Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Barbell training is the greatest form of fundamental training. Whether you need to lose fat, gain muscle, become stronger, or just recondition the body, barbell training is a very strong tool in any program.
And the reasons for this are simple:
1-It utilizes movements that correlate to the body's full range of motion.
2-They are done on a stable base (the floor) in which the body can relate best to (i.e. everybody uses the floor and thus can relate to its stability)
3-They are easily adaptable and progress is can be made very effectively
However, as with every other exercise, there are certain rules that should be followed when using a barbell.
So without further ado, here are my top 5 cues for barbell exercises!
1- The bar must stay directly over the force produced
Barbell training is essentially training against gravity. Because of this, all of the force from the barbell is down to the floor. Not left; not right; not diagonal; not in a circle (centripetal force); down. Thus, when you lift a barbell, the force that is used is the force produced under the bar. If you produce force outside of this, you create a moment arm, and that basically leaks out the work done. So for exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, overhead presses, etc., the bar must be over the mid foot. Why? Because that is where your force production comes from. The only exception is in the bench press, where the bar must balance between the elbow and shoulder joint because that is where the forces are produced (the hips and feet work to stabilize the spine and shoulder joint, not produce the force).
The bar must travel in a vertical line and stay over the force of production for optimal efficiency
2- The bar must stay in a vertical path
Similar to the first cue, barbell exercises must relate to a vertical bar path as much as possible. This is again due to the fact that gravity is what acts on the weights. So, between keeping the bar over the mid foot (or shoulder joint in the bench press) and keeping it in a vertical path, you must keep everything in balance (Hint: why barbell training improves stability and balance).
3-Focus on the trunk and hip muscles before the limbs
When training, it's important to stay braced throughout a lift to stabilize the spine, hips, and ribs properly. So many times, I find people forgetting to keep a strong mid section and begin to flare their ribs and overextend their backs when lifting heavy weights. When you focus on keeping a rigid core, 9 times out of 10, the lifts become much easier to execute. This is because you are generating many more stabilizing forces that contribute to the lift.
You must find your inner trunk muscles to lift most efficiently
4-Move around the bar
Because the path of the barbell must stay as vertical as possible, the body must move around the bar as it travels up and down. For example, a proper deadlift requires the knees to travel from the front of the bar to behind the bar as it moves up the shins into the thighs and vice versa. In overhead presses, the torso must shift from behind the bar at the start to under the bar at the top. So in essence, barbell training teaches you how to move most efficiently by making you move around the bar as it travels up and down.
The bar stays in a straight line; however, the body must move as the bar is travelled
5-Do Not Just Grip The Bar, Push Through The Bar
When pushing heavy weight or utilizing maximal force production, it is better to imagine forcing through the bar rather than simply holding the bar. In this context, we properly align our joint angles and balance ourselves in pushing through the bar and making it move. When we bench, for example, by imagining pushing through the bar, we properly align our shoulders, elbows, and wrist in a way as to leverage the most amount of force. Further, gripping the bar tighter does not make force production any greater. On the other hand, however, pushing through the bar will automatically provide just enough grip for the body without having to think about gripping so tightly. So of course you want to grip the bar, but do not expect a conscious grip to make the force production much greater.
Share and comment below some other useful cues when barbell training!