3 Reasons You May Need to Pick Up Barbell Training

Do you need to start barbell training?

Unlike the kettlebell, which belongs in the training arsenal of every man and woman, champion and beginner alike, the bar is not for everyone.

You must train with the barbell if one or more of the following reasons applies to you.

Master SFG Dr. Michael Hartle’s gym.
Master SFG Dr. Michael Hartle’s gym.

1. Your Sport Demands High Levels of Absolute Strength

In some events sky is the limit. If your sport is what Russians call a “speed-strength” sport, you need the bar. You are a thrower, a jumper, a sprinter. You need the bar because kettlebells and your body are just not heavy enough.

Strength matters in every sport, but in some, like boxing or distance running, reaching some point of diminishing returns is enough. Beyond that level, competitive excellence has to come from other qualities and extra strength is not an asset or even a liability. You just need to be stronger than your competitors.

I told an old joke in Easy Strength that explains just how strong one needs to be. Two Russians were attacked by a bear and started running. One of them is yelling, “Why are we doing this? You can’t outrun a bear!” The other Russian speeds up even more, “I don’t need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you.”

An MMA fighter does not need to be stronger than a powerlifter, just stronger than other fighters. Because he does not have to maximize his absolute strength development, he can make do with kettlebells and bodyweight. (Note: I did not say that he should not train with a barbell—just that he can do without it.)

Laura Nepodal Barbell Training
Laura Nepodal, SFG recently pulled a PR deadlift—325 pounds without a belt—following a training plan from an earlier StrongFirst blog that combined deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

2. You Need to Maximize Your Muscle Mass

You are a football player. Or, you simply choose to be as large as a tank.

Other modalities can build a lot of muscle—but none as much as the trusted barbell. You are not going to add thirty pounds in six weeks lifting kettlebells and you do not stand a chance with bodyweight.

So hit some heavy fives in barbell squats and deads; eat and sleep like a teenager; and you will have to replace your wardrobe in a couple of months.

3. You Love the Adrenaline Rush of Heavy Lifting

Primal rage.

Tunnel vision in which nothing else exists or matters—only your opponent, cold hard steel.

An uncompromising one-time effort.

The victory of standing up with a bending bar.

If you have not experienced this thrill, you do not know what you are missing.

Pavel Tsatsouline's Father Barbell Training
My father.

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7 thoughts on “3 Reasons You May Need to Pick Up Barbell Training

  • I just need to outrun who I was yesterday.
    I have been training with barbells for a few years, and Power To The People made a huge change in the way I deadlift. I am reading Enter The Kettlebell and got a 35 pounds to start with.
    I am thinking on practicing the kettlebell movements twice a week and mix my weekly workouts between kettlebells and barbells.
    Your work is very appreciated. planing on taking SFG I next year.


  • I learn kyokushin. One of my mates has just passed SFG II(40 kg pressed at 77 kg), the other guy is a master powerlifter, with a 3xbw pull. So I just need to be stronger than them:-).

  • As a middle aged guy, who wants to stay healthy, a kettlebell and bodyweight exercises are all I need. Thank you for the article.

  • I appreciate this message! I think some part of the kettlebell community hold on too dearly the tool. The always think of the kettlebell as the gateway to the barbell.

  • This is a nice concise article on some of the benefits of the barbell, Chief.
    I have to say, there is something unique about the feeling of heavy lifting with a barbell, as you mention on point #3, whether it’s the adrenaline rush or an awesome feeling of power…it’s special!

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