We live in a world where joint replacements are considered normal, but a two-times bodyweight deadlift is considered excessive by the general population.
That is ridiculous!
Weakness is an epidemic that no one talks about. I’m not entirely sure why. People don’t get offended when we tell them their fasting blood glucose is over 125 mg/dl. Tell people they’re weak, though, and you’ve just wounded their pride.
Nobody wants to believe they are weak but we need to realize that the vast majority of outpatient orthopedic exercises are STRENGTH exercises. The vast majority of issues addressed in my clinic (and most PT clinics) are STRENGTH deficits.
More than any other thing we possess, strength still determines the quality and quantity of our time here in our bodies. I’m not saying everyone needs to be a competitive powerlifter but building and maintaining a good foundation of strength will help protect you from injury and keep your body functioning better well into old age.
A properly executed and progressively loaded squat, press and deadlift are the best ways to gain overall strength. This is true for a few different reasons:
- The squat, press and deadlift are basic human movements performed everyday by everyone. How else do you get on and off the toilet? Put dishes away in the cabinet? Pick up a basket of laundry?
- The movements themselves are simple to learn and perfectly safe when performed correctly. The key is to learn to do them correctly!
- They are executed over the largest effective range of motion and allow us to utilize the most muscle to elicit the greatest strength adaptation.
- They can be progressively loaded in a measureable way using increments as small as a ½ pound!
Most traditional PT exercise goes something like this:
- Isolation exercises and resistance bands or other “functional exercises” like single leg deadlifts, planks, clamshells, lunges or balancing on an unstable surface etc.
- 3 sets of 10 forever with no plans to make these progressively harder over time
Muscles don’t work in isolation in the real world and we should not strengthen them this way. In fact, it is physically impossible to not recruit a muscle group like the glutes during a squat in which they are anatomically involved in extending the hips and stabilizing the hip joint. You can’t tell me that a person squatting 600 pounds is not “firing” their glutes. It’s an impossibility! Those muscles are involved in the movement!
“Here’s the best part about barbell training: if you use good technique, your anatomy sorts out each body part’s contribution so that you don’t have to.” –Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength Article)
You don’t have to worry about “activating your glutes” or any other muscle for that matter. If you do the exercise correctly you’re “activating” everything!
Multi-joint barbell exercises like the squat, press and deadlift are superior to any other exercises for gaining strength. The world record raw squat is over 1,000 pounds. What is the world record for a clam shell exercise? This is because these exercises require the use of just about every muscle in the body which allows us to lift more weight and get stronger!
Many PT exercises are fatally under-dosed, meaning they are not actually hard enough to stress the body in a way that would cause a strength adaptation.
One of the most important and basic principles of training (and also rehab) is the Stress-Recovery-Adaptation Cycle. When exposed to a sufficient enough stress to disrupt homeostasis the body will recover in a way that leads to adaptation from the stress by getting stronger. This concept is known as supercompensation.
Suppose we teach someone who has never been exposed to barbell training to squat. They do their first session with 65 pounds for something like 3 sets of 5. The next time they go to squat, which should be 48-72 hours later, they need to squat more than 65 pounds. If they do not squat more than 65 pounds they won’t really benefit from the session. Their body has already adapted to 65 pounds and and anything less than or equal to 65 pounds is not a sufficient enough stress to disrupt homeostasis and cause an adaptation to occur the next time.
In most traditional PT this concept of the stress-recovery-adaptation cycle is not addressed. Exercises should be progressed every session and often times they are not. I have met patients who have been doing the exact same exercises with the exact same bands for 8 months.
Barbells are ergonomic and easy to handle, progress can be made predictably and in increments as small as ½ pounds for a very long time. That is why I choose to rehab my athletes using them.
Thanks for reading!
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Want to learn more about barbell training? I highly recommend reading Starting Strength CLICK HERE to buy it on amazon.