"The barbell squat, deadlift and bench press will always be amongst my favourite exercises, but for strength, muscle mass, athletic performance and my goals of longevity, there are often better implements to use than a straight barbell", says Eugene Teo, buff dude and top fitness personality, in one of his latest video on Youtube.
I respectfully disagree.
I always thought adding a barbell to your home gym setup was a sign of commitment. You can achieve brilliant results using dumbbells and kettlebells only, but if you take workouts seriously, you need the best barbells and best weight plates.
Without heavy compound exercises, you will never be able to build muscle properly, or at least it will take you much longer to see results. Beginners especially can benefit from using barbells. Barbell exercises such as those mentioned above can build muscle and strength in the simplest and most effective way possible.
You can fiddle around doing triceps extensions and monkey around with the cable machine in the gym, but it'll take forever to grow pecs as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger and arms as massive as Sylvester Stallone's using these workouts.
Still not convinced you need barbells? Here is a 3-exercise single dumbbell workout to help you build pecs and arms at home.
You can watch the video here:
On the other hand, doing bench presses will build your arms, pecs, shoulders, lats and core. Deadlifts are an even better example: this exercise is the King of Lifts, after all, and use almost all muscles in your body, making it the most effective workout not only to build strength but also to lose weight (as it burns the most calories).
Now, when people like Teo says he doesn't use barbells because it puts a lot of strain on the joints, I tend to scoff a little. Teo used barbells to build his physique and I'm sure he still often use them, despite what he says in the video. I agree that an experienced lifter such as Teo won't see significant results from lifting increasingly heavier barbells but still, saying people should avoid using them is a bit of s stretch.
By the way, the video is titled "Why I Stopped Doing Barbell Exercises & You Should Too" so I guess Teo isn't saying he never touched a barbell. As a matter of fact, he uses the intro of his video to promote his new "Barbell Only" program! Oh, the irony. I probably would've waited a bit with that announcement.
Why does Teo think you should ditch barbells? He says the heavy weights and the position of the barbell puts too much pressure on the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. Is this true? It can be. You can be holding the barbell wrong, using weights that are too heavy for you or over-train.
However, when used correctly, heavy barbell training won't have a negative impact on your joints. On the contrary: it can strengthen the joints and the ligaments that can make your limbs more resilient overall. Research shows (opens in new tab) that strength training has particularly strong functional benefits for older adults with osteoarthritis. People with no joint issues have no reason to avoid the barbell if older people with joint issues can benefit from using resistance training.
What's the takeaway? Should you avoid barbells? Or maybe use them more?
I suggest you take a sensible approach to barbell training. Keep the workouts fresh by rotating exercises and playing around with intensity, volume, sets and reps. Include more complementary exercises to the ones you do most often, e.g. swapping deadlifts out for kettlebell swings or pull-ups.
There is no need to prioritise barbell training over other types of workouts (unless you want to grow faster) but you shouldn't shun this awesome piece of home gym equipment either. If you're uncertain about how to use barbells, it's a good idea to seek the help of a PT.
Now, start pumping iron like you mean it.