Barbell resistance training is the BEST way to get stronger and will improve all aspects of your life.
If you’re afraid of resistance training and afraid of picking up a barbell, stop! Being physically strong has more benefits than I can count on both hands and feet. Strength is the foundation of everything related to health, fitness, sports performance, and human survival.
Resistance training with barbells will help you improve your body composition, strength, usefulness, abilities in life, and face hardship with more confidence. Put simply; strength training will make you a better version of yourself.
You want to:
Be a better athlete or get a full ride to college? Be strong.
Lose fat more easily? Build muscle.
Ward off the effects of aging on your ability to do daily stuff without help? Be strong now and keep getting stronger until you can no longer do so.
Look toned in a bikini or have wash-board abs on the beach? Build muscle.
Give your 5-year-old a piggy-back for 4 hours at Disney when she gets tired. You better be strong!
But resistance training needs to be done right to accomplish all these goals. From here on out we’re going to use the term strength training as synonymous with resistance training. Strength training is the process by which you get stronger to develop your ability to withstand and overcome forces applied to your body. Gravity is the force acting on all things on Earth. Our bodies must always overcome it to move and function. Gravity is what gives all objects on Earth their feeling of weight. If your muscles aren’t strong enough, they won’t be able to produce the force necessary to overcome the external force of gravity acting on things we come in contact with regularly.
The ability of a person to move their body through space and move things around to support their life requires a particular amount of individual strength to overcome the effects that gravity has on Earth. Therefore, how strong someone is, is relative. The ability of one person to move a 2-pound box from the floor to the table might be a daunting task while for someone else it could be so light that she forgets she moved it 30 minutes later. This is why strength is relative to the individual. The 2-pound box will always be 2 pounds. But how heavy it feels to one person versus another is quite different. The only way for the 2-pound box to feel lighter and easier to move is if you get stronger.
This concept applies to everything in life. If you’re an excellent runner squatting 95 pounds now, you’ll be faster when you can squat 135 pounds because you’re stronger. You’ll be able to apply more force to the ground, moving you faster and farther with each stride. The same courses, hills, and distances that felt hard when you could only squat 95 pounds will feel much easier, and you’ll run faster when you’re squatting 135 pounds.
Aside from the apparent benefits strength has on function; there are many other reasons to build muscle and strength through barbell training. Getting stronger means you:
Build resilience and reduce your risk for possible injuries (in any activity)
Improve your bone density, therefore, reducing your risk for possible fractures, osteopenia, and osteoporosis as you age
Fight off the effects of sarcopenia (normal loss of muscle mass) as you age which improves your ability to sustain your independence into your elder years
Improve your body composition
Burn more calories by merely existing which means you will have an easier time losing body fat
Improve your symptoms of depression and pain, therefore, depend less on medication and enjoying your life more
Are a more physically and mentally resilient human who can navigate the ups and downs of life better and
Are a more useful human in general
The ultimate reason it’s essential to be strong is that we need enough strength to overcome the force of the objects or things we are moving against daily. As the primary producers of force within our bodies, muscles move us throughout space and against forces to accomplish daily tasks. We need strong muscles for bathing, dressing, getting out of bed, carrying groceries, running away from White Walkers, and grabbing the dog before he eats poop. You get the point; we need to be strong for everything we do.
Muscles connect to bones via tendons and are the contractile elements within our bodies that produce the internal force we need to move our limbs against external forces (everything + gravity). Our muscles pull on our bones to move them or stabilize them against things outside our bodies.
While resistance training with kettlebells, dumbbells, machines, resistance bands, and other modalities does work to a degree, here at Progressive Rehab & Strength, we are firm believers that the barbell is the best mode of resistance training to build strength. We’re going to discuss two concepts that support the barbell as the ideal mode for strength training but should you only have access to other modes, we encourage you to work with what you have!
Developing significant strength doesn’t happen overnight, but developing some strength does. Why? Because every time we go into the gym and lift a little more weight, we get a little stronger. This is the process of stress, recovery, adaptation (SRA), a concept discussed in depth in the book Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, and is the first reason why you should strength train with barbells.
Becoming stronger than you were yesterday occurs when a manageable amount of stress gets applied to your body, which you spend some time recovering from. This stress/recovery causes an adaptation to the particular stress that was used, making it less of a stress and easier to manage the next time you encounter it. While this concept can apply to other areas of life, in the sense of building muscular strength through resistance training, here’s what happens:
A stress that is not too large or too small gets applied to your body. The size of the stress will depend on multiple factors such as sex, body size, age, training history, and other unique elements, and will change over time. This appropriate amount of stress causes disruption and a small amount of damage to your neuromusculoskeletal system on a physiological level.
Your body then takes some amount of time to recover and repair itself from the stress applied. The amount of time needed to recover depends, in large, on how long you’ve been training, your age, and other individual factors. Novice, young, and small trainees recover faster than the more intermediate/advanced, older and larger lifters.
Adaptation is the result of the time you spent recovering from the stress applied to your system. Once adapted, the same amount of stress, under nearly identical conditions, no longer causes a physiological disruption to your body. To continue the process of getting stronger, you’ll need to apply more considerable or different stress to start the process over again.
Applying the stress, recovery, adaptation model to strength training suggests that to get stronger you’ll need to use a sufficient external load, allow enough time to recover, and use a little more load in the next session. Finding the right amount of weight to increase and the correct amount of time to rest between training bouts will vary depending on the individual. But for most people, recovery takes place in 24 to 48 hours. This suggests that training three times per week can be ideal for most new lifters embarking on a strength training journey.
The concept of progressive overload is an efficient way to drive SRA, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced trainee. Programming SRA varies depending on your level of advancement, and thus you’ll need the ability to add incremental weight to the movements you are training. There is one definitive way to apply the broadest spectrum of weight increments (.5 pounds to 100s of pounds) in resistance training to deliver the appropriate amount of stress on an individual basis.
Not everyone is strong enough to take a 5-10 pound jump, as with dumbbells, kettlebells, and pin-loaded machines. We cannot objectively measure resistance bands, springs, and straps meaning we can’t definitely know how much we are (or are not) adding every session to drive SRA. But with a barbell, we can objectively add weight in as small as .5lb increments. This is the second reason why we suggest that everyone barbell train if they want to get strong. Barbells can be adapted to any movement and anyone from grandma to the top NFL linebacker.
In the following article series, we will define a programming format that we feel is best for novice strength trainees and individuals coming off of an extended layoff. We’ll discuss modifying the training schedule to fit your lifestyle and ways to adjust movements should you be unable to perform the lifts we recommend. We’ll also be mentioning places to get free help in executing the lifts and program, as well as ways to incorporate other modes of exercise so you don’t have to abandon the things you love in the name of strength training.