Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Oct

Is Barbell Dogma Doing More Harm Than Good?

barbell2In 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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I must admit getting out of gyms and into the fresh air with minimal or no equipment is kind of liberating…. Theres a reason for this…… Find a groove that makes you smile and stick with it. Master your skills but dont forget to try new things from time to time….. repetition limits us…. Remember the ABC.. Ask questions. Believe nothing. Confirm it for yourself! ‘Move well then move often – GROK ON COMRADES!’

    Jason Rice wrote on October 9th, 2013
  2. Great article Mark,

    For everyone’s viewing pleasure, Lu Xiaojun (China’s U77 Olympic Weightlifting Champion, London) using a machine:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1m6H0Xz9hU

    I don’t think it’s affected HIS squat:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMBCLsrktwI

    Rocky wrote on October 9th, 2013
  3. I’ve been training with free weights off-and-on for a long time. Lots of 1RM and 5×5 stronglifts. But had to go to higher reps after breaking 4 of the chordae on my mitral valve. Doc said he’s only seen that in folks lifting very heavy and in traumatic injuries like smashing your chest into the steering column.

    Heavy was fun but it can be dangerous. I’d never have said it before but lifting a bit lighter (light enough to do at least 13-14 reps) is safer and still yields good results without putting so much strain on your heart valves. If you lift heavy long enough especially if you don’t pay close attention to your breathing you will almost certainly get leaky valves if not outright break some chordae like I did. My heart issue was discovered and corrected with a minimally invasive procedure. I was back at work after 3 weeks and better than ever in about 4 months.

    If you’re lifting really heavy consider going a bit lighter. I’ve found 5×25 KB swings with a 75lb homemade T-bar to work well and also do a lot of sledgehammer work and love rowing and HIIT. I still do freeweights and body weight conditioning (Convict Conditioning is a good book on BW exercises).

    Something to think about…

    Jim wrote on October 9th, 2013
    • My wife had to correct me on one point I had 2 broken chordae and most of the others were badly stretched.

      Jim wrote on October 9th, 2013
  4. Exactly, well said. Let’s look at professional dancers or acrobatic circus performers as examples of extremely fit and “strong” athletes who don’t primarily lift barbells, if at all.

    Barbell lifting is one of the most “complicated” things I’ve ever done and I think one is never really “done” when it comes to improving technique. So yes suggesting that someone not used to exercises go near a barbell is insanity.

    Fortunately, the Crossfit gym I joined 4 years ago is owned by two gymnasts, so needless to say the hour long class consists of a variety of movements and skill training, and the facility was gymnastically equipped/padded, so one could stay on and play practicing handstands and rolls etc, or take full-on gymnastic classes.

    And to this point, we had a woman gymnast in her 40′s who took crossfit classes “occasionally”, however she held female gym records for moves like weighted pull-ups and most consecutive muscle-ups. Also she could jump into a crossfit lifting class on a momentary whim and “out-lift” everyone in it, except the highly skilled male veterans.

    Everyone was eased into lifting techniques with PVC pipes and people entirely new to exercise used dumbbells.

    Patricia wrote on October 9th, 2013
  5. I use a Bowflex in the privacy of my home and have never been more fit. While it is not for everyone, it works for me. I also enjoy carbs and have never had an issue with them (or gluten). Mahala.

    Lantus wrote on October 9th, 2013
  6. I read this at work and just about snorted my coffee! Well said and well written…. It made my morning!

    Jodie Hansen wrote on October 9th, 2013
  7. Poetically written with powerful insight.

    Stephan R wrote on October 9th, 2013
  8. I’m a bit discouraged by this article. Marks PBF seems to say bodyweight is a great way to be strong, fit, and lean. But he clearly says in this article that barbell is the superior way to go- only he’d basically be more tactful in communicating that to people depending on where they are on the journey. I’m confused, is he basically saying if you can get access to barbells, you’re better off in the long run?

