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Tools of the trade: the barbell

Try loading that much weight onto a dumbbell

Books on the barbell

Along with the dumbbell, the barbell is one of the most common pieces of strength training equipment in existence. They can be found in virtually any fitness center, often in reasonably large quantities.

Most fitness centers will have standard Olympic style barbells, which measure about 7 feet in length, and weigh approximately 45 pounds. They are plate loaded, with plates ranging in weight from 2.5 to 45 pounds. The wide range of plates allows for incremental adjustments to the weight of the bar.

Many fitness centers will also supply EZ Curl Bars, a variation on the barbell that is designed specifically for upper body exercises. Some will also have a supply of fixed weight barbells, which are usually much smaller than the Olympic standard. If you are struggling just to move the 45 pound bar, these can be fairly useful, but once you've gotten past a certain base strength, you're unlikely to need to touch them.

For the martial artist seeking to develop maximal strength, the barbell is an invaluable tool. There are few other tools that will allow you to load up as much weight as  a barbell. While it's possible to develop some serious strength without the use of a barbell (as Ross Enamait proves in this video), the barbell is one of the most readily available tools for doing just that.

If you can find the proper training, you can also use the barbell for Olympic style lifts, such as the clean and jerk and the snatch. Done correctly, these lifts can help develop explosive power that will enhance your performance in any martial art (done incorrectly, they can seriously injure you).

The very feature that allows the barbell to support so much weight also makes it the bane of anyone working out with limited space.  If you’re trying to furnish your Cambridge studio apartment with some supplementary gear, a barbell is going to be more trouble that it’s worth. Even in a martial arts school, finding space to store a barbell, along with plates, a rack, and so on can be a difficult process.It really requires a room of it's own, or at least, a very big room where it won't be in the way.

Many martial artists ignore the barbell, viewing it as a tool used only by those more concerned about their appearance than about their skill or character. But the truth is, the barbell will allow for the development of strength that practitioners of any style will find invaluable. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

Now go get lifting.

Interested in doing some serious lifting?

Try checking out these Boston area gyms, or click here to find one closer to you


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