a natural progression from dumbbells and kettlebells, especially once you start training at weights where stability becomes important for proper movements and safety, but the heavier loads are needed to make gains.

In the barbell, you get an adjustable, ergonomically friendly load-handling tool. For example, when squatting and deadlifting, this allows heavy weights to be gripped in the hands and moved directly over the center of the foot to distribute the stress of weight training over the whole body, thus lessening the risk of injury.

Barbells are also a great training tool for timesaving, as when doing the “Big 4” barbell exercises: Squats, Bench Presses, Shoulder Presses and Deadlifts. Using the barbell, you will work multiple muscle groups hard and simultaneously, with the advantage of (potentially) unlimited progressive overload.

Limitations of the barbell as a training tool

For many, barbell training may be intimidating, especially if you are not sure where to start, or you are new to this type of training.

This is completely normal when trying something new or switching up your fitness regime. Progress takes place outside of your comfort zone, so look at it as a fresh challenge which will help you to maximise your results. Before you get started, do your research, as there is a certain level of form and skills required to ensure you are getting the most from barbell training.

In comparison to dumbbells or kettlebells, training with a barbell can seem restrictive, requiring a fixed grip and as a result not as much freedom of movement. Barbells are optimized for strength training but because of that they do end up limiting a bit of your mobility to get that focused functionality.

Another drawback of barbell training is that to partake in it often and with a lot of variety, you will likely have to be a member of a gym as opposed to getting everything for a home setup.

Not only are they fairly expensive to buy, they also require a lot of space to keep and use.

Barbell safety

Safety when using barbells, just as with any training equipment, should not be overlooked.

If you are training alone and/or training heavy, make sure you use the safety pins or safety arms.

It is also advisable to have a training partner spot you whenever possible to make sure you are not left in a vulnerable position. The spotter can provide assistance should you need it, as well as verbal feedback as you do more sets.

You should also take care loading and unloading the bar. It is recommended to do it one plate on one side, then one plate on the other side, alternating until all the plates are on or off. Do not take multiple plates off the same side first, as this leaves the bar unbalanced and could be the cause of it tipping out of the rack.

How to use Barbells to reach your goals

Barbells are an effective tool to improve fitness and athletic performance. Getting the technique down teaches your mind how to use your muscles effectively to move an object efficiently, known as the neuromuscular connection. Improving this connection is what is initially responsible for strength training gains, as well as often improving balance and coordination – a win-win.

Barbells are also a great tool for improving your fitness levels and enhancing muscular endurance, which simply refers to how long muscles can sustain exercise.

If you enjoy working out with barbells, the variations that they enable you to make will ensure you can keep challenging yourself and enjoying exercise as you pursue your goals, whether that be weight loss, general strength training, or training for a sport.

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