    Jered wrote on October 9th, 2013
  9. Has anybody read the “butt wink” link??? My jaw dopped while reading the bodyweight squat non-sense part. And I’m still puzzled. Why are we still discussing all this? After I discovered the book “Convict Conditioning” here on MDA (Mark wrote one of the headlines), all “traditional” weight lifting lost any sense it was making for the my past-self. I started to apply those principles and my muscle raw power skyrocketed. Calhistenics are the answer. That’s not a dogma, it’s just the way the warriors of all ages used to train for their fights. An probably the closest to Grock’s training style. Go and grab a copy, your body will thank you!

    voingiappone wrote on October 9th, 2013
  10. A really good point. Bro-science is often lacking, and built on a religeous dedication to one method. But in reality, humans are best by a whole host of physical challenges. The strength offered by barbell training is useful, but not if you are unable to convert your deadlift strength to actually lifting something up in the real world. And machines have their place – some high quality, well designed machines (Nautilius etc) enter into a realm that even barbells cannot reach (by following the strength curve of muscles as opposed to a consistent amount of resistance offered by weights + gravity).

    I personally train in the HIE method one day a week (squat, press, row, pull down, bench – both freeweights and qaulity machines), deadlift + Movnat one day a week. Thats it. And I have experienced unparalleled gains in size and strength (compared to my experiences with starting strength training, thrice weekly hypertrophy training and CrossFit). Easy, and only a few barbells in sight.

    Barnaby Nichols wrote on October 9th, 2013
  11. Nicely written, humorous approach. Barbells are fine, but they are NOT the end all to weight training. Not everyone is trying to gain 40 lbs of muscle weight. There are a few really good bodyweight, dumbbell and resistance band training sites out there that are great for building lean muscle and strength. There are also several really good machines for safely building muscle mass (Powertec comes to mind). There are even (GASP!) some pretty good DVD/internet based workout programs that will meet the needs of most people. I “borrow” from several sources to create my own workouts, and yes, I also use a Smith machine and barbells on occasion…

    Garlan wrote on October 9th, 2013
  12. Some weight machine exercises have no easy equivalent in barbells, for example pull down weight machines. So I think if you are just doing barbells you are going to miss out on a lot of exercises that work different muscle groups.
    personally I also find that alternating between barbells and weight machines is more effective for me, because variety tends to be more stressful to your muscles then doing the same exercises over and over.
    I also find that I get a much better workout using a rowing machine with weights attached than doing bend-over rowing with barbells.

    marcus volke wrote on October 9th, 2013
  13. I am 53 years old and over the past two years my life has changed dramatically…THANK YOU Mark Sisson. I have a son who is 20 and for the last 12 months he has done free weight training. His results have been great, gained SOME muscle. That was his goal. It definitely worked for him. He looks great. But I see so many others that look like they’re only puffy or swollen. I dunno maybe the vocal ones are those that have achieved real results thru proper form, correct exercises and dedication. It is no doubt hard work and koudos to you all. I’ve trained with my son a few times because I don’t have much experience with a barbell. I am really only interested in squats, deadlifts and the bench press. I do plenty of other modalities which include dumbells, cable machines, bodyweight, sprinting, HIIT, etc. In terms of fitness I know I am in much better shape/condition than most that are around my age and certainly many younger people as well. For comparison purposes I may have less lean mass but I also have less body fat than my son My endurance and mobility is far and away better than his. Sure he’s stronger but I’m strong too and not a slouch by any stretch. The takeaway for me when I’m at the gym or elsewhere is that I must be doing something right, all things considered..lifted or not. Grok on!

    Rob wrote on October 9th, 2013
  14. My two cents….I need to get working out. As is live in AK. Diet 100% moose, caribou, salmon, greens from garden. Quinoa from store. Trying to follow this site and minimal bread type carbs. 10 cords split and stacked, another ten to do. Massive snow shoveling, hiking in swamps in hip boots etc but still thinking I need to do actual workouts…..not sure

    Z wrote on October 9th, 2013
  15. I was a barbell only guy, but since I’ve incorporated body weight and kettle bells things have been much better. I feel healthier overall.

    Chris sarnowski wrote on October 9th, 2013
  16. Of course you can train other ways, and there are other sources of joy in the world than a heavy deadlift. But, on the other hand, barbell training is a proven way to get a lot stronger. There are other ways, but barbell training is a Really Good Way.

    I know in my case, training on machines did nothing to help my chronically sore back, which vanished once I started deadlifting. I’m very pleased with what “barbell dogma” has brought to my life.

    Disclosure: I’m a Starting Strength Coach, so, a “Rippled Toad” disciple.

    Karl Schudt wrote on October 9th, 2013
  17. Great info, thanks Mark! My partner Clint has gotten me into doing more primal movements, still including some strength straining, but nothing like the heavy weights we used to do in the gym when I was a personal trainer. He’s now a trainer also and is big on all things natural and primal and he’s so much healthier because of it. I used to do insanely heavy weights and made many of my clients do the same (all while ensuring excellent posture, core control etc but still..!) and I wish I knew then what I know now!

