Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
October 09, 2013

Is Barbell Dogma Doing More Harm Than Good?

By Mark Sisson
209 Comments

Barbell DogmaIn the Church of Iron, weight machines are the ultimate sacrilege. Using them is a heresy punishable by banishment to the underworld of Pilates, ruled over by the fallen powerlifter Qurl Sin Thuh Zkwaut Raq wielding his unpredictable ball of Bosu and condemning the damned to an eternity of weak stabilizer muscles, convex buttocks, and wildly imbalanced quad-to-hamstring strength ratios. Absolution is nigh impossible. You so much as touch a cable pulldown machine and you’ll be forever barred from entrance into the heavenly Weight Room, where the blessed souls clothed only in three-prong leather lifting belts and 0.75 inch heeled lifting shoes feed upon the protein smoothies gushing forth from the spurting teat of the great Rippled Toad that give them the power to PR on the deadlift every day, walk (but never run, for conditioning is a sin) the halls of infinite power racks, squat until glutes grace ground with nary a butt wink in evidence, and be forever protected from any injury save permanently scuffed up shins.

In the Weight Room, even a prolapsed anus caused by a 2-ton clean and jerk will cleanly heal with but a light dusting of holy lifting chalk. Yea, it is truly a heavenly thing to behold, amidst the angelic chorus of grunts, clanging plates and bars, the smooth retraction of a protruding colon back to whence it came. But that’s heaven. To get there, the faithful must toil on the mortal plane under rigid prescriptions forbidding certain behaviors and requiring others. As laid out in the Holy Moleskine Training Log: Thou shalt not covet thy brother’s squat rack, unless he engages in curls in which case he must be cast out. Thou shalt squat, or else suffer atrophy of mind, body, and spirit and be delivered down into Pilates upon death. Redemption is possible and requires the successful completion of 3 sets of 5 repetitions at twice bodyweight with perfect form. Thou shalt not jog. And so on.

But paramount above all other commandments is this one:

Thou must go into all the gyms, online message boards, and blog comment sections and proclaim the barbell gospel. Declare the glory of iron at all hours and decry the false fitness gods, growing not weary, for in due season you will reap eternal rewards. 

If you’ve spent any time on fitness boards, you’ve seen this contingent in action, condemning non-barbell exercises and answering every other question with “Try squatting more.” They’re spouting the barbell dogma, but unlike most other dogmas, this one is particularly difficult to ignore. Why? Because all else being equal, using barbells will make you stronger, fitter, faster, and more powerful than using weight machines, doing bodyweight exercises, and other fitness alternatives. Furthermore, the strength gained from barbell training will have more carryover into other modalities. The evidence – both clinical and anecdotal – is clear on this (PDF). That’s what makes barbell dogma so darn persuasive; technically, they’re right. And yet I would argue that to suggest that someone who isn’t training with barbells is just wasting their time in (or out of) the gym is counterproductive and ultimately harmful. That kind of barbell dogma, while rooted in truth, does everyone a disservice (as all dogmas eventually do).

For one, it’s going to turn many people off from being active. You’ve spent your entire life sitting at a desk, can only manage a quarter squat (on your tippy toes!), and you’ve never touched a barbell. You’re riddled with crippling anxiety in public, super self conscious of your body, and would prefer to just do some simple bodyweight exercises at home for awhile until you’re comfortable enough to brave the gym – but everything you’ve read is telling you to “Be a man and squat!” For every online barbell enthusiast who’s immersed in the minutiae of technique, who watches lifting videos and reads lifting books and debates others who are just as obsessed as they are, there are thousands of people who just want to get “toned,” lose some weight, and get stronger without dealing with “scary free weights.” You might think they’re being ridiculous, but they do exist and they deserve to train just as much as anyone. And believe it or not (I’ve seen it happen), lots of people who first develop the confidence with machine or body weight exercises go on to use barbells.

Second, it’s going to inspire unprepared people to rush headlong into intensive barbell training without doing due diligence. People like to say that the barbell lifts are simple, that anyone can “just do them.” If we’re talking about a population of people who’ve been moving, squatting, lifting, and regularly walking in a healthy, biologically appropriate manner their entire lives, I would agree. But if we’re talking about a sedentary population of chair sitters and infrequent movers getting under a barbell without addressing their movement deficiencies, the risk of injury rises. Imagine the aforementioned office worker who can barely hit a quarter squat on his tippy toes trying to barbell back squat. Imagine the force with which his femurs would be trying, perhaps successfully, to blast through his patella without the modulating effect of his heels on the ground.

Third, even those folks who are successfully squatting, deadlifting, and pressing with barbells and spreading the good Iron word are missing out, because when you exclude everything that doesn’t involve a barbell you exclude worthwhile modalities like MovNat, martial arts, and gymnastics. When you’re too sore from your last workout or too worried about messing with your “gains,” you’ll miss out on backpacking trips, long hikes, going for walks with your loved ones, and playing sports.

Fourth, I present to you Keith Norris. The man is a beast, able to chase down gazelles on his fixie (provided he’s got enough coffee in his system), perform multiple consecutive pullup bar muscle ups at a bodyweight in the realm of 220 pounds, broad jump 8’5″, and trap-bar deadlift 400 pounds for 7 reps with ease. You’d think he was all barbells, all the time; you’d be wrong. Keith uses free weights and machines. In fact, he runs a facility specializing in high-tech resistance training machines. If barbells were the only way, this guy would be using them exclusively. But he’s not.

