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You MUST Use Barbell Training for Muscle Growth – True or False?

Do you have to use barbell training for muscle growth? It’s an interesting question.

In number 6 from the fitness myth series, Mike Israetal from Renaissance Periodization shares his thoughts on barbell training for muscle growth.

Is it essential for lifters?

Barbell Training for Muscle Growth – The Claim

  • In order to gain the most muscle, you need to do barbell compounds
  • If you’re not doing them, you won’t get max gains
  • If you do them more, your gains will improve
Source: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

These compound barbell exercises are:

  • Squat
  • Bench
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press

Reasons it’s WRONG

  • Theoretically, there isn’t a compelling reason why barbells should always work better
  • Direct evidence shows machines and dumbbells comparable to barbells
  • Tons of the top pros do MUCH LESS barbell work than expected

Grains of Truth

For many people, barbell lifts can have very high RSMs (Raw Stimulus Magnitudes).

  • Deadlifts and Barbell Rows for Back
  • Squats for Quads
  • Bench Presses for chest

If you avoid barbell compounds, you might be avoiding some of the best lifts for size.

If you learn the barbell compounds, your technique on ALL other lifts for that muscle can improve a ton (because barbells require both high force production and proper positioning).

Barbell Training for Muscle Growth – Best Practices

  • If you get high RSMs or even high SFRs out of barbell lifts then DO THEM
  • If they start to fatigue you or have lower SFRs than they used to then do machines and dbs for a while to let your body resensitize
  • If your best SFR and RSM exercises are mostly NOT barbells then it doesn’t matter, as long as you are being honest with yourself

Barbell Training for Muscle Growth – Video

Mike breaks everything down in much greater detail:

Learn More

Add Nordic Curls and Reverse Hyperextensions into your training.

Quick Tip for improving your discipline

Check out more great advice from Renaissance Periodisation.

The 10-Minute Rule

“Given our more developed brains, it’s reasonable to think that humans are superior decision-makers to all the other primates of the world.”

“It’s somewhat surprising, therefore, to learn about a famous experiment from Harvard University that tested discipline for humans versus chimpanzees. The critical part of the experiment came when researchers offered the same choice to both chimpanzees and humans—get two treats immediately or wait two minutes and get six treats. The chimpanzees chose to wait 72 percent of the time, while humans only chose to wait 19 percent of the time. Chimpanzees aren’t smarter than us, so what caused the counterintuitive discrepancy in good decision-making?”

“Well, the problem is actually in how developed our brains are. We overthink decisions with somewhat obvious answers and we are able to rationalize bad behavior that robs us of more desirable outcomes. We’re not always sure ourselves what’s a real reason for hesitation and what’s just a justification or excuse. You can imagine how this takes away from our overall efficacy.”

“That’s where the 10-Minute Rule comes in—if you want something, wait at least ten minutes before getting it. It’s simple and leaves no room for debate or excuses. When you feel an urge, force yourself to wait for ten minutes before giving in to whatever the urge is. If you’re still craving it after ten minutes, then have it. Or wait ten more minutes because you’ve already done it and survived just fine. Simply by choosing to wait you remove the “immediate” from immediate gratification—building discipline and improving decision-making.”

“Similarly, if you want to quit doing something beneficial, like exercising or working on a creative project, wait just ten more minutes. It’s the same thought process applied in a different way. Ten minutes is nothing, so you can wait or continue that long easily. Then, if you do it once, it’s easy to repeat, isn’t it?”

“The simple truth is that going from 0-1 is the most difficult part of any task. Mathematically, of course, 0-1 is basically an infinite increase. So once you get over the tough task of starting, which is what this tip is aimed at, you can start to discover this magical thing called momentum.”

“You might need to build up to 10 minutes, and that’s okay too. Start with 2-3 minutes, or wherever you feel that you are pushing yourself.”

You MUST Use Barbell Training for Muscle Growth – True or False?