    Now we go to the beach, pick up and throw rocks, sprint, crawl and do all sorts of fun primal movements. I still love boxing, and we use CrankIt straps sometimes, but overall we move a lot more naturally and functionally. And it’s SO much more fun! I never enjoyed lifting heavy weights as much as I enjoy what I do now!

    Thanks for putting this info out there for people to learn :)

    Aimee wrote on October 10th, 2013
  18. I prefer barbells / dumbells on the whole,
    but as I work out along when I want to really up the weight I use a machine for safety’s sake.

    Rik wrote on October 10th, 2013
  19. The issue I’ve had with barbells is my own requirement to complete moderate to heavy weight reps, often super-slow to complete failure. Without a spotter, dangerous stuff.

    LEM wrote on October 10th, 2013
  20. delivered down into Pilates …..has me smizing :)

    I am a ftness trainer for good few years..have had great results with barbell but the tirendess and soreness does get on the way of an active work day..plus yes totally agree smaller stabilizing muscles can feel left out in the long run..

    years of training people turned me into studying Pialtes nowadays…body hasnt been happier..i do keep up a bit of weightlifting …but must mention that those barbell sissies must try Pilates..Hardest.Workout.Ever. plus it will fix your ROM problems and a lot of injuries…;)

    Vlada wrote on October 10th, 2013
  21. Muscles don’t care what is a source of resistance they are contracting against. For me bodyweight (+backpack sometimes) is most convenient way to train. If there are some low enough bars in a playground, I add “barbell” work- static contractions version of squats or deadlifts.

    Andis wrote on October 10th, 2013
  22. Dumbbells are better than Barbells.

    Deano wrote on October 10th, 2013
  23. Please continue using machines, balls, pads, bags, body weight, dumb bells, tradmills, whatever.

    My gym has just two squat racks and now I get one whenever I walk in for however long I want.

    BT wrote on October 10th, 2013
  24. Well said! I dont think Grok had a barbell! and DOING WORK with body weight exercises is more Paleo then anything else!

    Brian wrote on October 10th, 2013
  25. In my case I have a bad shoulder and can’t use the bar, so for me dumbbells work very well as it allows me to adjust my hand position and angle. Also, I DON’T SQUAT LIKE FREAKING EVER!! Heavy that is. I hate the movement to start with and it makes me feel so very slow when running. I do dead lifts heavy and squats light for a lot of reps, I don’t really need a lot of heavy muscle in my thighs, but I do like the benefit that your back gets from both movements, do them on the same day as shoulders. Great article though, I have sent it along to my grandson, he still feels a bit intimidated in the gym by bigger guys.

    mark riffee wrote on October 10th, 2013
  26. That intro was bloody hilarious!

    I’ve been teaching Kung-Fu for over 25 years – If I had £5 for every time I’ve shown some meat-head how slow their training regime makes them, I bet I could buy 100 pairs of Vibrams!

    Too much rigid lifting slows you down ‘period’, as you say on that side of the pond; if you want to lift heavy things slowly, then fine – Me, I just use machinery to do it, (or bet a meat-head he can’t Lift it ;-) )

    You’ve got to do a variety of training if you want real physical ability. PB & MDA has shown me how to refine my already varied regime for best results, fewer injuries & best of all more free time!

    WelshGrok wrote on October 10th, 2013
  27. Having been involved in competitive powerlifting, and spending 18 years of my 45 years “under the bar”; I can 100% agree that the new barbell dogma is bad news for a lot of people. The worst part about it? The lack of real training … this means the lack of focus from a new lifter to train correctly; and the lack of focus from trainers who cash checks while teaching bad form.
    I’ve had many injuries through my time in the gym; mainly knees, and then a major back issue that took me out of the iron game last year. The reason I could get hurt, have a knee surgery, and get back in the gym is because of a dedicated focus to rehab, form, and knowing that it takes years to strength train. Not months. My time in the gym was real training; with short, medium, and long term goals set in stone.
    My Primal Blueprint path started in 2009. I cut 55 pounds in less than 6 months; and actually ended my fight with pre diabetes, skin issues, and a signature wheat belly. I kept lifting, because I still had goals in mind. My plan was to break a state lifting record in my age group and then leave powerlifting.
    I hurt my back in March 2012 and ended up having surgery last August. I mention this because while I was laid up, I kept thinking, “If I were Grok, hunter gatherer, I would be a dead man right now”. Food for thought.
    My advice? If you are going to lift, learn how, from real trainers that care. Don’t lift weights just to wear the T-Shirt, or think you are part of the club. The new barbell game is a joke, a sales pitch, and those of us that have been there understand how that being truly strong is all in DEDICATION, CONVICTION, COURAGE, and a little insanity thrown in for good measure.
    Honestly, you can get more real work done with body weight exercises anyway. When I say real work, I mean strengthening your body naturally, and allowing yourself to improve overall fitness for all life throws at you. Going into the gym and lifting heavy might make us unaturally strong; but it also keeps you in 3 states: Hungry, Tired, and Sore. For now, my daily routine is bodyweight exercises, some yoga, and walking.
    Thanks for this article Mark.

