Natural movement is all about performing movements that humans would have used regularly in their original environment. For a good look at my thoughts on natural movement check out this article. Barbells weren’t around in that original environment, so are they still useful?
What Is A Barbell?
The short answer is absolutely! Let’s look at what a barbell really is. A barbell is a modular system that allows you to quickly and easily change the amount of load on it. And, here’s the really important part, it has been designed in a way that allows you to lift considerably more weight than just about any other form factor.
Really, with just a barbell and a set of weight plates, what you can accomplish from a strength training standpoint is significant. They are one of the most useful tools ever invented for becoming stronger. The problem comes when you overspecialize in barbells and don’t get enough diversity.
Why Should You Not Ignore Barbell Work?
Before I answer the above question, let me say your goals matter here. There are many ways to get stronger without using a barbell. But the truth is, a barbell is one of the most effective tools you can use to help you on that path.
So here’s why I think you should keep some barbell work in your movement routine. Barbells allow you to very easily scale your workout. You can keep your weight low to get lots of practice in a movement while still stressing your musculature some. Or you can go heavier and highlight movement inefficiencies.
Another great reason is that most “natural movements” have a barbell exercise equivalent. One of the problems that comes up in conventional barbell use is that there is a prescribed form you use every time you do the exercise. Real life doesn’t usually happen that way. Sometimes you have to pick that heavy load up off the ground and the footing isn’t even.
As an example, one of my goals is to do a 15′ depth jump with just a regular landing. No slap landing and no rolling out. I could just keep doing sets of depth jumps while steadily increasing the height over time to build up the strength. But I guarantee that it would be much more efficient to build up a lot of that strength with barbell deadlifts and squats.
You better believe I still need to do plenty of depth jumps. That is a skill that has to be developed. Also, the musculature will be used a little differently. But rather than climbing up a 10′ platform 50 times a workout, supplementing with a few sets of barbell squats makes the goal much more achievable.
Barbells are a fantastic balance between stability and load. They offer a reasonably stable platform so you can lift heavier loads. They can be used to work toward natural movement skills and highlight problems with movements you’re already proficient in. They’re like any other great tool. It’s all in how you use it.