What’s my point here?

If you’re cowed and discouraged by the barbell dogma, don’t be. It’s not the only way. It’s not even the best way for everyone. Don’t be scared of it, mind you. Just know that you’re not wasting your time if you do the leg press instead of the squat, or pullups instead of barbell rows or prefer martial arts and parkour to barbell training. There is no one way.

If you’re untrained and inexperienced and want to work out with barbells, be careful! Work on your mobility, assess your weaknesses, read the experts, and start slowly. You can always add more weight to the bar, but you can’t erase an injury that occurs because you got ahead of yourself. And always, always listen to your own body. If something feels weird, stop doing it. If something hurts (and it’s not just a sore muscle), back off.

If you’ve only ever trained with barbells, consider trying something else. Work a bodyweight day into your rotation. Attend a MovNat workshop or jiujitsu class. Take a week off and go backpacking through the wilderness. You might be surprised at how your overall fitness, mobility, and even strength improve.

Overall, the “barbell is best” crowd has a good, worthy message, it’s just muddled and confusing and too authoritarian. I actually don’t disagree with them. I just think they’re a vocal bunch who are limiting themselves and the people who take their advice to heart.

What about you guys? What are your thoughts on barbell training? So effective to render everything else pointless? Or is there room for all sorts of movement and fitness modalities?

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave a comment!

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

209 Comments on "Is Barbell Dogma Doing More Harm Than Good?"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Donnie Law
2 years 11 months ago

Well said.

John
John
2 years 11 months ago

+1!

Couldn’t agree more – after reading MDA for over 3 years, Mark still impresses me with his writing. Focused on primal, but always fresh, and never fanatic. He continues to make Primal something for everyone, not an exclusive club. (I can think of some world leader’s who could learn something from Mark…)

And I would add well written – crisp and readable. I know of no other blogs that can meet the standards Mark sets for quality presentation, regardless of the topic area.

trackback

[…] In the Church of Iron, weight machines are the ultimate sacrilege. Using them is a heresy punishable by banishment to …read more […]

Aria Dreamcatcher
Aria Dreamcatcher
2 years 11 months ago

Interesting… I have a personal trainer right now but soon that will be over, so I need to start thinking about planning my own workouts. I was going to try going to TRX classes and doing my own workouts, so this is helpful. Thanks Mark!

Chris
Chris
2 years 11 months ago

TRX is awesome! The only reason I stopped was that class times did not fit into my schedule. It will definitely give you new appreciation for resistance and body weight exercises.

MattyT
MattyT
2 years 11 months ago

There are a lot of extremely fit people that never touch a barbell, and there are extremely fit people that do nothing but barbell training. Find something you can stick with and excites you and Grok it.

Dr Jason Bussanich, DC
2 years 11 months ago

This.

Hedwards
Hedwards
2 years 11 months ago
I recommend against using barbells anyways. The bottom line is that few people do them correctly, there’s this notion going around that you stop when your knees are over your toes. Unfortunately, that protects your knees at the expense of your hips. Not to mention that the proper range of flexibility for a squat is to go down until your butt hits the floor or your legs are completely bent and can’t go any further. And that’s certainly not safe with a barbell of any mass. http://www.bodybuilding.net/training/knees-over-toes-myth-12253.html Another issue is that by loading up a huge weight just above your… Read more »
James West
James West
2 years 11 months ago
I don’t think that link addresses the true nature of the knees behind toes/upright shins argument. The argument for keeping the knees behind the toes stems from A. how we squat naturally, i.e. look at a how a baby squats sometime, and B. prevention of muscle imbalance development. i.e., squatting with knees behind toes/upright shins and knees forced out keeps the hamstrings fully engaged vs allowing the knees to go over the toes where the hamstring actually shortens and does not remain engaged. The reason all that force being transferred to the hips, according to the link, would be detrimental… Read more »
Mark P
2 years 11 months ago

“how we squat naturally, i.e. look at a how a baby squats sometime”

How adults squat and babies squat are not the same thing. ever look at the proportions of a baby compared to an adult? They are totally different.

“Look how babies squat” is a moot point.

aly c.
aly c.
2 years 11 months ago

amen!

leida
leida
2 years 11 months ago
I’ve been lifting on a Sl 5×5 and variations routine for a few years, but ended up incorporating more and more different things. From a woman’s POV jumping into barbell routine may be completely counterproductive, because the empty BB is too heavy to work well for most women because the UB strength is just not there to eeck out 5 sets of 5 reps with a good form. I think it is a great idea to start with body weight and bootcamp style dumbell lifting to establish a routine and a form with lighter weights. That’s how I got started… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
2 years 11 months ago
I have to disagree with you on a few counts. As a woman who has done a lot of powerlifting in her day, and could squat/deadlift around 200# and bench her body weight (before I had to cut back due to an unrelated injury), I think to say that “progress stalls fast” is true, but that’s for both men and women. To get to the point where you’re continuing to make progress past what would be a “natural” sort of level, both men and women have to use bands, chains, partners for negative reps, etc. This is not something specific… Read more »
Adam
2 years 11 months ago

I’ve been digging hard into Chad Waterbury’s program, which mixes up the barbell, dumbbells, cable machines, and bodyweight exercises. The science behind his advice is pretty convincing, and while it does utilize many barbell exercises, you go through different sets of heavy, medium, light, and deloading.