    NC_Primal wrote on October 10th, 2013
  28. I really loved this article, not only because of the content but the first section about the barbell dogma was so well written. It really had me giggling! Please keep writing! I enjoy the information and the wit!

    Andi wrote on October 10th, 2013
  29. I lmao until my buttocks were concave!

    Great article. :)

    Chelle wrote on October 10th, 2013
  30. Well said…I couldn’t agree more. Being one dimensional creates barriers when it comes to achieving proper development. We must train for strength, mobility, power, flexibility, agility and so on. These are all important as they help create neuromuscular efficiency, stability, and corrective movement patterns. If mobility is an issue I would recommend taking a look at Kelly Starrett’s book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” or some of Eric Cressey’s work. I believe compound movements are critical component in a successful program design, but should not be done until movement pattern issues are corrected. When starting with BB work it is important that you take some time (weeks or months) focusing on mastery of technique and once that is established start by adding small amounts of weight.

    Erik wrote on October 10th, 2013
  31. It is really confusing when we’re told to do this, then the following year there’s another thing to do that’s better than the previous. I do a combo of barbells (mostly), some machines and HIIT to stay fit along with Primal eating. I’m not as thin as I would like to be (lifelong battle with that), but I’ve never felt better.

    Carla wrote on October 10th, 2013
  32. I love x fitters. Those guys can always take a whooping in the MMA gym for way longer ;)

    Shani wrote on October 10th, 2013
  33. Balance of the various fitness disciplines used to be the matter of course. Check out Maurice Jones, dubbed the Canadian Hercules. He was renowned for tremendous training pound ages. On his off days he would either run or hike through the mountains with a rucksack. He loved both activities and contined to do them well into his mid eighties. Another great post with a great theme and humor. Made me think and laugh.

    Ray Jones wrote on October 10th, 2013
  34. Usually like the articles on MDA, however, this time not so much. The real problem is that we have some very different populations in the physical training conversation. The absolutely untrained and the trained or even advanced. Those two/three groups should have separate discussions, however this isn’t the case. Why? Because you get the constant cycle of trying to bring beginners up to speed and those conversations sound like “do what you can,” “try this, but if you can’t don’t do it forget about it,” and “don’t push yourself because of safety concern X.” Constant qualifications, on what to do, only serve to confuse the matter. Most beginners just want to be told what to do. Why? Because most people are too lazy to read for themselves.

    Furthermore, discussions on physical training, like many things in America, has become therapeutic in nature, and any hard line is seen as bullying or worse. Mark, that is why on the interweb forums you see an accumulation of personnel who want to move beyond the 1 page Men’s Health article on “rocking your core.” That is why there are constant jokes about doing curls in the squat racks and the meme “Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.” There are people who hate the therapeutic discussion (i.e. soft and whiny), the beginner talk, and the endless cycle of safety-safety-safety.

    Given how the current state of affairs I’d say the popularity CrossFit and Barbell Dogma is a positive development.

    Larry Cox wrote on October 10th, 2013
    • I loved this article. My view is that people do “what works” and what works for one person may not work for another. The thing about dogma is it requires blind acceptance. If you do something without understanding why and just because its popular, you are starting on the wrong foot.

      I worship the barbell idol because she rewards me “big time!” This is a journey of self discovery and you should try different disciplines and, if you persist, something will “click.”

