28 Jul 7 Lessons From The Maximum Impact Barbell Training Workshop: Why You Need Barbells in Your Program.

Barbell PlateLet me tell you why you should strongly consider adding barbell training in your program, if you’re not implementing barbells already.

I recently attended a phenomenal 2 day weekend workshop in barbells, the Maximum Impact Barbell Training Workshop.

Before I tell you why barbells are so important and build the case for using this “king of strength” training tool, let me first give you some background.

Why did I want to attend this workshop?

Well, my “first love” with weight training was with barbells.

When I was just 15 years old I started training with the old plastic coated, cement filled barbell plates in my basement.  Do you know what I’m talking about?

Depending on your age, you may or may not know exactly what I mean.

Long before I “discovered” kettlebells, traditional barbell exercises were what really got me hooked on weight training.

When I found out about the Max Impact Barbell Workshop, I decided to sign up to refine my current techniques and also learn new ones.

I wanted to improve my own skills and teach these techniques to maximize results for others.

This workshop was led by Pavel Tsatsouline and Master RKC, Jeff O’Connor.

Just in case you don’t know, Pavel has written countless books and articles on strength training and is considered to be the man responsible for bringing the kettlebell revolution to the United States.

Pavel is the father of modern kettlebell training and is known as one of the most elite strength coaches on the planet.

Jeff is a former strongman and one of the smartest, “under the radar” strength coaches around.  A true practitioner and coach in strength training with incredible knowledge and experience with barbell training and an expert in the “School of Strength.”

Pavel and Jeff were “masterful” in this workshop for their progressive and systematic teaching approach.

We also had the good fortune to have the added insight from Master RKC, Mark Reifkind, an elite strength coach and former competitive powerlifter.

Ok, so what did we learn?

In short, we learned techniques and lifts that emphasized safety and maximum effectiveness for results.

We learned basic and advanced lifts and exercises is very specific progression.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are many different variations of the lifts that were taught.

As Jeff explained from the beginning, the goal was to teach the lifts with the least complication and the maximum benefit.  Beautiful!

Lifts we covered included:

  • the overhead squat
  • the deadlift
  • the front squat
  • the muscle clean
  • the power clean
  • behind the next press (the was amazing!)
  • barbell push press and barbell jerks
  • the barbell snatch
  • the back squat
  • the zercher squat (WOW!)
  • the bench press
  • the full contact barbell twist (very unique and powerful exercise for rotational strength)

These exercises were covered in detail with precision and a progression based on drills that led to the proper mechanics for a safe lift.

All lifts essentially implemented the RKC principles, meaning that each and every lift was treated as a whole body exercise and also done with techniques that maximized lift efficiency.

We learned the importance of a logical, systematized progression for maximum benefit and the importance of “earning” certain exercises, such as the “power clean.”

So, if you can’t do a deadlift properly, you haven’t earned the right to perform a power clean.

I was very surprised by the value of certain exercises, such as the overhead squat and behind the neck press, in particular.

I want you to “let go” any preconceived thoughts you have about these 2 exercises because they are both very safe and very valuable exercises, using the techniques we learned in this workshop.

Also, like kettlebell exercises that are built on fundamental movements, barbell training is much the same, with each exercise “built on” one another in a progressive training approach.

With kettlebells, everything is built on the swing and the get up.  The overhead squat is the get up of barbell training, if you can believe that.

Who are barbells for?  Who should use barbells?

Great question.

In my humble opinion, barbells have a role for almost everyone.

This does NOT mean that everyone could or should perform barbell power cleans and snatches.

They shouldn’t unless the exercises match the goal and they have followed a systematized progression in performing other fundamental movements first.

Again, you must “earn the right” to perform some exercises and there must be a clear reason or rationale for performing each exercise.

I’ve always felt this way actually.  You never do an exercise just to do an exercise.  There must be a reason why, a solid rationale behind each exercise.

Back to the question, why barbells?

