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Where Did The Barbell Go?

ultimate sandbag training

Seven years ago, I got the fitness industry REALLY mad at me. In all honesty, this wasn’t my goal and I thought I wrote something that hopefully would make people think. What I didn’t realize is that I had presented an idea that I could have had the pitchforks and torches coming to my house. What was it? I suggested that the barbell wasn’t that essential for gyms!

I realize that such a statement would raise curiosity, but it did much more than that! People were SO mad! You would think I just told their child there was no Santa Clause or something. It was so harsh that honestly I was shocked. Why would, especially after a lengthy discussion on why, suggesting the barbell was overrated would people lose their minds?! (you can read the article HERE)

The reality that many people have emotional attachments to exercises and equipment became very apparent to me. I had always thought we had used both to simply achieve desired outcomes, but I learned that many people had turned their goals into actually using such equipment. We lost sight of the bigger picture!


I have no problem with people enjoying barbell training. It is when we let our enjoyment of something impede our judgement of what is the best for other people that our emotional attachment to things become a bit of an issue. 

Why am I so hard on the barbell though? When I was last interviewed on a podcast the coach said, “if I have barbells and kettlebells why would I need an Ultimate Sandbag?” That thought process I know is so prevalent and this isn’t about telling you why you need Ultimate Sandbags. Rather, having us re-think how we lost our vision of real world strength.

The first part of my explanation had to simply have him understand why using the barbell has led us to go the wrong direction with training. The barbell as we know it today was only invented around the early 1900’s. Initially many of the barbell designs of the time were very different. The barbell was about 5 feet in length and this caused a lot of differences in training.


You would be unlikely to see this in your gym, more so, most people would be really confused on what this weercise would even be right?

Why 5 feet? I’ve never found the answer, my best guess is during the time iron was very expensive. Trying to conserve costs would have to be a consideration, especially because fitness was NOTHING like we see today as far as people’s interest. What does this length of the barbell have to do with anything?

Due to the smaller length and the fact that iron was harder to get, lifters would try to lift the barbell all sorts of ways. One or two hands, in different positions, directions, you get my point! It would only be as the barbell would eventually get to a 7 foot length that we would see lifting transform to more of what we see today.

The increased length of the barbell allowed people to put more weight on the implement. Due to the size of the barbell and the fact people wanted to go heavier and heavier, the use of the barbell changed as well. Now we see very up and down motions dictate the use of the barbell and we now think that the heaviest weights mean the greatest amounts of strength.

Funny how just over 100 years ago this was NOT the case. Gymnastics, wrestling, climbing, running, many forms of training that allowed us to move and get strong in many different ways were far more prevalent. However, as the barbell became more of a staple in the gym, our views and performance of strength actually changed a great deal.

To me, the barbell is the MOST limited tool in the gym. Whether it is kettlebells, bands, dumbbells, medicine balls, pulleys, maces, and yes, Ultimate Sandbags, we can use these tools to really address a host of fitness needs in moving in a wide array of patterns, postures, and directions. Kinda like we do in life right?

The barbell encourages us to lose sight of a bigger part of fitness in my experience. People get focused on load above all else and forget the other principles of Progressive Overload that allow us to achieve long-term progress and health.

That in of itself should be a good explanation of why I’m not a big barbell person and Jessica and I left it out of the L.I.F.T. program. This may sound crazy, but one thing I asked a coach in regards to the use of a controversial exercise before was, “what is the BEST way to achieve a specific goal. Not just in getting a result, but minimizing the risk and negative aspects.” For us, the barbell offers the least ability to address real functional fitness. How so?

-Its best use is almost only sagittal plane training.

-Of all the tools mentioned it is the least flexible in being manipulated other than just load.

-A barbell is the most expensive and space heavy equipment of the above mentioned tools.

-People often have to be adapted to the use of the barbell because of the lack of options of how we can use the tool, rather than adapting the equipment to the individual.

I think some people get upset when I point out these issues with the barbell because they use them themselves and have had some success with their use. Trust me, I use to be a heavy barbell guy and I’m not saying you can’t achieve some appreciable level of success with their use. I’m asking can we do it BETTER and develop strategies that allow us to help more people?!

We want the L.I.F.T. program not to be about the exercises or the equipment, but the results and teaching of movement in a way you have never seen before. That you become empowered by knowledge and see how much more we can accomplish with understanding of the body! Save $75 and get some awesome FREE gifts with coupon code “lift” HERE