      I started lifting “heavy things” at 45 (the previous 4 years being sedentary and suffering for it). I came across this site at 47, bought the primal blueprint and it just made sense to me based on my own life experience to that point. Growing up in an Italian household I thought it would be hard to give up wheat, pasta etc. Turns out it was much easier to adopt than expected.

      At 48, the combination of primal eating and low reps/high weight barbell work has yielded incredible results for me. My weight hasn’t changed drastically. My body comp has. My lean body mass, strength are way up and I’ve lost enough body fat that the other regulars in the gym are telling me that I’ve really “leaned out.” I am now as strong as I was in my twenties.

      My training place during the week is a Y in my office building. I don’t use the cardio equipment or machines. I learned the deadlift at 46 from a competitive powerlifter at another gym where I now train on the weekend. At a BW of 175, I’m hitting numbers that are causing guys half my age to notice. My goal is to compete at the Masters Level in PL in 2014.

      Along the way I discovered the importance of foam rolling. Mobility work is also important. I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation of the Supple Leapord and I subscribe to Eric Cressey. I also cross country ski (class and skate style) in the winter and whitewater kayak when the water isn’t frozen. I run hills and ski bound in the fall as part of dryiand training for ski season. But I hate cardio for cardio’s sake. A x-country ski buddy remarked that he never imagined powerlifting could be combined with x-country skiing but after leaving him behind on some long uphills, he said, “Hard to argue with success.” Deadlfting has done incredible things for my core and my overall power. Not to mention I no longer have backaches.

      For the last three years, I’ve been seeing the same faces in the gym on a similar schedule to mine during my training sessions. One guy is into MMA and is a personal trainer, another is a rugby player, another is a crossfitter. Each of us has different goals. Each of us train with barbells differently. But we all train with barbells. The people on the cardio machines always seem to plod along the same plateau. The women and men who are lifting heavy are also the ones often doing “other stuff” hitting new PRs and chasing other goals, whether its a Spartan race, a tough mudder or some other sport as well.

      All of us are making progress and all of us have respect for and are interested in the other’s training style and goals and share information. The common elements for everyone are consistency, dedication and an intelligent implementation of specific training protocols geared toward specific outcomes. That is to say someone who cares most about “being ripped” trains differently than someone who cares only about max lifts in the “big 3.” Another example, I bench more than the MMA guy. He’s half my age, 5 inches taller and outweighs me by 30lbs. But we bench differently. He benches close grip for reps because he wants power in his sparring. I bench wide grip because it reduces the range of motion and I want the highest 1 RM.

      Love the barbell!

      rob m wrote on October 11th, 2013
  35. Nicely put! You need to look at intended goals, and many people miss that one simple aspect, are you working out (fitness) or training (specific purpose). The program from MDA is perfect for those that want to just be in good shape and healthy, and I wish more of my athletes had the capabilities to do it. So, as much as I sit somewhere on the Barbell dogma (Loaded exercise) I still utilize many different modalities and body weight mobility is a necessity. Want to Maximize performance? sorry but you are going to need to touch some heavy weight.

    Tom wrote on October 11th, 2013
  36. Thanks a lot, Mark. All I could think while doing squats at the gym this morning was “anal prolapse”!

    Erica wrote on October 11th, 2013
  37. It doesn’t matter what you use, just do it in a functional capacity so it trains your body and reflects towards real movements. You definitely don’t need a barbell and can get a great functional workout with kettlebells!

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on October 11th, 2013
  38. LOL!!! hilariously written! & thank you

    Bill Berry wrote on October 11th, 2013
  39. Personally I recommend every person I know, who is inexperienced with weights, to start with Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline. Greasing the groove is even better if you can get past not feeling “burn”. If the bell is intimidating, start with a smaller one and work your way up! I’d recommend Powerlifting as the first thing an inexperienced lifter do, just don’t start with too heavy a weight! Find weight for a press or pull that you can do 2×5 5 days a week that doesn’t make your have much residual soreness. Once you bore of that, get a Kettlebell and pick up Enter the Kettlebell and crank on that until a bell or two heavier are easy to handle. I’ve been doing mostly Pavel routines since 2002, and I’m the strongest and fastest I’ve been in my entire life. His heavily volumized, low fatigue approach to strength training is the best thing for me when stress hits my life, I can maintain my fitness, but not make things worse.

    Chris Miller wrote on October 12th, 2013
  40. Great article — I use a mix of machines, dumbells and bodyweight, and I alternate exercises when things get easy to keep motivated and challenged.

    D wrote on October 13th, 2013

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