My fitness levels have increased by slightly stepping away from the barbell, and instead using the other exercises to increase my strength. And I can tell you, even though I’m using less barbell, I’m seeing the gains while recovering more quickly.

Johnny
Johnny
2 years 11 months ago

Yes, thank you for this. I have felt this way for some time since squats and deadlifts aggravate my piriformis syndrome. I still mix them in, but at a certain point I have to discontinue for a while until the inflammation subsides. During those downtimes, I turn to bodyweight training with pullups, lunges, squats, squat jumps, box jumps, pushups, etc., and have had great results.

For brute strength and lifting extremely heavy things, yes, barbell work is the way to go. But for general strengthening and looking good naked, there are many other ways.

Mark P
2 years 11 months ago

Good point, Johnny. For strength, barbell training is king, because you remove all of the other components typically seen in “lifting heavy objects” (e.g., balance and mechanical disadvantage”. I’m starting to take a liking to “real-world” strength, with sandbags, and soon kegs and other large objects, which require much more than just brute strength.

With bodyweight-training, you’ve got all of the other benefits (e.g., endurance, balance, ingrained motor-patterns), and if you work at it, you can increase strength. It’s just not as easy as with external-object training.

It’s all been mentioned here – http://www.markpieciak.com/2013/08/16/why-i-like-bodyweight-training/

ben
ben
2 years 11 months ago

Are there people who take things too far and refuse to see reason when it doesn’t agree with their dogma? Of course, as with everything else on the planet.

Does that mean the “Barbell Dogma” is wrong? No. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to do things the right, smart, economical way.

ben
ben
2 years 11 months ago

Also… judging by the many gyms I’ve been to, “Barbell Dogma” surely isn’t discouraging people from going to the gym and doing the things they are encouraged not to, and doing things that are giving them pretty much no benefit.

Hedwards
Hedwards
2 years 11 months ago
I strongly disagree with that. People assume that barbells are smart, right and economical, but there’s no evidence to prove that. It’s also intellectually dishonest to imply that people weren’t stronger prior to invention of modern weight lifting techniques. Sure, weights have existed for millenia, but they were never the focus. If you want to get really strong, really efficiently, there’s nothing as fast as asymmetric loads. Back when I used to work back country construction jobs, we’d all get ripped in a matter of a week or two, by week 5 we didn’t have an ounce of unnecessary body… Read more »
Mike N.
Mike N.
2 years 11 months ago

I was willing to bear with you until you got to “we’d all get ripped in a matter of a week or two, by week 5 we didn’t have an ounce of unnecessary body fat, it was all muscle.” At that point, you lost some credibility.

Robert
Robert
2 years 11 months ago

Its is entirely possibly to get ripped in a week. Working 10- 12 hour days doing heavy construction or logging, I have done it more than once. Once the work stops, you soften up, but get it back fast when you need it. I always laugh when some gym bunny trainer calls for a “farmers walk”, they do it four times, carrying weights across the gym. Do that on a real farm, carrying heavy shit all day long, from Sun up to Sun down and you will get strong, fast, and lean.

Captain Competition
2 years 11 months ago

I don’t think that there is any one way to best to exercise. I just finished with StrongLifts 5×5 which was a barbell exclusive program and yielded great results. It promoted strength increases. But, after about 12 weeks I felt I needed to mix things up and when I did I also saw good results. Truth is that no matter what program or dogma you subscribe to it is always good to change things ups and vary your exercises.

Darren
Darren
2 years 11 months ago
Not really as simple as that. Compound movements, even done with just body weight are more advanced than people give them credit for. Some people naturally pick up new things well and can do them safely, efficiently, and get good results. Some people truly are incapable of picking up compound movements and doing them safely and getting good results at first. Some people need machines, bands, isolation exercises, isometrics, mobility or corrective exercises, etc to start out with to get their nervous system to learn proper recruitment and motor patterns before they can properly squat, deadlift and press. Cues aren’t… Read more »
Matt
2 years 11 months ago

I love me some barbell lifts. With that said, I also love to be able to jump out of the path of a car if it’s coming my way or able to run if need be. I also like the thought of being able to scratch my own back….

Dr Jason Bussanich, DC
2 years 11 months ago

The ONLY worthwhile fitness is the one that you enjoy enough to do consistently. Consistency is the only important factor whether it is ice skating or weights. Mixing it up occasionally is the second most critical, I agree with Mark. Most injuries I see are from repetitive micro trauma (tennis elbow, runner’s calf issues), which is from not changing it up often enough.

Stephanie Paris
2 years 11 months ago

Well said! I am an ex ballet dancer and have found that the times in my life that I am most active are when I’m making time to get myself into a ballet class a couple times a week. If I’m being consistent with something I love to do, then I am also inspired to branch out into other forms of exercise, like barbell weight training. But I would never have started with barbell work if it weren’t for another form of exercise that I was first more connected to.

Taylor Rearick
2 years 11 months ago

This right here is a great real-life example of “training to play”. Great point to bring up whenever the subject is about lifting weights in a gym setting.

