One of the most common mistakes I see in the gym is everyone starting their training with the barbell. When performed properly, Barbell training is a tremendously effective method to reshape your body and get that lean, toned look you’re after. However, if done improperly you risk serious injuries! Look, I get it. Nothing is more badass than loading up a barbell and crushing some heavy ass weight. However, I see a lot of people come to train and go straight to the barbell. This is a recipe for disaster, and I’ll explain why.
1. Poor movement pattern: My colleague Tommy said it best. “If the pattern is inadequate you can’t load the pattern.” Simply put, if you are unable to squat well with your body weight you’re nowhere near ready for the bar. If your knees are caving or you’re hunched over like Quasimodo, don’t get under the bar!
2. Core: A lot of people get very confused when you ask them what the core is. For the sake of simplicity, today we will focus on your abdominals and obliques. These muscles (as well as your deeper core musculature) stabilize the spine during a barbell Squat. If you can’t hold a proper plank with a neutral spine, you’re not ready for the bar. This is especially important during a barbell Squat because the weight is loaded directly on your spine, generating a compressive force. Think of your back more like a stack of bricks and less like a fishing pole.
3. Breathing: Proper breathing and bracing are what protect your spine from injury. You need to generate a tremendous amount of intra-abdominal pressure in order to safely handle the load of a barbell on your back. I tell my clients to prepare for Bruce Lee to kick them in the gut. If you’re not focused on breathing and bracing with every rep, you know the verdict: Not ready for the bar.
My good friend and competitive powerlifter Shane Henley did something no one in the gym was expecting one day. When he started getting more serious about powerlifting, he quickly realized he needed to work on the fundamentals and sound technique so that he could compete safely. I saw this big, strong man start with an unloaded bar. Despite years of lifting heavy, he approached his training like a beginner. He put his ego aside and focused on moving well first, then increasing the load. He gradually added weight and has since squatted 573 (drug tested meet) in competition. Follow Shane’s example as I did. Just remember, one step at a time. Batman didn’t put on the cape and cowl until he was trained and conditioned for the job.
To your lifelong health and success,
-Demarco Crum, CPT, Batman in training