April 2018 in review: beyond the barbell

Coaches need a lot of tools in their toolbox. If all the strength coach knows is the barbell, then they are limiting their ability to solve more complex problems. Therefore for the site theme in April we chose going beyond the barbell, bringing together 3 new videos, 2 podcasts, and 5 articles to look at different ways coaches can solve problems with other training methods. All the links are below, but first I wanted to share a few ideas that crystallized in my mind this month.

» Past themes: see a full archive of our past monthly themes here.

Know your options

As mentioned above, the more tools you have the better. In many cases, you might never use the tools, as Chris Gallagher explained. Craig Pickering also explained that simply having more than a hammer will help change your mindset so that you don’t see every problem like a nail. This is helpful as the most effective exercise is not always the best one to select. You have to take into things like athlete adherence, experience, background and more. The more options you have to select from, the better.

There are many ways to find load

Supplemental methods are often thought to target needs like mobility, speed, or injury prevention. Strength, it is often thought, is found in the weight room. It is indeed easier to measure load in the weight room . . . you just add up the plates on the bar. But that doens’t mean you can’t find substantial loads without the barbell; you just have to be more creative. Sometimes that means training differently, as with Nick Garcia’s leg circuits, or sometimes that means finding new implements, as Nick Hill demonstrates with some great partner exercises. With the right plan, you can find as much or more loading for your athletes without using a barbell.

Movement in 3D

Even if you don’t use these exercises to target strength, the other stuff – mobility, speed, injury prevention, etc. – is reason enough to step beyond the barbell. As Steve Myrland put it on the podcast in April: “Barbells require the body to organize itself the bar, rather than optimize the movement for the athlete.” Barbells are better than machines, but they offer fewer degrees of freedom than so-called “functional” training and often focus on just the sagittal plane of movement. By moving beyond the barbell, the athlete can be challenged in all planes of movement in a more complex manner.

Resources on “beyond the barbell”




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