-Taylor

Martha Henson
Martha Henson
2 years 11 months ago

I agree

Tina
Tina
2 years 11 months ago

Thank you, and thanks to Mark for this post. I would like to try free weights but the main hitch is that I want to work out first thing in the morning at home and I don’t really want barbells in the living room. If I have to leave the house to work out, consistency is going out the window, and right now at least I have that going for me. Fortunately, there are some great HIIT workouts on dvd . As for resistance training, I will have to be satisfied with bodyweight resistance and low weight/high rep compound exercises.

Nomad
Nomad
2 years 11 months ago

I agree 100%. The only exercise I have any interest in doing is one that is fun. For me, I’d much rather play tag with my husband at the park instead of a set plan of sprints or hoola hoop on a rainy day instead of going to some smelly gym (don’t knock it – hoola hooping is hard!) or jumping on a trampoline till I’m giggling like a maniac. The secret for me was finding ways to just be a kid again and have FUN!!!

Matt
Matt
2 years 11 months ago

Very true. Consistency is what seperates those who are in shape from those who are in somewhat shape to those who are shapely.

Variation should be a key component to any workout routine as it gives the body the ability to adjust quickly and forcibly if necessary.

steve
steve
2 years 11 months ago

I agree. In fact, I do a lot of ground-up workouts that involve zero bar bells during the running season and I can actually do more pull-ups and push-ups.

Through my own self-experiment, I’m finding that I don’t need bar bells. Having tree limbs for pull-ups, carrying lots of heavy things, and of course ground-up workouts….and I’ve never been stronger! I’m also maintaining a 32″ waste with my various ground-up routines.

einstein
einstein
2 years 11 months ago
Doing more pullups and pushups means you are into resistance training. Muscle hypertrophy and power training is best achieved by barbells, dumb bells, and “bodyweight with added weight” training. So it all depends fm one’s goals. I feel like I started out with deadlifts and squats far too late, should have started to do these earlier. I am doing dips with 30 percent of my bodyweight in a backpack on my back for 3 sets of 12 reps. Pullups with 25 percent of my bodyweight added in 3 sets, of 12,8 and 6 reps. And I never felt stronger or… Read more »
Dan
Dan
2 years 11 months ago

I’ve recently doing barbell weights, partly based on your recommendation to do strength training 2x a week having implemented better eating for over a year before that. I’ve seen great improvements from just over two months of doing basic barbell exercises — the thing that I appreciate the most is that all of a sudden I feel like my chronically bad posture has improved! However, I agree there’s a very annoying barbell/bodybuilder culture and it’s very hard to actually drill down to the essentials while ignoring all the baggage.

Dan
Dan
2 years 11 months ago

Just to add another thought. I’ve been wondering whether the strength increases associated with doing barbell-type programs result in personality changes that promote aggressive/superior attitudes. Or perhaps it is the case that people with those types of personalities are more inclined to pick up barbell-training. It is certainly not universal however — there are some great people that do barbells that don’t come across the wrong way to me. In myself, I’ve personally observed an increased confidence in completely different things unrelated to strength. Hopefully, I haven’t become overconfident without knowing it!

Darren
Darren
2 years 11 months ago

You’ll find just as many superior obnoxious dogmatic people in any fitneds modality. Yoga, martial arts, pilates, badminton, whatever

WelshGrok
WelshGrok
2 years 11 months ago

+1

Tom
Tom
2 years 11 months ago

Good post. I’ve been a crossfitter for a long time, the one thing that has always bothered me about the community at large is the superior attitude. Having said that I don’t use machines, but I don’t snicker at those who do.

Rhonda the Red
Rhonda the Red
2 years 11 months ago
Okay, I’m the chair sitter who can’t do a quarter quat. I totally agree with Dr. Jason above who said “The ONLY worthwhile fitness is the one that you enjoy enough to do consistently.” Well, I guess I don’t enjoy anything! Part of me wants to branch out and just try some of these things that look so super fun — like sidewalk surfing or trail riding — but between lack of place, lack of equipment, lack of company, and lack of time, most of my workout routine consists of actually getting down into the floor with the dog. Unfortunately,… Read more »
bamboo
bamboo
2 years 11 months ago

Get the chair sitting thing as I want to hide or head for an airport to go south in the winter. Wear a pedometer and track your steps. Goal is 10k a day (5 miles). Start slow 2k, 4k, etc. You’ll see it make a difference. Try it!

Jamie Fellrath
2 years 11 months ago
This reminds me greatly of the recent obstacle course race I ran with a team from our Train 4 Autism charity. We had one guy on our team who was a weightlifter. I’ve not discussed exercise with him at any length other than to know he’s a power-lifter type, and I have no idea how dogmatic he gets. But on that day, he was at a disadvantage because he HADN’T explored other modalities. I do a lot of stuff – kettlebells, MovNat, bodyweight exercises, and other such routines, and I was much more functionally fit and ready for that race,… Read more »
trackback

[…] Daily Apple / Posted on: January 01, 1970Mark’s Daily Apple – In the Church of Iron, weight machines are the ultimate sacrilege. Using them is a heresy […]

