People regularly ask me what I believe the key to success is in the world of fitness. My response: barbell movements. I believe that barbell movements should be a staple in everyone’s fitness journey regardless of preferred training style. The three core barbell movements I am specifically referring to are squat, bench, and deadlift. These three movements can provide the most bang for your buck in regards to exercise selection. Despite the countless benefits associated with the three core barbell movements, it seems that these exercises are regularly neglected and underutilized. I typically see bodybuilders and physique competitors only using isolation exercises and wondering why they are not increasing muscle mass. Figure and bikini competitors are worried about becoming “too bulky” yet cannot find a way to efficiently improve muscle tone and definition. And don’t forget about standard sport athletes who are convinced that they are going to injure themselves during one of these core barbell movements but struggle to make it on to the field. You do not have to be considered a “powerlifter” to implement these barbell movements into your exercise routine. When executed with proper technique, the three core barbell movements can be the most consistently beneficial exercises in your routine.
Despite popular belief, form trumps weight when maximizing fitness potential.
When completing these barbell movements, technique should always be your top priority. Performing these exercises incorrectly inhibits your results. You will not be doing yourself any favors by throwing more weight on bar than your technique can handle. The sooner you dial in your technique, the sooner you will be able to add more weight to the bar and begin reaping the benefits of these exercises. If you are uncomfortable with these movements, find someone who can help you. Maybe this is by asking an experienced lifter in your gym or a coach or by looking up a tutorial online where there is unlimited free information to educate yourself. Despite popular belief, form trumps weight when maximizing fitness potential. So make sure you’re maintaining form when completing these barbell movements.
Regardless of the sport you are training for, barbell movements should be integrated into your fitness regimen. They are going to improve your overall strength and increase muscle mass more effectively than a machine ever will. So when you are debating between squatting and using the leg press, SQUAT! The leg press is a great accessory exercise that can be used in the middle, or even the end, of a workout but it should not be considered a primary movement for that session. Invest a majority of your energy into one of the core barbell movements because it will consistently provide the most results.
The full body activation from these barbell movements ultimately results in increased strength and overall muscular development.
What is more difficult to do, squat or leg press? The answer is always squat, hands down. This is because you are not only relying on yourself to move the weight but to also stabilize yourself in order to successfully complete the movement. Squats are commonly thought of as just a lower body exercise when in reality you are utilizing your entire body in order to complete the lift. Yes, your legs primarily generate a majority of the force to lift the weight, but you are forgetting that your back is providing a shelf for the bar to rest on and your core is establishing the stability you need to stay upright. The same can be said about the bench press and deadlift. These are movements that require the activation of various muscle groups throughout your entire body. The full body activation from these barbell movements ultimately results in increased strength and overall muscular development.
I believe that a prominent training principle for everyone should be progressive overload. This means you are gradually increasing the weight, and stress placed on the body, over time during training. This is the only way you will be able to continuously progress and avoid long-term plateaus. Since machines are incapable of providing progressive overload, solely using machines can be very limiting. There are only so many pin slots you can utilize on a machine. A barbell offers you the ability to freely add weight allowing you to make adjustments to training without weight restrictions. I guarantee that from the first day you decide to pick up a barbell, you will not want to go back. Not to mention that since your body will have to adapt to your transition from machine to free weight movement, your fitness gains will be off the charts!
Just to be clear, I am not saying you should eliminate these machine exercises all together. What I am saying is that if you are spending more time on the cable machines than you are with a barbell, you are lacking training efficiency and missing out on potential growth. Without improving strength through barbell movements, you can only create so much stress or stimulus using the same weights each week.
It’s simple, these movements help make you stronger. Athletes have been using barbell movements in training for decades. There is no other form of training that has been proven to be more reliable or consistent. It is also the most simplistic and inexpensive training style. The amount of exercises you can do with a barbell, a few iron plates, and a power rack are almost unlimited and can potentially target every muscle in the body. If you do not belong to a gym, that’s ok. You can find plenty of equipment at a decent price to set up a small home gym that will have everything you need.
Barbell movements, when tailored to your goals, allow you to do this more affectively and efficiently than you can imagine.
I encourage you all to give barbell movements a chance. Remember, everyone starts somewhere. Do not be intimidated to try something new! I believe we all started training with different goals and aspirations, but we are all striving to improve and grow. Barbell movements, when tailored to your goals, allow you to do this more affectively and efficiently than you can imagine. I guarantee that if you take my advice and implement barbell movements into your training, you will be more satisfied with your outcome and happier in your fitness journey.
Collin is a strength and performance coach with numerous athletes ranging from competitive powerlifters to athletes. His best meet lifts: 589S, 435B, 711D. Use code "WSP15" during checkout to receive 15% off your order. To learn more about Collin click here!
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