The Hidden Benefit of Barbell Training

Posted: 22nd January 2012 by thea9693 in Training


BillMarchPressing The Hidden Benefit of Barbell TrainingBy now we all know that in order to get bigger and stronger you have to use a barbell in your training. This is obviously not any kind of new and exciting revelation. You want bigger legs you squat. You want bigger shoulders you overhead press. You want a bigger back you deadlift.

Now, to play devils advocate I could make a valid argument why the only barbell exercises you truly need are the squat and deadlift and why for the upper body you could get away with dumbbells and bodyweight exercises only. Hell, standing dumbbell presses would probably get the job done just as effectively, in many cases, as a bar.

The obvious problem is the incremental weight jumps you can make from workout to workout. With a bar you could go from 135 to 140. Or if you had fractional plates, as I recommend most people do, you could go up to 136 or 137.5. With dumbbells you’re usually going to be making ten pound jumps. That makes slow and steady progression a little bit more difficult. Not the end of the world but worth considering.

Secondly, some exercises done with dumbbells for low reps just aren’t that safe. If you want to train maximal strength and press for a triple it’s safer to do so with a bar. Even just getting dumbbells that heavy into position can be a little risky sometimes. For those reasons I very rarely prescribe a dumbbell exercise (other than a one arm snatch) for less than five reps.

But, in my opinion, here is the real magic and advantage of using barbells in a training center where you want to create a great atmosphere and have all of your clients loving their experience at your place…

When you base your programs around the power rack and big barbell exercises everything changes. There is more camaraderie, more team work, more competition and a better atmosphere in the gym overall.

You know why that is?

It’s pretty simple, actually.

Because in a properly run barbell workout everyone is involved in every single set their training partners do. Let’s say you have four guys in a group training together and they’re squatting. You have position 1- spot left, position 2- spot right, position 3- spot from behind, position 4- you’re up to squat. And you repeat and keep moving.

Doing this keeps every single member of the group engaged and focused. Each person is changing weights, spotting, coaching, learning and paying attention… They are FULLY entrenched in every single rep of squats that goes on during that workout.

Let’s say you were a bodyweight only guy or a guy who didn’t believe in loading the spine. I can guarantee you that your training center will never have a great atmosphere and build that same type of camaraderie and competition if you replaced the squat with the dumbbell split squat. There will be very little intensity when compared to barbell training. Guys will just wander around staring at the ceiling or counting birds outside the window.

There’s no need for them to spot, there’s no need for them to change weights and therefore they’re in their own world, concerned only about their own set or their own performance; not everyone else’s. And that creates a really shitty environment.

Of course you have to do single leg work and pushups and chins and all that kind of stuff which I’m a huge fan of, but it should be done after you get your one big barbell exercise out of the way.

That’s all it really takes is one big barbell exercise per workout to completely change everything. If all the assistance exercises are the exact same but you start with barbell military presses instead of dumbbell military presses it makes all the difference in the world for the numerous reasons I mentioned above.

After guys get their fill of the excitement, intensity and camaraderie of doing that one big lift together you can move on to assistance work.

One thing to note is that guys and girls are completely different. The majority of females (unless they are athletes) don’t enjoy healthy competition like guys do. You and I might get pissed if Billy squats more than us but it will force us to slap another five pounds on the bar or come back and whip Billy’s ass next week. Our day won’t be ruined over it.

If Susie out squats Sally, Sally will get pissed too. But not the way a guy will. She will just be pissed off in a bitter way and ready to quit. Mind you I’m not talking about every female, and especially not the ones you want in your gym. But on average this stereotype does hold true.

Same goes for coaching complicated exercises. Guys will be frustrated with themselves if they can’t do it but will desperately want to get better at it and keep trying. Girls will get very bitter and say “fuck this.”

Most females also don’t develop the same sense of camaraderie that guys do. Instead, they may “develop a sense of bitterness,” like my friend, John Alvino said, if you force them to stay put around a power rack and work together as a team.

Just keep those things in mind if you train females. Most of those types of females are better off in a bootcamp type setting and actually NOT doing barbell training.

Side rant done.

So while coaches will continue to argue the merits of dumbbells versus kettlebells versus bodyweight versus machines versus barbells I think they are missing one of the single most important factors.

For creating an incredible training atmosphere with camaraderie and competition, that people will absolutely love and tell their friends about, nothing beats the almighty barbell.

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