Several years ago, if you had told me that working out would soon become one of my favorite activities, I may have pictured myself doing dance or sports, or taking an aerobics class. What I would never have imagined, however, was lifting and squatting with a barbell in the back of a weight room.
Learning to lift weights using a barbell has transformed my body and improved my life. It has given me a strength and sense of connection with my body that has made all other activities—including dance and sports—better and more enjoyable. I love being able to push past my comfort zone and grow stronger over time. Lifting with a barbell helped me fuel a passion for movement, level up my mindset, and face new challenges with greater confidence.
I had been exercising regularly for almost a year before I started using a barbell. But the results I achieved in the first month of barbell training trumped many of the gains I’d made in that entire preceding year. Here are some of the ways that barbell training improved my life.
- I’ve built muscle and developed overall strength, improving both the way I look and perform in other fitness activities. I’m now running faster, jumping higher, lifting heavier, and working with greater endurance than ever before.
- I’ve developed a better mind-muscle connection, which I can apply to other exercises for greater efficiency. By getting a clear understanding of and feel for all the muscles in my body, I can properly engage them and feel confident that my activity is beneficial.
- I’ve strengthened my body as a unit, with all joints, muscles, and attachment areas working together. This has helped eliminate pain I used to experience after strenuous exercise, in areas such as my ankles, knees, hips, wrists, and the top of my feet.
- I’ve cultivated a fun, engaging hobby that’s given me a sense of accomplishment to carry into other areas of my life. I’ve become more confident and experimental, recognizing that I can find great value and succeed at things that initially seem daunting.
- Lastly, as with other forms of exercise, barbell training has helped boost my mood, increase my energy, and improve my overall health. I’ve built mental toughness from regularly challenging myself and sticking to my program even when I don’t feel like it.
Compared to many other forms of exercise, barbell training requires a bit more initial knowledge to get started. One of the most helpful resources I’ve found is the work of Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength. He’s published several books and created an application, along with a collection of videos and articles. Despite having never set up or lifted a barbell before, I learned how to do so by watching his instructional videos and reading excerpts from his book (which I accessed through his app).
What I like most about his work is that he clearly explains the form, purpose, and function of each lift, and gives very helpful and retainable cues that you can apply immediately. These cues give you a point of focus to avoid distraction and perform better. You can check out two of his instructional videos at the bottom of this article.
Once I mastered the basics, I applied my new lifting skills to a variety of other exercise programs to achieve a broader range of fitness and aesthetic goals.
Although I would never have imagined myself training with a barbell, I’m so happy that I learned to do so. It has transformed my life and helped me become a happier, healthier, and a more driven person. If you have goals of getting stronger or improving your fitness, I encourage you to try barbell training for yourself.
Here is Mark Rippetoe explaining the deadlift:
and here he is explaining the squat: