Are barbells necessary for military strength?

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keith

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi, I know that I am late answering this thread but am new to the site.

Having spent 8 years in the military I can honestly say no you don't need a barbell to train with to give you the strength to pass your tests.

In fact is me Kettlebell and your own bodyweight will get you exactly what you are looking fir.

Remember it's not what you use it's how you use it.

Keith.
 

MikeTheBear

Level 6 Valued Member
Here's my take. If you don't have access to barbells and cannot reasonably get access to barbells, then use what you have and you should be fine. For instance, go find a heavy rock, pick it up, carry it around. Repeat. Logs work too. So do pieces of furniture (although damage may occur).

If you do have access or can reasonably obtain access to barbells, then why would you limit yourself and not take advantage of all available training tools?
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
Here's my take. If you don't have access to barbells and cannot reasonably get access to barbells, then use what you have and you should be fine. For instance, go find a heavy rock, pick it up, carry it around. Repeat. Logs work too. So do pieces of furniture (although damage may occur).

If you do have access or can reasonably obtain access to barbells, then why would you limit yourself and not take advantage of all available training tools?
Agreed, but a lot of the posts above kind of miss the point. I'm not asking whether people have / haven't / do / don't use barbells for military fitness...as I'm sure there is a wide range of answers.

However, given access too all the tools we have today, are barbells necessary for optimal development for a military athlete? Are exercises like the barbell squat, deadlift, press, bench press, olympic lifts etc. actually useful to build the kind of strength military personnel need?
 

Antti

Level 8 Valued Member
Agreed, but a lot of the posts above kind of miss the point. I'm not asking whether people have / haven't / do / don't use barbells for military fitness...as I'm sure there is a wide range of answers.

However, given access too all the tools we have today, are barbells necessary for optimal development for a military athlete? Are exercises like the barbell squat, deadlift, press, bench press, olympic lifts etc. actually useful to build the kind of strength military personnel need?
If you're looking for strength, there is no better tool. What do you mean as optimal? All modalities have their own constraints. With barbells you need the barbell, the plates, the power rack, the bench, etc. Those are costly and some people don't want to go to the gym. It can't be optimal for them. But if you have the means, there is no better tool. Sure, one can reach an impressive level of strength with kettlebells and calisthenics as well. Would I consider it as optimal? No. Incremental loading and absolute load capacity give us the most effective training stimulation.

Now, there of course comes a point of diminishing returns, if all you care is strength military personnel need - whatever exactly that is. That point is reachable without the barbell. But, you will reach that point most efficiently with the barbell.
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
If you're looking for strength, there is no better tool. What do you mean as optimal? All modalities have their own constraints. With barbells you need the barbell, the plates, the power rack, the bench, etc. Those are costly and some people don't want to go to the gym. It can't be optimal for them. But if you have the means, there is no better tool. Sure, one can reach an impressive level of strength with kettlebells and calisthenics as well. Would I consider it as optimal? No. Incremental loading and absolute load capacity give us the most effective training stimulation.

Now, there of course comes a point of diminishing returns, if all you care is strength military personnel need - whatever exactly that is. That point is reachable without the barbell. But, you will reach that point most efficiently with the barbell.
Let me rephrase. Is the "strength" provided by barbells necessary for military personnel?

I guess one of the implicit assumptions I am making is that barbell strength is different to kettlebell strength. Ie a 531 or starting strength routine vs. an ETK or S&S. The former being more squat and bench heavy, less dynamic, less unilateral. The latter being more hinge heavy, more dynamic, more unilateral, more "antifragile".

Am I making any sense?
 

Antti

Level 8 Valued Member
Let me rephrase. Is the "strength" provided by barbells necessary for military personnel?

I guess one of the implicit assumptions I am making is that barbell strength is different to kettlebell strength. Ie a 531 or starting strength routine vs. an ETK or S&S. The former being more squat and bench heavy, less dynamic, less unilateral. The latter being more hinge heavy, more dynamic, more unilateral, more "antifragile".

Am I making any sense?
I do not agree with your assumption. Strength is strength. There are, of course, movements that have a bigger carryover to other tasks than other ones. I don't believe you'll have to guess to know my view about them.

Why do you have to pit kettlebells and barbells against each other? Why not train kettlebell swings and tgus along with barbell squats, presses and deadlifts? Isn't that the most sensible thing to do?
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
I do not agree with your assumption. Strength is strength. There are, of course, movements that have a bigger carryover to other tasks than other ones. I don't believe you'll have to guess to know my view about them.

Why do you have to pit kettlebells and barbells against each other? Why not train kettlebell swings and tgus along with barbell squats, presses and deadlifts? Isn't that the most sensible thing to do?
Perhaps it is, I'm not sure.

Some people have advised I avoid barbells altogether in my training, hence my curiosity.
 

Snowman

Level 6 Valued Member
I would be skeptical of someone who broadly dismisses the use of barbells. They are the most efficient way to get stronger, regardless of how you define strength. That being said, there is such a thing as "strong enough." If you can deadlift 400+ pounds, you probably don't need to train with a barbell at all. At that point, I would say that any time spent getting stronger is almost a waste of time. Time would be better spent on making sure you can apply that strength in disorganized settings and over long periods of time.
That being said, if you have a hard time deadlifting 200 pounds, then the best thing you can do is become good friends with the bar. Otherwise you might be giving any future wounded buddies a death sentence when you can't move them from harm.
If you can comfortably deadlift 300 pounds, then your guess is as good as mine. At that point it depends on the more specific demands of your job, how much time investment it will take for you to get stronger, and where you stand with other attributes needed for your job, like endurance and job specific skills.
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
I would be skeptical of someone who broadly dismisses the use of barbells. They are the most efficient way to get stronger, regardless of how you define strength. That being said, there is such a thing as "strong enough." If you can deadlift 400+ pounds, you probably don't need to train with a barbell at all. At that point, I would say that any time spent getting stronger is almost a waste of time. Time would be better spent on making sure you can apply that strength in disorganized settings and over long periods of time.
That being said, if you have a hard time deadlifting 200 pounds, then the best thing you can do is become good friends with the bar. Otherwise you might be giving any future wounded buddies a death sentence when you can't move them from harm.
If you can comfortably deadlift 300 pounds, then your guess is as good as mine. At that point it depends on the more specific demands of your job, how much time investment it will take for you to get stronger, and where you stand with other attributes needed for your job, like endurance and job specific skills.
Really keen to hear more thoughts from @aciampa , as he is probably the resident expert in military prep and does not recommend barbell training for selection prep.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
Let me rephrase. Is the "strength" provided by barbells necessary for military personnel?
Short answer: Yes! It is absolutely necessary.
No, it's not!
Kettlebells and/or calisthenics can get you to "strong enough"***. You don't need barbells for "strong enough", hence they are definitely not necessary.
But like I said in my earlier post, they are the best tool for absolut strength and provide the fastest road to get there.
So no they are definitely not needed to be "strong enough for military purposes", but most likely the fastest and most time efficient tool to get there.

Have a look at Tactical Barbell I+II for a good routine that will make you "strong enough" with the needed endurance for military or LEO requirements.

***we throw around the term "strong enough" a lot lately. "Strong enough" of courses varies. For LEO personal (I don't know if it's the same for military) there are different "strong enough's".
For example a breacher certainly needs more max strength than a sniper.
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
No, it's not!
Kettlebells and/or calisthenics can get you to "strong enough". You don't need barbells for "strong enough", hence they are definitely not necessary.
But like I said in my earlier post, they are the best tool for absolut strength and provide the fastest road to get there.
So no they are definitely not needed to be "strong enough for military purposes", but most likely the fastest and most time efficient tool to get there.

Have a look at Tactical Barbell I+II for a good routine that will make you "strong enough" with the needed endurance for military or LEO requirements.
Thanks - good debate. I have read them both!

One problem I have is the high injury prevalence with the barbell lifts. Bench in particular. Why should I risk injury (the #1 goal really being to remain injury free) to gain absolute strength when it isn't high up on my list of priorities?
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
At some point we are going to be discussing philosophy, and not training. (And that's fine too as far as it goes...)
Plus one to listening to Al.
I believe he already said his piece..
 

Deleted member 5559

Guest
After being out for a while, I think long runs/rucks are more necessary than the barbell for sure. I never saw anyone not pass a screen test because of their deadlift numbers. Have seen plenty fail or DOR for not being able to recover and go day after day or more importantly, not be able to take a pool hit, land nav, or some other mental challenge. That aerobic capacity and how it helps the body recover is much more important for me than maximal strength. That said, a person should be able to carry heavy stuff in different ways whether on your back, in your hands, on your shoulders, etc.

I've seen my fitness decline in concert with my decline of long aerobic conditioning over the last 5 years. There is a reason that A+A works well and any other strength program that emphasizes aerobic capacity training. Another resource along with those provided above would be mtntactical.com. They have some good focused plans like Mr. Prevost provided. Regardless, focus on relative strength rather than maximal strength. One nice thing about barbells in comparison to kettlebell is that you can stimulate some really amazing adaptations with less days in the gym and can spend more time running/rucking because of it. I've done some decent 2-day/wk barbell programs but 2-day/wk kettlebell or callisthenic programs require a lot of volume each session to get the same training volume load.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
One problem I have is the high injury prevalence with the barbell lifts. Bench in particular. Why should I risk injury (the #1 goal really being to remain injury free) to gain absolute strength when it isn't high up on my list of priorities?
Exactly.
Basing it on my own experience and the ones from friends, family etc. more people injure themselves training with barbells than with calisthenics.
If you can't train consistently with barbells because nagging injuries occur all of the time, it's not a good tool for you.
Ideally you would find out why you get injured with barbells and then fix those issues, but I get that in contrast to regular people, military personal don't have that luxury, because they have limited time before their next deployment, limited time to train, limited resources (e.g. when deployed) etc.
 

SMason22

Level 4 Valued Member
Exactly.
Basing it on my own experience and the ones from friends, family etc. more people injure themselves training with barbells than with calisthenics.
If you can't train consistently with barbells because nagging injuries occur all of the time, it's not a good tool for you.
Ideally you would find out why you get injured with barbells and then fix those issues, but I get that in contrast to regular people, military personal don't have that luxury, because they have limited time before their next deployment, limited time to train, limited resources (e.g. when deployed) etc.
I think bench press is a terrible exercise that only very lucky people can perform without any issues. Squat can also be troublesome as hardly anyone has great technique.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
I'd say if one has the time, access, and means go use the barbell but don't discount other methods of training strength (kettlebells/bodyweight).
This sums it up. KBs and sandbags do a good job of unilateral lifting which is going to be very useful. I'm not entirely in the "strength is strength" category tho there is considerable overlap.

Offset lifting and unilateral work transfer to day to day stuff more readily then symmetrical lifts with barbell. Barbell puts on size and raw strength. I'd include it if possible but you can get "strong enough" without it. Supplemental grip work would be on the list too.
 
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