It's The Most Popular Piece of Equipment in the Gym, But You Don't Have To Use It

...unless you're a competitive powerlifter or crossfitter

December 12, 2018

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Today’s #WeightRoomWednesday post is about the barbell. And before we go any further, it’s a major bummer I had to crop the full photo for the header so please enjoy the proper context:

I was just thinking about how the barbell is such an important part of many experienced lifters’ stories. It’s almost a rite of passage to walk into the gym as a scared newbie, with hardly any idea of what to do, let alone how or why to do it. So of course we all go right to the bench press, look around to make sure there’s no stronger people headed for the bench, maybe swing our arms around a few times, and struggle with just the bar. All while the guy next to us reps out 225 like it’s nothing.

Many journeys of physical, mental, and emotional growth start like this, including mine. I think because so many of us start with the barbell as our primary form of external weight (and many stick with it), we develop an attachment to it. Combine this with the results it’s gotten since the Arnold years, and you can see why it gets so much hype. I’m not saying it doesn’t deserve this hype.

Like I said, its results speak for themselves. These results include countless magazine covers and Hollywood 6 packs, people bangin’ out of their league, and the rise of Ed Hardy. They also include quite a few injuries and a narrow view of what you can do in the gym.

(Side Note: I’d say those injuries are on the lifter, not the equipment. Lifting more weight than you can handle with improper form is GOING to lead to injuries. I can’t blame barbells because people try to squat with 135 on their back, when they can’t even do a controlled bodyweight squat. Barbell or not, it’s safest to maintain total control of your body and the weight when you’re lifting.)

The reason I wanted to write today’s post, as many gear up for that new January gym membership, is to remind you that YOU DON’T NEED TO LIFT WITH A BARBELL. They get a lot of hype, but they are not necessary for 99.9% of people reading this. I barely use them myself, or with clients.

Master your bodyweight movements. Try out kettlebells or dumbbells. Use the cable attachments. I love my TRX. There are countless possibilities and variations in these realms (and most of them don't even require a gym membership). If you’re not in pain, and you’re in control of your body and the weight, you’re good.

There is no one “best” way to exercise. If there was, I’d have told you all about it by now. There is just what is best for you, and what is not. To find what’s best for you, you have to experiment. Experimenting to find what’s best for you, barbell or not, is way more fun and beneficial than going through someone else motions.

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Matt Koch