One of the key things we all need to burn in our brain is that we all need to build muscle.

Why?  Because we all LOSE muscle mass each year as we age.   This can occur as soon as the age of 30-35 and declines after that unless we do something to prevent it.

I’ve written all about this in the muscle building series, how to put on muscle.

Preventing and maintaining muscle mass is critical to your health, function, strength, and performance.

The barbell is the most significant tool to build total body mass because we can load the bar with heavy weight.  For serious strength training and mass building, the barbell is the king.

In summary, there are 7 big lessons I took from this workshop that I’d like to share with you.

1.) Barbells are exceptional total body tools that allow lifts and exercises that can have a significant and impactful role for just about everyone.

2.) The RKC principles (breathing, tension, biomechanical efficiency) are highly applicable to barbell training to allow for safety and maximum effectiveness.

3.) Just like kettlebell exercises, there is a “neuromuscular programming” (NMP) component since the lifts are total body movement patterns.  There is a learning curve to build the movement pattern and establish the motor program to safely and effectively perform the exercise.   This is made simple by following a progressive approach to the lifts, building from one exercise to the next.

4.) Safety is paramount to everything else.  This means having appropriate mobility and stability to perform the lifts first.  Also, the lift must match the goal.  If there is not a clear rationale to perform an exercise, it should not be done.

5.) Barbells are the master tool for heavy loads, period.

6.) Barbells build strong, powerful total body movement patterns that improve functional performance.  And, they build extremely athletic physiques, as an added bonus.

7.) Like other movement based training, barbell training is extremely safe when you get the proper instruction and coaching.  Don’t fear the barbell!

Barbell training is the real deal.

Always has been and always will be.

  • Yusuf
    Posted at 21:35h, 29 July Reply

    Thanks for the recap Scott! Interesting that the overhead squat is the TGU equivalent. I’ve been playing carefully and with very moderate weight with Behind the neck presses after my shoulder feels good these days. To my delight no issues with them. I use it more as a BodyBuilding type exercise at the end to burn out the lateral delts.

    My T-spine ext is very average so I actually use the seat just cue myself, get my chest up while keeping my low back to the chair.

    Killer site BTW. Hope all is well…

    • Scott
      Posted at 19:07h, 30 July Reply

      Good to hear from you Yusuf.
      Yeah, it was very interesting, I learned a lot. I would have never guessed that 2 of the most valuable exercises were the OH squat and Behind the Neck Press (BNP). The BNP was very different than I’ve ever done it, using the tension principles and bringing in the scapular retractors. It actually felt much ‘safer’ this way. I was really blown away by this one.
      Think many people have limited t-spine mobility, this may help, along with t-spine mobility work.
      Glad to hear your training is going well!

  • Joseph
    Posted at 23:53h, 07 August Reply

    Great site Scott! Enjoyed listening to Podcast 009 with Tracy Reifkind

    I recently read an article by Mark Reifkind, entitled ‘The RKC As a Stand Alone System’. It really resonated with me. America seems to have an obsession with making things complicated. The masses are pressed for time and compliance becomes a problem the more complex things become. The genius of the KB is its simplicity

    Here’s a quote from Mark’s article…”Six basic exercises: swings, get-ups, cleans, presses, snatches, squats. What could be simpler? And what could be harder when done with the optimal form, loads, and intensities?” I agree with Mark’s sentiments. The vast majority of people don’t need to look any further than RKC. Nothing has proved to be more effective in my experience. It packs more punch than anything else I’ve tried. Kettlebells are also enjoyable to work with

    The RKC As a Stand Alone System

    • Scott
      Posted at 01:26h, 11 August Reply

      Joseph, Thank you for the feedback.
      Really appreciate it.
      The article by Rif is fantastic! The RKC 6 is so amazing, it’s all I did for a while.
      It really is all you need because it covers so many things, all in on tool, one system.

      Thanks for sharing that and appreciate the comments!

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