Let’s talk about the barbell. It can be intimidating. The barbell doesn’t have to be scary but it absolutely can be dangerous if you don’t know a few key points about the barbell and moving WITH a barbell. That’s why I am here, to help you feel a bit more confident with the barbell, whether you currently use it or not. Plus I’ve got a little somethin’ for you at the end.
This is the most simple of the tips today. You want the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible throughout the entire movement. The area through which you can transfer the most force is the center of your foot (between heel and ball of foot). For a squat example, if the weight is shifting out in front of you then that weight is going to shift to the front of the foot (a smaller area to handle the amount of weight in comparison to spreading the weight over the whole foot).
Aside from benching, keep that weight over the center of your foot. This applies to deadlifts and sumo deadlifts, all squat variations, RDL’s, overhead pressing, push pressing, and so on.
Your “core” is just your six pack right? NOPE. Your core quite literally involves everything from your shoulder complex to your hip complex and pelvic floor. This includes your latissimus dorsi better known as your “lats”. Your lats attach at the shoulder and act like a wing all the way down until they attach at your lumbar spine. Locking in your lats helps to keep your shoulders and spine in a stable position during barbell movements. In many cases the lats are also responsible for keeping the bar over the center of the foot.
We talked about compound movements and why they matter. You are transferring force through many moving joints. Compound movements are also UH-MAZING for building a strong core. Yay for no crunches. I actually have post coming on core work so keep your eyes peeled for that! Knowing how to engage your core during most barbell movements is VITAL for proper force production + keeping a healthy back.
America has enough back pain, barbell movements should NOT add to that pain.
A great cue for ensuring that you are keeping a neutral spine and engaging your core is to pin your ribcage down. This is in contrast to hyperextending through the low back causing the ribs to flare out in the front. This is a common mistake for MANY barbell and movement patterns in general.
You want to keep your ribs stacked over your hips during squats, deads, and pressing variations. Really you can just make it a life goal to keep your ribs stacked over your hips. Sounds good.
The common barbell strength patterns (bench, squat, overhead press, deadlift and all variations) are what are known as compound movements. A compound movement simply means two joints are working or opening and closing at the same time. With a squat this is the hips, knees and ankles, with say bench, the elbow and shoulder.
So why does that matter? There is more room for error, which is why I take them seriously. Think about it, there is a lot more opportunity to mess up a deadlift than a biceps curl…several joints vs. one joint.
In addition, you want to make sure you are able to transfer the most + most efficient force from the ground to the bar which you are moving. So keep your feet planted on the floor! Literally think about screwing your feet into the ground and gripping with your toes. This is why you see experienced lifters lifting in chucks or flat shoes. It allows for better transfer of force and feedback.
Most if not all barbell movements are simply a progression from bodyweight and dumbbell or kettle bell exercises. If you have those down, and understand the movement patterns, you my friend should be dabbling in the barbell world. Remember the barbell itself is only 45 pounds. If you can perform the pre-curser exercise at a total of 45lbs with dumbbells or kettle bells, no one is making you load the bar with 200 pounds. Use the empty barbell to start for all barbell exercises. This acts as both a warm up + primes the movement pattern for adding more weight. I to this day bust out reps with an empty barbell before loading it.
Now that you hopefully have a better understanding of barbell movements and how to tackle them, I’ve got an opportunity for you.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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