Just because there’s a barbell in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to lift it. If there’s one tool in the gym that has gotten more attention than any other, it’s the barbell. And for good reason as you can load it with considerable amounts of weight. Far more than you’d be able to do with something like dumbbells or kettlebells. However, for many of us hitting the gym, it may be the wrong choice.
One of the drawbacks, depending on the exercise, is that you can be locked into a certain range of motion or joint motion/angle. This can be potentially hazardous for those who don’t necessarily fit that mold of that position. It’s unnecessary to put yourself through that stress when there are so many other ways and tools to reach your goals.
“Just because something has always been done a certain way,
doesn’t mean that YOU have to do it that way.”
But people tend to be dogmatic in their approach to fitness. It’s either one way or nothing, and it’s hard to convince them of anything else. People will argue that it’s the ONLY tool suited for exercise, no matter what. Everyone must deadlift with a barbell from the floor or it doesn’t count, which ignores a myriad of variables that are suited for another article. It’s time to wake up and realize is that the tool is only as good as the user. If the user is unable to manage the tool effectively and safely, then how effective is it going to be?
What can you use instead of a barbell?
Each of these tools can be substituted for just about any exercise, and when it comes to our fundamental movements of push, pull, squat, hinge, and single leg movements, we can easily adjust to accommodate a different tool.
Typically we thing the bench press or overhead press, which requires a barbell for either lift. However, like we mentioned earlier, you get locked into a certain movement pattern, especaially at the shoulder joint. And we want to avoid cranky shoulders where ever we can. Enter any of the tools previously listed. More freedom to move which can mean less probability of injury.
The most common barbell pull is a bent over row, but again it can put some people in a compromising position. This is especially true for anyone that has ever suffered from low back pain. Enter the dumbbell, where you can perform just about any variation of row you can think of.
Everyone can squat, it’s just a matter of finding the right variation that suits your needs and abilities. Squatting with a barbell, whether front or back, presents some challenges in terms of mechanics that some are just unable to achieve. So why force it? Because it looks cool in the weight room when you have the bar loaded with plates?
Pick a variation, like a goblet squat and hammer away at that.
The hinge or its most associated exercise example, the deadlift, can be one of scariest exercises to do. More to do with images of guys picking up 100’s of pounds on a barbell, than the actual exercise itself. But it can be an easy swap to use a kettlebell and learn in that capacity to keep you safe.
Training comes down to producing enough of a stimulus to elicit change in the body, whether the goal is more strength, more muscle, or less fat. However we need to be able to train smarter, which sometimes means steering ourselves from tools like the barbell that may not be a great choice for us now, to ones that are more manageable, like dumbbells.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but to do it smarter to avoid injury.
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