I often see people making the excuse that they don’t have specific machines or tools in order to make progress in the gym. I do a agree that if you don’t have free weights, you are at a disadvantage in the muscle and strength gain game. In order to make progress in these fields, you need progressive overload.
You need to use lifts that allow the give you the highest potential to add resistance. A common heuristic I like to make is:
If you had a year to add weight to a lift what do you think you could get stronger on between a barbell flat bench press and a flat dumbbell flye? Unless you’re wacko the answer is pretty obvious. We want to focus our efforts on lifts that will let us pile on resistance, not on lifts that have a low potential to add resistance.
You want to know the one tool that accomplishes this factor across the entire body?
The simple fact is the barbell can be used as resistance for every compound lift the human body is capable of. Since it can vary widely in how much can be loaded, it’s my #1 tool for accomplishing results. As a matter of fact, I got my lifts to:
- 495lbs Back Squat
- 365lbs Paused Bench
- 700lbs Sumo Deadlift
I did this in my garage gym which contained a half rack (with a chin station), a bench, a single adjustable dumbbell, a deadlift mat (to protect the cement from getting torn to shreds), some blocks, and 700lbs of plates. Also loud music…
I also got my bodyweight up to 242lbs.
This doesn’t mean there is no place for certain machines in a program. There are many bodybuilders for instance who have gotten massive from concentrating on machine lifts. Plate loaded machines, that stimulate, benching, rowing, deadlifting, etc. all can be progressed and have a lot of potential to add weight during the process. So please don’t think I’m saying machines are garbage.
My point is that if you are a lifter who doesn’t have a lot of space, or is looking for a simple program to follow, you don’t need to look for a gym that has 15 different bicep curl machines. If you can find a gym that has a barbell with a lot of weight and gives you the ability to lift without restrictions, that is all you need.
I’d also like to add the benefit of bodyweight exercises such as the chin-up and it’s variations. If you push yourself hard on these, you can add 45, 90, 135lbs + to a belt over many years. Do this successfully and you will get a much bigger and stronger back over this period if you can add resistance (have I been repeating myself on that concept?).
When I am programming for my clients, I base many of my programs off the simple barbell lifts and their variations. And I get amazing results.
So… I want you to contemplate putting away the gizmos and gadget machines in your gym and try an 8-12 week cycle of using a barbell and bodyweight exercises only. If you need exercises variations that will hit most of the muscles in your body check out my infographs on the squat, bench and deadlift.
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