DB Dweeb
DB Dweeb
2 years 11 months ago

The book, “New Rules of Lifting for Life” seems to take a balanced approach.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years 11 months ago
The part at the beginning was a tad long 🙂 but we get the point. Heres my two cents as a personal trainer who likes to fix people. I hate machines and love barbells/dumbbells. A machine takes away the stabilizing and core muscles that should be active while lifting. The machines are not functional- outside the gym you will never be in a seated position with your core (I’m referring to your entire midsection) completely supported. This means machines do not prepare us for real world situations where supporting my own midline is vital. That being said I may use… Read more »
Joy
Joy
2 years 11 months ago
My trainer echoes the very points you make about machines, the stabilization factor and the functionality of them. He tries to make every exercise I do, whether with weights or my own bodyweight be functional. Some of the stuff he comes up with absolutely mystifies me, but I see his point once I start doing them. I chose to work with a trainer initially because I am older (56) and didn’t know what to do in a gym. 3 years later I’m still with him and it ain’t cheap, but it’s something I really enjoy. His knowledge and expertise is… Read more »
Miriam
2 years 11 months ago

Your trainer has the same philosophy as mine. And being about the same age as you (55) I understand completely where you are coming from. I couldn’t imagine ever deadlifting or squatting six years ago and though I certainly don’t lift heavy, now I am in the best shape of my life. I’ve even amazed myself with my quicker reflexes when I was able to jump off a tilting kitchen table safely (don’t ask) without injuring myself.

Joshua
Joshua
2 years 11 months ago

Let me guess. You have a pedestal type table and you were standing on it changing a light bulb.

Ed
Ed
2 years 11 months ago
I agree. The important distinction is not whether the movement involves a barbell or not, but whether with the strength developed at the movement carries over to other activites. A deadlift and a glute-ham raise (or say a glute-bridge) are functional movements that develop hamstring strength in a way that is actually useful in sports and avoiding injuries in daily life while simultaneously developing core stability, even though the deadlift uses a barbell while the GH raise and the glute-bridge do not. In comparison, using a leg curl machine develops bigger hamstrings in a manner that has no carry over… Read more »
bumop
bumop
2 years 11 months ago

constant overuse of muscle groups from barbell dogma in crossfit left my partner with a fully ruptured pec major tendon; surgery and months of recovery. when he does get back to the gym, you can bet it won’t be crossfit. too much, too hard, too frequent=unbalanced muscle development that leads to these types of injuries–they are rampant in crossfit. most gym owners/trainers do not know enough about overuse or balanced training.

Pam
Pam
2 years 11 months ago

For me, time in the gym (using anything and everything!) is a means to an end. Actually, I enjoy the gym environment but my ultimate reason to be there is to be fit enough to be able to do whatever activity I want to. Btw, I’m 63 years old, have recently taken over a somewhat derelict allotment – and am fit enough to wield a right-angled fork and break up the ground. Too many people my age are sat at home waiting to die – I aim to be active until the very end.

David I
David I
2 years 11 months ago
I think barbells are generally better in all the ways described, except one: degree of control. Machines give you better control. But, I hear everyone exclaiming, that’s the point–barbells give you a more natural, wider range of strength development. True enough. But if you’ve been injured in certain ways, machines are the way to go for certain kinds of rehab. I’m recovering from a torn rotator cuff. Normally I prefer free weights, but machines (and resistance bands) are letting me recover with far less risk of injuring myself further… Barbells themselves aren’t all that natural. Try moving rocks around and… Read more »
skeedaddy
skeedaddy
2 years 11 months ago

David, I feel you would enjoy the discussion about rehab found at http://www.startingstrength.com. Search there for Starting Strength Channel, Episode 5.
All the best, Ken

Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

Since the barbell religion has taken over, I have witnessed more and more women who’s legs, back and delts have grown to a size that is UTTERLY MANLY. It’s sad, really. Wonder when they’ll all look in the mirror and question if they’ve followed the right path.

Adam
2 years 11 months ago
To each his own, some women like the strength and also the muscle once it’s there. Also, so long as there are plenty of guys who are attracted to the more athletic female (I know I am, but I am also attracted to very feminine “softer” women as well) it will keep going. It is definitely more acceptable in society now than it was 20 years ago, I think part of the growth (no pun intended) of female muscularity is that a lot of women who were athletes in the 90s have kids who are now growing up being used… Read more »
Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

There is a fine line, to be sure. But you are correct. It IS a perfect storm.

George
George
2 years 11 months ago
Really? You’ve seen THAT many women that look “utterly manly”? I think you are perpetrating a conventional wisdom myth that if women work with free weights they will get big and manly, that is VERY UNLIKELY to happen, most women just get toned with a little more muscular definition. I think women with muscle tone look sexy. Yes, there are a few hard core women who use PEDs and are really big, but that is very rare. I would encourage women out there to ignore this kind of comment and try adding a bit of weight lifting to your routine,… Read more »
Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

I’m not referring to women with slight tone and muscle. I’m referring to PED’s.

Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

Read the article again, dude. No one’s hating on free weights. He’s clearly referring to the dogmatic culture of Crossfit. I think a little weight lifting is good for ALL SEXES, but you and I both know that’s not the core issue. It’s the women who take it too far and think they’re something special. Most men do not find this attractive.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years 11 months ago

it wouldn’t let me reply to your other msg below so I’ll just comment here. YOU may need to read the article again -it doesnt even have the word woman or female- it doesn’t even bring it up. this is just your weird thing about not liking women who can outlift you. And thats fine but leave it on your own blog, twitter ect. Make comments that contribute, not just dogmatic about how much someone else should lift and how it may or may not make them look.

Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

Nope. No insecurity here. I could not give less of a crap if a woman can out-lift me. I stand by my original point.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years 11 months ago

That’s my whole point in responding to you- your original point is invalid. It has nothing to do with the article. You contribute nothing and have no facts. So re-read the article then re-read my last post responding to you and then repeat the whole process till that gets through.

Paleo-curious
2 years 11 months ago

I’m a soft, easily-injured “hard-gainer” type & I would love nothing more than to be a strong, muscular woman. Could it be that there are more important goals in a woman’s life beyond being attractive to you?

Maybe one day YOU’LL look in the mirror & be ashamed of your comment.

Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

Nope. Sorry. Men should look like men and women should look like women.

Stacie
2 years 11 months ago

Women who lift are doing it because of specific goals, like they want to be strong and fit, or maybe they are competing. Regardless, what YOU have to say about it is not even on their radar, and they could care less if you find them attractive or not.

Take your insulting, misogynistic comments elsewhere.

Madam von Sassypants
2 years 11 months ago

Never mind there is such, SUCH a broad spectrum of body types (predisposed by genetics or brought on by training, or lack thereof), preferences, and gender identities. “Girly” men and “manly” women aren’t any type of lesser people. People can look how they want to look, and they don’t need your approval to be who they want to be.

tkm
tkm
2 years 11 months ago

@ Johnny Bravo “Most men do not find this attractive”

Do you speak for all men on the planet? It’s perfectly fine if YOU don’t find muscular women attractive. But you don’t speak for all men. You’re just promoting sexist stereotypes and your comments are not productive.

Laura
Laura
2 years 11 months ago

You are entitled to your opinion and I enjoyed reading it. I’ve noticed some really strong women at my gym. When I first started going I wondered why they would want their thighs or back to get so big. After going for several months I have found the ‘stronger’ women more and more attractive. My perception has changed as time has gone on.

Stacie
2 years 11 months ago

+1

Johnny Bravvo
2 years 11 months ago

I only have a problem with women who take it too far. If I was in a class with a woman who was 50 lb overweight and she used barbells etc to get down to her goal weight, then KUDOS! I’m not referring to her. I’m referring to the butt-slapping, high-fiving women that have moved WAY past that point.

Madam von Sassypants
2 years 11 months ago

This just sounds horribly misogynist. God forbid women get, of all things, manly!

bamboo
bamboo
2 years 11 months ago

Personally, I’ve spent the spring, summer and autumn working on the ranch – planting gardens, hauling dirt/rocks and putting in patios/walkways on my property. There is always work to do. Haven’t had to hit the weights for over 7 months. Just now dusting off the workout room and dreading winter. Rather be doing something constructive with my body than lifting weights.

Tammy
Tammy
2 years 11 months ago

+1!

I too would ABSOLUTELY rather be doing something constructive with my body and besides I despise gym work/weight training of any kind. I have a “side” biz in lawn care and landscaping and work on my own property in my spare time. I haven’t needed a bit of extra exercise. I too am dreading winter though and trying to figure out what I can do…

Adam
2 years 11 months ago
I do love the barbell and abhor machines; I’ve gotten in much better shape strictly with barbell exercises (and pull-ups, my only body weight exercise). I do wish I got out more to do the other kinds of activities that culminate in a work out. A few months back when I attended a friend’s wedding I danced for hours. The next day, I was sore in places I didn’t know existed, especially in my legs. If you make your body move in ways you don’t normally do, like in sports, you will realize the benefits of the holistic exercise mentality… Read more »
Jess
Jess
2 years 11 months ago

Hey Mark

This message reminded me of something that you always talk about… you’ll miss out on other things like “Play” I saw this video a few days ago and it reiterated the message again.https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4282369690399

Tatts
Tatts
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for posting, what an inspiration – more than half his age and just watching him made me tired lol.

George
George
2 years 11 months ago
I enjoy working out with free weights, always have. I also play racquetball, do core and stretching exercises, work out with bands, on the mat, martial arts moves, the cable machines and leg press machine, pullup bar. There is definitely a subculture of juiced up meatheads that are into body building just for the sake of muscular definition and swagger around trying to intimidate people, but most of the really dedicated lifters are decent guys. Many gyms these days complement their free weights with machines and yoga, pilates, body weight training etc classes. Avoid the specialized, testosterone-laden big plates only… Read more »
Jeremy
Jeremy
2 years 11 months ago

Qurl Sin Thuh Zkwaut Raq and Rippled Toad. Genius! I lol’d.

Scott Iardella
2 years 11 months ago
Good article with some great points made about Barbell Training. As a strength coach and someone who has been training for decades, I have a love for the barbell and it certainly addresses many qualities we all need and want. But, it’s definitely NOT the only thing we should do. It all depends on the individuals goals, but for max strength and teaching people how to improve true function and strength/power, the barbell is tough to beat. MovNat and other things like “Primal Move” or “Original Strength” fit extremely well into strength training and improve movement and mobility, whether with… Read more »
Tony Danes
Tony Danes
2 years 11 months ago

I think you make a point. But for me the power clean and front squat are invaluable. The fact that I have no rack limits how much you can squat and therefore makes it a both safer exercises. I also clean and Press. Bench is for macho types. Me I’m a recovering O Lifter who only did one perfect snatch with 85kg/190 lbs…and will never happen again. My hernia in 2009 won’t allow it. I’m 53 and holding. cleaned 185lbs yesterday…fixing to clean and squat…peace

Cory
2 years 11 months ago

I totally agree with front squatting and pressing what you can clean. I get that back squatting allows more weight to be moved, but if the argument is about “natural” movement, what do we back squat naturally other than a barbell?

