"When a man walks into a gym, he may be confused about where to spend his time — in the section full of gleaming, easy-to-figure-out machines, or over by the barbells, where he might be more intimidated both by how to use them, and the kind of guys who are gathered there.
Let’s just clear it up right here: barbell training is the best way to train for strength. Bar none. Nothing else even comes close to the effectiveness of barbell squats, presses, deadlifts, and the Olympic lifts for the development of strength, power, and muscular size. The reason barbells are so very valuable is that they are the most ergonomically-friendly load-handling tool in existence – they allow very heavy weights to be gripped in the hands and moved directly over the center of the foot. Their extremely adjustable nature allows small increases in stress to be applied to the whole body over the full range of motion of all your major leverage systems; these small increases accumulate into amazing gains in size and strength for many uninterrupted years of progress.
A long time ago, gyms were equipped with barbells. And that was pretty much what you went to a gym to use – a steel bar and iron plates that were added to increase the weight. If you used them while standing with both feet on the ground, a natural position for a bipedal creature such as yourself, there were a limited number of exercises that you could do. You could put the bar on your back or shoulders, squat down, and stand back up. You could put it in your hands and press it up overhead. Or you could put it on the floor and pick it up. But these simple approaches worked very well, because they utilized the normal functions of all the joints and muscles in the body.
Standing barbell training can be summarized very succinctly: moving your body’s mass and a weighted barbell in a vertical line over your center of balance – the middle of the feet. The effectiveness of this movement is due to gravity. Amazingly enough, gravity always works in one direction: straight down. So the way you always work against gravity is also only one direction: straight up. Your body balances over the middle of your feet when you take an even stance, like we use to lift heavy loads. This means that the most efficient way to lift a load is as close to your body – and therefore as close to the middle of your feet – as possible, in a straight vertical line upward. Barbells permit this better than oddly-shaped objects, like lawnmowers.
Keeping the weight close to the body is the normal way to handle any load you work with. You already do it this way without thinking about it. For instance, pay attention the next time you pick up something heavy from the floor. You stood as close to it as you could before you lifted it, because your experience has taught you that the closer the load is to your feet, the easier it is to lift. Chances are that when you’ve gotten hurt handling your lawnmower, it happened because the weight was not close enough to your center of balance.
The increased use of various types of benches altered the basic nature of barbell training, and this enabled the bench press to replace the standing press as the basic upper-body exercise in the gym. Benches allow the center of balance to be moved to your back or your butt, and this is how the bench press or any seated barbell exercise works. But otherwise, the default position in barbell training should be standing with the load, both feet evenly spaced under the weight.
The barbell offers a way to load the body’s normal movement patterns with progressively heavier weights, a process that essentially forces the body to get stronger whether it wants to or not. After all, if you start with an empty 45-pound barbell laying on the floor and add just 5 pounds to it every week, in 6 months you’re deadlifting 175 pounds. In a year, you’re up to 305. And almost nobody starts with only 45 pounds – your mom is stronger than that from having picked your ungrateful ass up off the floor all those years.
Barbell training is simple, logical, effective, inexpensive, and most importantly, proven. It has worked in its current form for decades for millions of people, and it has formed the successful strength training foundation for athletes since the early 20th century."
Group Class Programming for Monday, April 30th, 2018:
15 dumbbell Thrusters (35/25#)
10 Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups