20 Jul Pro’s and Con’s of Barbell Training

The barbell had me at hello.

No doubt, it was the barbell that hooked me some 30 odd years ago and basically I’ve never looked back.

Sure, I’ve had my peaks and valleys throughout my training journey, but looking back now it was my old barbell set that started this entire process.

The difference between now and then is that back in the beginning I had no clue about technique or training principles.

I was training solely for bodybuilding and not performance – I didn’t know how to improve performance and I didn’t care about it back then (yeah, I know).

One thing I’ve learned and appreciated through all my years of training.

The barbell is still the king of strength.

If we all know this, why doesn’t everyone include the tool in their training program?

Listen, one thing I’m not about is dogma.

What I mean is I’m not here to preach any method or say that everyone must include a certain tool in their training.

What I am saying though is that the barbell can offer more benefit to more people, even if just using the tool for the fundamental movements (squat, deadlift, press).

The barbell is a wonderful tool, just like the kettlebell is a wonderful tool, but there are pro’s and con’s just like everything else out there.

Let’s take a look at some of the limitations and benefits.

CON’S

1-COST

If you’re training at home, then the 1st limitation to barbell training may be the cost.  In comparison to other training tools, the cost can be quite a bit higher for a barbell set (bar, weight plates, collars). A quality bar could be as much as a few hundred bucks and then another couple hundred for the plates, depending on how much load you think you’ll need.  Then, there’s also a squat rack and flat bench, which may be needed.  Of course, if you’re training at the gym, you should be all set so this isn’t a limitation at all.

2-SPACE

Again, if you’re training at home, there’s the issue of “space” and having room to set up your training areas with bars and plates.  It’s not like a kettlebell where you can easily store the kettlebell out of site. You need space to train and also store your equipment. At home, the ideal space is the garage home gym and many of us are taking advantage of accumulating equipment like barbells, kettlebells, and other tools for awesome garage gym set ups.  No matter what, space is needed for the barbell set up, so this can be an issue depending on where you train.

3-SKILL

Now we’re talking about the REAL thing that may be holding people back from barbell training – learning how to use the tools properly. This is the single most important thing in safe, effective barbell training, learning how to use them. As I mentioned, I started training with barbells when I was young, but the truth is I didn’t know the first thing about the skill of strength and the importance of developing technique. This may be a limitation, but it’s easy and well worth it to find a great coach, take a workshop, and invest in learning how to use barbells. Skill development is required to get the most from the tool and also keep us injury free.

4-APPEAL

Here’s another big issue I see with barbell training. It simply doesn’t appeal to everyone. There’s a certain “stigma” to the mighty barbell. But, this shouldn’t be the case and it’s unfair considering what the tool offers each of us. There is no one that would not benefit from deadlifting. There is no one would not benefit from a squat pattern. But, there is a stigma and lack of appeal to barbells for some reason. My guess is because it’s damn hard. You can’t cheat your way through a barbell lift and you have to train smart and train hard.

5-INTIMIDATION

Let’s face it, training with a barbell can be intimidating. After all, we’re not training with a 2 pound dumbbell here, we’re loading up the bar and using our entire body with big lifts. It can be intimidating if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing. The “intimidation factor” is definitely something that holds people back. But, as with everything listed here, there’s a simple solution and it starts with finding a great, quality coach or simply registering for a workshop.

Ok, we’ve talked about some of the con’s or limitations of barbell training.

Let’s talk about the pro’s, the benefits the tool offers us.

PRO’S

1-MAXIMUM STRENGTH

This is obvious. There is no other tool that can make us as strong as a barbell because we have to ability to load the bar to our strength capacity – our limit strength or maximum strength. If our goal is truly to become strong, the barbell is the tool to deliver strength.  But, the benefits go way beyond just maximum strength…

2-MOVEMENT

Barbell training, just like kettlebell training and bodyweight training, helps us to move better. We move better and we move stronger by training with barbells.  Providing we have learned the proper biomechanics of exercise, the tool helps us to improve our functional movement patterns, improve mobility and flexibility, and develop motor control and coordination. From deadlifts to squats and through the Olympic lifts, we can greatly enhance our movement skills and performance with the right programming and techniques.

3-GROWTH

Another big benefit is the continuous learning and development. Any movement based training (like barbells, kettlebells, and bodyweight training) is a continuous process of motor learning and skill development. What does this mean? It means we can always get better, we can always improve, we can always deepen our movement skills with the exercises. We literally can always learn better ways to get stronger, perform better, and get better results by evolving our skill set. How cool is that?

4-CHALLENGE

There is a constant challenge with barbell training – this is a great benefit of training with barbells. Whether we are performing basic deadlifts, presses, or squats or higher level Olympic lifts, we are constantly challenged with the loads, the skills, and hopefully, the programming we follow. Barbell training is infinitely challenging.

5-BODY COMPOSITION

We will certainly change and improve our body composition with barbell training. We can add more muscle and ultimately shed more body fat. I don’t advocate using the barbell as a conditioning tool, as I think there are much better methods for that like kettlebells, bodyweight training, sprinting, jumping rope, or even a simple walking program. But, we will have a metabolic shift by building quality lean muscle, depending on the program we implement. There’s no question we’ll improve body comp via barbells – no question.

6-FUN

Check this out, barbell training is actually fun to do. We’re not going to do something if it’s not fun, right? Let me tell you that training with barbells is an absolute blast when you figure out how to use the tool the right way. The reward and satisfaction you have following a training session is amazing. Every single training I have now I not only look forward to, but thoroughly enjoy because it’s FUN to do. Picking up heavy weight safely provides a sense of fulfillment that’s beyond description. If it wasn’t truly a fun thing to do, I certainly wouldn’t be drawn to it as much as I am.

SUMMARY AND ACTION

These are the pro’s and con’s of barbell training.

I’m sure there’s more things that could be added to the list and the things listed as con’s all have simple solutions.

Like I said, I’m not here to preach dogma.

What you do is your decision.

But, no matter whether you’re a recreational exerciser, hardcore exerciser, endurance athlete, competitive athlete of some kind, or just want to get stronger and improve yourself, the barbell can help us all.

The level and scope of how we use it depend on our specific goals.

If you’re not using barbells, ask what’s holding me back?

And, if you are using barbells, ask what do I need to do to become better (the question I ask myself)?

Scott Iardella writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff!  
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