Gabrielle
Gabrielle
2 years 11 months ago

This came just in time, I’m going to start barbell training today. Great words of weightlifting wisdom. Thanks Mark!

Deborah Penner
2 years 11 months ago

Wow!! I had no idea there were such strong dividing lines … Just goes to show!! My thought is move and be fit in whatever way suits you and your body … period.

Websipe
Websipe
2 years 11 months ago

Funny, one could easily substitute gluten-free for barbells…although a recent posting railing on the media for referring to gluten-free as a “fad” had a distinctly different tone…

Has Rippetoe gotten too ornery and dogmatic? Yes…
Have too many people gone “gluten-free” as a faddish quick fix without understanding principles of Primal lifestyle and food quality? Yes

For all that, would we be a healthier society if people put aside grains AND felt compelled to move heavy things to a degree only facilitated by barbells? YES

Ed Dudley
Ed Dudley
2 years 11 months ago

I train D1 women athletes on a year round basis, and they never touch a barbell. Some times kettelbells, Dbells, ropes, sledge hammers, The Prowler, resistance bands, and
even a sling line…..but never a barbell. The way I see it, I’m training them to be athletes, not competitive weight lifters!!

Nick D
2 years 11 months ago
Ed, an admitted Rippled Toad disciple here as a Starting Strength Coach and seminar staff member. Have you considered the possibility that the women you train, being D1 athletes, have been selected for you as the most genetically gifted athletes, relatively speaking, by a very large junior high and high school feeder system? Believe it or not, they may already be athletes when you get them at that level of competition. Barbells are the most efficient means to load the human skeleton in a progressively incremental manner through the largest range of motion, while using the most musculature possible. If… Read more »
Ed Dudley
Ed Dudley
2 years 11 months ago
Nick I’m also a high school sport enhancement trainer at an all girls private school, so I see and train both sides of the coin. Twenty years ago I did a ton of the olympic and power movements, when training these athletes…but as with all things, I learned and I got wiser with what I believe works Best for FEMALE athletes. I certainly don’t know it all, but athletes coming back from all over the country, to train in the summers with me, seems to be a pretty good indication that we must be doing something right! Especially when considering… Read more »
Shauna
Shauna
2 years 11 months ago

Huh. Training with barbells has made me a better martial artist. And here I thought martial arts were athletic.

jordan
jordan
2 years 11 months ago

Excellent advice re: “If you’ve only ever trained with barbells, consider trying something else.” I was strictly a barbell guy up until a few years ago. However, years of barbell lifting left me chronically sore. Was introduced to TRX training, and have gone back to barbell lifting only sporadically. I haven’t lost any strength. In fact, TRX training has improved my stabilizers, so I’m a lot more balanced when I lift.

Tammy Crosson
Tammy Crosson
2 years 11 months ago

I love barbells and the gym. In an attempt to get more sleep and carve out a consistant workout time between family and work, I recently took a hiatus from the gym. I like it. I bought a sandbag and the compound movements are giving me a great workout. For cardio fitness I’m a big fan of jumping rope. My 5 year old is beginning to take notice of the workouts; so it seems my change of routine is also giving me an opportunity to model good fitness habits to my son.

Stephen
Stephen
2 years 11 months ago

Has anyone read this meta analysis on training types? It seems to suggest method is more important than modality. Specific to this post, training intensity determines strength gains more than whether you used free weights or machines.

http://baye.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ebrtr-Fisher.pdf

Drew Baye wrote a 5 part article about the findings on his website.

Thoughts?

Gero
Gero
2 years 11 months ago

Mark, you try too hard to be witty. That aside, machines are no doubt the easiest way to get injured, which is not to say that one should do barbell. It’s been said before, do whatever you enjoy and suits your goals and motivates you enough to stick around. If the goal is size, then BB is most likely the fastest way to get there. For general ‘fitness’, then look somewhere else, but I don’t think machines are the answer to anything.

Alyssa
2 years 11 months ago

“Mark, you try too hard to be witty.”

I thought it was hilarious…and I actually doubt he’s ‘trying to be witty.’ Writing so often can get boring if you don’t change it up, so I think he’s probably just trying to amuse himself. Bonus if other people think it’s funny 🙂

Reventon
Reventon
2 years 11 months ago
Dude, wrong on both counts. Number one, this was hilarious. As a guy who counts himself a gym rat and regularly scours fitness and lifting/bodybuilding forums, I found both the tone and the content to be picture perfect satire. Specially “Qurl Sin Thuh Zkwaut Raq.” LMFAO 😀 And the comparison to dogma from pricks in tiny 3 strap tank tops… perfect. I legitimately had the giggles at work going through the whole thing. Secondly, machine’s being the easiest way to injure yourself? Que? Not so much. Machines almost always make it way harder to injure yourself by limiting the range… Read more »
Josh Diesel
Josh Diesel
2 years 11 months ago
Hi Mark, Typically if any person takes a dogmatic approach to anything they will be found to be wrong. Whether it’s someone who proposes the idea that Yoga is all someone needs or whatever, they will be wrong. From that point, I agree with you. Taking a multi-faceted approach to your training yields the best results. In my experience once someone has been integrated into a gym and has begun to learn movements the barbell will start to be introduced to the point where they will use it most of the time with supplementary exercises from dumbell, bodyweight, machine etc.… Read more »
Parker
Parker
2 years 11 months ago

