Lifting with barbells is the best way to build strength. They are far superior to any other tools that have been devised. The barbell lifts are used to train movements, not to isolate specific muscles. Properly performed, full-range-of motion barbell exercises are the functional expression of the human muscular and skeletal systems under a load. The body moves as a unit and muscle groups work together to complete a movement. Quads and hamstrings always function together to balance forces on either side of the knee. If they always work together, why should they be exercised separately?
This does, however, require some learning and skill acquisition. Using the barbell requires the individual to adjust to regain control over the movement. Balance and coordination are needed to use this tool correctly. This is what is completely lacking in machine-based exercises and also what makes barbell training unique. Adaptive responses from muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves along with bones are a result of heavy loading. Like muscles, bones are living tissue that adapt by becoming denser in response to heavy resistance training. This is very important for older trainees and women because bone density is a major factor in continued health. If you’re looking to get stronger but are training at a gym that doesn’t have barbells, I recommend that you quit wasting your time. Sign up to a gym that has them or buy your own. Barbells should be accessible at most gyms. The only problem with that is the vast majority of people who use them simply do not know how to use them correctly. From poor lifting form, to “new exercises” and the inability to follow correct loading guidelines all give the barbell a bad rap.
Here are two reasons why the barbell is a wonderful tool in strength training:
1. Most people have the ability to learn how to correctly perform the barbell lifts to allow proper loading of joints.
2. The barbell’s ability to be loaded from very light (in precise increments as low as a ½ pound) to very heavy - as heavy as the sleeve of the barbell allows (this could upwards and exceeding 900lbs).
That's what makes it the best tool in the tool box. These two reasons: allowing your body to learn how to move with a barbell and to have the ability to precisely match the rate of strength adaption, will greatly enhance your ability to most efficiently apply the principles of progressive overload to any of the barbell lifts.
If you looking to get stronger use barbells. If you need a place to learn the lifts or just looking for an environment to continue your strength journey check out East Ave Barbell and consider working with one of our coaches!