Top Five Barbell Strength Training MythBusters
Why Choose Barbell Strength Training?
In an age where the fitness industry is flooded with millions of "easy" ways to get 6-pack abs and shed 40 lbs in three weeks, it can be difficult to know which style or program to trust. One can end up testing all of the quick and easy fixes becoming increasingly frustrated after each and every one either provides short-term to no results at all. It is because of these empty fitness promises, that we live in a society where supplements are the "ride or die" for physical health and wellness, girls think "skinny is the new sexy" and young men never experience their full physical potential. Of course, it is only natural that we in our human nature would desire strong, healthy bodies. There are no words that can be more appropriately applied than those of Socrates' : "No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable."
Cast aside the image of a 300 lbs man squatting 800 lbs. While this goal is pursued by many of the trade, it is understood that such strength is not something achieved through shortcuts. Strength training is a discipline that tempers individuals like a sword. Forging takes time, patience, and application of skill through progression. As a two-year follower of the Starting Strength Program created by Mark Rippetoe, I can attest that success starts with the will and decision to act. Without the will to act, your body will find no reason to adapt.
1. Heavy Lifting Is Not "As Good" as Other Exercise Options
Incorrect. Lifting heavy weights does not cause injury. Firstly, one must understand the difference between exercise and training. Exercise is commonly associated with training, but training (unlike exercise) involved a specific goal. The goal of exercise is to work the body. One exercise does not get the body ready for a sporting event nor does it keep it strong for a lifetime. Exercises throughout a week would be logically more substantial, right? Correct. But we are still missing the goal. Training takes exercise and adds the goal, which could be anything from getting those rock hard abs to losing weight, to hitting a new Snatch PR. When it comes to training, there must be a goal. In regards to everyday matters, training with a barbell much like any other form of exercise can lead to a healthier lifestyle. What makes strength training stand out from the rest is that one's lifestyle will end up being stronger than the others and what better way to get healthier than by making your body stronger. In fact, medical research has proven that the basic linear barbell lifts (squat, bench press, dead lift, and overhead press) actually promote greater bone density, metabolic syndrome improvements, among many other benefits.
500 lbs Conventional Dead-lift Performed by Michael Mash
2. Powerlifting Makes You Bulky
Nay, I wish it did. First off, while I did shoot from 150 to 165 lbs after three months of the Starting Strength Program, it was not "bulk" muscle. I was able to maintain flexibility and was not limited in any kind of movement. I was still able to go through my daily activities and could still reach behind to scratch my back! Anyway, it ultimately comes down to understanding that gaining lean muscle is all part of what barbell strength training has to offer. However, diet plays a huge factor in what kinds of gains one can make. You can choose to be a salmon and couscous kind of lifter, or you can choose to be the bacon double cheeseburger and milk kind of lifter. I tend to embrace both!
Alexa Depasquale Crushing a 165 lbs Squat
3. Lifting Heavy Makes You Look Like a Man
This falls in conjunction with Number 2 and is completely true if you are of the male sex! In fact, lifting heavy weights makes you an Alpha male. But if you are female, it makes you, well... an Alpha female! Take for example, Female powerlifter Alexa Despasquale in the featured photo. Squatting more than the average male in your local gym and a record-holder for her last meet, Alexa Depasquale understands that her limitations are not coming from her body, but from her mind. After speaking with Ms. Depasquale last year about her journey into fitness and how she came to find her comfort zone under a barbell, the way she described "body-image", dawned a new light onto what being fit and strong truly means. Her insight helped me understand that it is not about the look in the mirror or the number on the scale; it's about the look you make when you are hitting that goal weight! Body-image, especially amongst young females, is certainly a huge setback in today's society as a whole. In the words of Alexa Depasqaule: "The scale is a number. We stay chained to that inanimate, measurement device like a security blanket that tells us how we are doing. Guess what....It isn't the only indicator of success. For anyone who "just wants to tone up," lift weights. Forget the dieting, juice cleanses, fasting, laxative, etc...Is it a linear process? No. Will you have setbacks? Yes. But enjoy it. It's a lifelong experience and it is absolutely worth it...You vs. You" The only thing that lifting heavy makes you look....is strong. So don't let the fear keep you from the glutes of your dreams ladies (and gents). SQUAT.
4. I'm Too Old to Lift Weights
Let's go back to the imagery of the bearded 300 lbs man lifting 800 lbs. While that may not be you at 70 years old, the journey to that age can make way for a wide range of body complications that will need attention. As Jonathan Sullivan MD, PhD author of the Starting Strength article "Barbell Training is Big Medicine" states: "At present, there is absolutely no solid evidence that strength training—or any other exercise or dietary program—will substantially prolong our life spans. But the preponderance of the scientific evidence, flawed as it is, strongly indicates that we can change the trajectory of decline. We can recover functional years that would otherwise have been lost.” Dr. Sullivan goes on to explain that the cause of aging and muscular atrophy is due to our cells' naturally regulated process of self-destruction or apoptosis. And this process of apoptosis is exactly what is happening in an aging body. And training with a barbell could be the answer. As Dr. Sullivan expresses in medical terms: "When we train with a barbell and eat correctly, we are sending a signal to our body that an anabolic environment is called for. An anabolic environment means growth factors. Growth factors suppress apoptosis. And apoptosis is a fundamental part of aging."
Advanced Novice Powerlifter Josh McIntyre Nailing a 275 lbs Squat
5. "This Isn't For Me, I'm Comfortable Where I am."
Boy am I glad I changed my mind! Those were the words that I gave to my buddy Josh featured in the above photo. We became friends in the gym in fact, after I had noticed that he was selling himself short on the bicep curls. I was all about the arms and the "beach muscle" and didn't work my legs as hard as I should have. Typical meat-head, right? Well, Mr. McIntyre saw some kind of potential in me and after a while I found my squat form being scrutinized under the watchful eye of Dr. Nicholas Racculia, a certified Starting Strength coach (also featured in the photo). It was after a couple of weeks that I became less absorbed in how aesthetic I looked, and more concerned with how much I was pulling off of the floor. The phrases "More Hip-drive" and "Big-Air" became appealing to the ear and whatever I was looking for before Starting Strength came naturally through my hard work in the program. Being average was everything BUT comfortable. Ask any of the people that are featured in this article, and they can tell you about their own journey underneath the barbell. It's about what YOU can do and what YOU can produce through YOUR hard work. Whether you're an athlete, academic, old, young, big, small, it doesn't matter. You set your own goals. You set your own records. That's why it's called a "Personal Record." So do your research, read the Starting Strength 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe, eat hearty, find a certified coach and raise the bar!