FYI – The gym Mark is referencing, Efficient Exercise, is owned by Mark Alexander. It started out as a SuperSlow gym years ago. Mark & team are a great group of folks and I’ve trained there many, many times.

anon
anon
2 years 11 months ago
Bodyweight exercises, barbells, machines etc. it really doesn’t matter which you use your body doesn’t care. The important thing to remember though is that each one does something the other normally doesn’t do. It really just depends on what a person is looking for, what their goals are, and what condition their body is in. For my money I say BW just because it can be done anywhere. If I am looking to build some more brute strength free weights combined with body weight exercises. Its all cool and does different things. I will say this though not all exercise… Read more »
Anony Mouse
Anony Mouse
2 years 11 months ago

I have no idea of what you just said. Was that even English? Wow. It seemed funny, though.

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 years 11 months ago

It was the the “King James” edition of MDA, considered by many to be a truer translation of the original Grok manuscripts.

Dallas
Dallas
2 years 11 months ago

Yes, well said. I love barbells, but there are certainly other ways to improve fitness out there. When one is focused on the “gainz” it does become tough to see the forest for the trees. Worship of Brodin can blind you from the Ultimate Truth.

Brad
Brad
2 years 11 months ago

I just did a quick search for the word “fail” or “failure” and saw it was not mentioned. Training “to failure” is a proven technique and benefit to maximizing muscle hypertrophy growth stimulus. Training to positive concentric failure is usually a much more dicey proposition using free weights than machine. Risk of injury, dropping the weight, etc. Any movement where the weight is above you has this problem and even some with the weight below you.

Laurie
Laurie
2 years 11 months ago

As a former nationally ranked runner, writer and personal trainer, I could not agree with you more, Mark. Women, especially, shy away from barbells. They shouldn’t. As to your description of the stereotypical free-weight gym? Nothing short of outstanding!

Stacie
2 years 11 months ago
Agreed! There is a LOT of misinformation being spread to women specifically about lifting, ie. do more reps at a lighter weight to get “toned,” then hop on the elliptical for an hour for cardio to burn fat! Heavy lifting (especially barbell lifting) will get women that toned look, faster, while spending less time in the gym, and burning more calories/fat. But its sooooo hard to wade through all the CW when it comes to women’s health and fitness. There is too much misinformation about getting bulky (ladies, we don’t have the testosterone levels to look like a meathead) and… Read more »
Domenic
Domenic
2 years 11 months ago

Alot of the issues with having dogma around a certain implement is a lack of understanding in what constitutes good movement, what are the most common reasons for poor movement and how to fix them.

Most training “styles” center around the principles of loading a working body and if you know much about training you know the very fact that the body is not working properly makes any regimen that does not address this much less effective.

Avishek Saha
2 years 11 months ago
Great post, dogma is the bane of health studies. Squatting and deadlifting heavy all the time started to drain my nervous system and cause symptoms of adrenal fatigue – burning behind the eyes, fatigue upon waking in the morning, and less overall desire to lift. I’ve started to lift lighter weights (before I pretty much maxed out every workout for 2-3 years), and my energy is coming back. But there were other factors with my problem such as sleep deprivation and not eating enough. Squats and deadlifts and bench press seem to be part of a new barbell culture if… Read more »
David
David
2 years 11 months ago

“Qurl Sin Thuh Zkwaut Raq ”

Thank you for this….still chuckling.

brandon
brandon
2 years 11 months ago

“Everything in Moderation” The same destination always has more then one path…

brandon
brandon
2 years 11 months ago
Oh and I believe one must also keep in mind that many who are professing this dogma are in fact more interested in the “sport” of weight lifting. It is its own closed system of rules and regulation to achieve a perceived goal or award, to WIN, as it were. Just like a football player who plays American NFL rules football must practice within those rules to be better at a game run by those rules, so must a weight lifter adhere to those regalities when he trains. No the barbell, squat, deadlift, sit, eat, repeat theme is not the… Read more »
Jenny
Jenny
2 years 11 months ago

Thank you for this. I have been doing bodyweight exercises, and I am approaching my goal of doing unassisted pullups. Maybe I could get stronger faster with barbell training, but due to location and cash constraints, I don’t have access to a proper gym with spotters and trainers. My first priority is to not hurt myself. The second is to enjoy what I’m doing.

Barbell Barack
Barbell Barack
2 years 11 months ago
My gym has 1 squat rack. I want to thank all of my fellow members for doing leg presses, extensions and curls The rack is always free so i can get the work done…. The problem with ALL fitness is the people who take everything to the extreme. Completely over the top as if there is only one way. 80% is showing up. If you’re making gains, feeling better and looking better that’s all that matters. I squat, but if I did leg press, would my body composition really change? Not much. The kettlebell freaks from StrongFirst. Great information, but… Read more »
wpDiscuz