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The Versatility of the Barbell

The barbell is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in any gym. It can be used for almost every form of workout from hypertrophy to mobility to powerlifting. The barbell can be used by regular gym-goers for squats, deadlifts, or bench press, but the barbell offers so much more.

Today, I am going to run you through some different ways to use a barbell to achieve your fitness goals, but before we do that let's talk a little about the bars themselves. Barbells come in all shapes and sizes; most gyms will have all-purpose bars which means they can be used for all types of workouts, other gyms may have economic bars which are bars that are a little bit cheaper, but look and feel like an expensive barbell. You can also get sport-specific barbells; Olympic lifting barbells and powerlifting barbells. Olympic lifting barbells are meant for Olympic lifts (snatch and clean and jerk) are more flexible, slightly thinner, and have roller bearings under the sleeves to allow the weight to spin during use. Powerlifting bars which are meant for the “Big 3” lifts (deadlift, bench, and squat) are stiff steel, slightly thicker, and have steel or brass bushing to allow a little spin.

With such a wide array of fitness goals out there I am going to break it down by exercise:

The “Big 3” commonly these 3 lifts are associated with powerlifting but they are all commonplace in everyday gym-goers workouts. The 3 lifts are deadlift, squat, and bench press. These 3 lifts offer you great benefit for any type of goal. If you are wanting to burn fat, performing these 3 lifts will help you build muscle and in turn, increase your basal metabolic rate which naturally helps you burn more calories daily. These 3 lifts, although associated with powerlifting, can be done with lighter weight and higher repetitions to get your high rate spiked and burn more calories during your workout.

Snatch and Clean and Jerks are two exercises that take a lot of technique and training to become very good at, but they can be used to help sports performance not just on the Olympic stage, but on the football field or on the volleyball court. These are full-body movements that take a lot of explosive power that translate excellently to most sports. These movements do not need to be done at a heavyweight either. Plenty of technique drills for Olympic lifts can be done with a PVC pipe in order to make sure of proper form before adding weight to a bar.

Barbell mobility drills are a little bit less commonly seen around gyms, but there are plenty of drills out there that can be done to help joint mobility all over the body. One that I use commonly is for the front rack or front squat barbell position. Leaving the bar on the rack, put yourself in the front rack position and alternate punching the elbows upward toward the ceiling in order to stretch the lat muscle and activate your thoracic spine.

Barbell complexes can also be used as a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) session. A complex is a workout that involves one piece of equipment whereby you move through a list of exercises using that one piece of equipment with minimal rest in between. For example, pick 8 exercises for 8 reps of each exercise for 8 rounds. These types of workouts are great for someone with limited time in the gym, as they consist of high rep, lightweight and full-body movements that burn a lot of calories.

These are just some examples of work that can be done with a barbell. The versatility of the barbell is amazing and with a little sense of adventure and willingness to try something new, the barbell could be your new best friend.

Stephen Duff


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