Barbells Can Be Daunting
It’s no question that a barbell can be daunting for first time users. While it’s very well balanced by design, it is also quite awkward until you figure out the things it can be used for. It’s one thing to know the exercises possible through using the barbell, but its another thing to feel confident enough to do them, and do them well. The purpose of this article is to help any of you who are timid about using a barbell for the first time feel more confident about trying it out!
Start With The Basics
Begin with the easy stuff, basic movement patterns: squatting, hinging, pressing, and lunging. It is first important to know how to move your body on its own through space before trying to add weight.
Learn how to properly perform…
Air Squat: Feet shoulder width or slightly wider, toes turned slightly out, core engaged, chest up, eyes up; begin with the hips breaking slightly back and then descending down while driving the knees out over the toes, cue yourself to keep your chest up with flat feet until below parallel, then stand.
Hinge: feet no wider than shoulder width, core engaged; begin with a slight bend in the knees and then drive the hips back while bending forward at the waist with a flat back (cue yourself the keep your chest up while simultaneously bending over at the hips), reach down to the floor while maintaining the flat back until you reach the object you are trying to pick up, specifically, the barbell.
Press: using a PVC pipe, hands just wider than the shoulders, PVC pip touching your collar bones, core tight with ribs pinned down, glutes squeezed, quads squeezed; pull your chin back and press straight up into the air to a full lockout of the elbows with the biceps by the ears and your head then pushed back in between your arms, maintain the ribs pinned down to keep the spine neutral.
Lunge: take a step forward, keep your full foot flat on the floor as to keep from being only on the toes, cue yourself to “be on train tracks” so that you don’t sleep your feet too narrow; once stepping forward, keep your torso tall and bend the back knee straight down to the floor, lightly tap your knee to the floor then stand back up bringing the back foot forward to meet with the forward foot, repeat on the other foot to alternate legs.
Time For The Barbell
Once you have been introduced to and understand the mechanics of the movements above, it’s time to begin introducing the barbell.
Squats: front squats, back squats, and overhead squats
- Back Squats: the barbell will rest across the back of your neck/shoulders. Tips For Back Squats: keep your wrists straight, cue yourself to pull your elbows together behind your back, and keep your eyes forward.
- Front Squats: the barbell will rest on the front of your shoulders. Tips For Front Squats: focus on keeping your elbows up, whether they stay up or not, the consistent self cue’ing will help make that happen over time.
- Overhead Squats: the barbell will be locked out over head with a wide grip. Tips For Overhead Squats: always practice with a PVC pipe before using the bar, cue yourself to consistently “press up” into the barbell throughout the entire squat to lock your shoulders into place and remain steady.
Hinging: excluding the olympic lifts: deadlifts, RDLs.
- Deadlifts: this is the “object” as stated above that you will pick up off the floor. Tips For Deadlifts: keep your whole foot flat by not lifting your toes off the floor, this will keep you balanced and allow for more muscle activation. If your toes rise up and you set too far back on the heels, it is likely your hips will rise too fast when really we want the hips and torso to move at the same time.
- RDLs: picking the bar up off the floor, the reps begin at the hips. Tips For RDLs: these should NOT touch the floor each rep, cue yourself to “arch” your back as you lower the bar toward the floor with a slight knee bend. By the time you reach the knees, if you have kept enough tension in your back, and chest up, then you should feel a stretch in the hamstrings at which point you will stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Pressing: strict press, and push press.
- Strict Press: the bar will begin on the front of the shoulder like the front squat and finish locked out overhead. Tips For Strict Press: keep the bar close to your center of gravity by pushing it as straight up and down as possible, essentially, not pushing it around your head.
- Push Press: the bar will begin on the front of the shoulder, and finish locked out overhead, but it will be aided by a slight dip and extension in the knees and hips. Tips For Push Press: keep the elbows high and cue yourself to “drive through the bar” at the top of your extension each rep.
Lunging: front rack lunges, back rack lunges.
- Front Rack Lunges: the barbell will rest on the front of the shoulders, just as it does for presses and front squats. Tips For Front Rack Lunges: maintain core tension when you touch your knee to the floor, because if you “bounce” on the floor and lose tension and the elbows drop, you will be in a far less stable position and you’re likely to drop the bar.
- Back Rack Lunges: the barbell will rest on the back of the shoulder/neck just like back squats. Tips For Back Rack Lunges: don’t let your elbow flare way up, this will roll the barbell up the neck and make it increasingly difficult to maintain and upright torso which will also make the reps even more challenging.
Don’t let the barbell be what keeps you back from reaching your goals. When used properly it becomes an amazing training tool and can help make you stronger than ever. If you ever want more details, or have questions, never hesitate to ask for help or advice from a qualified coach or athlete.