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barbells and bodyweight

Why do Barbells and Bodyweight Demand Different Programming?

The fundamental programming principles (continuity of the training process, waviness of loads, and specialized variety) will remain the same, regardless of the modality. The same low reps and high tension will be employed and muscle failure will be avoided. What will change are the progression tactics.

Two variables impose the need for change: weight adjustability and equipment availability.

When it comes to precise load adjustment, the barbell rules. There is a very exact 1RM and the coach can program something like 88.5% of that number. Or he can choose to add a small amount of weight as a means of progression. The body weight is the least cooperative in the weight adjustability department. You weigh what you weigh. The kettlebell is in between. The weight is adjustable, but only in large increments. It is a 33% jump from 24kg to 32kg and a 25% jump from 16kg to 20kg, and so on.

When it comes to availability, the tables turn—bodyweight rules.

The barbell is not easily accessible throughout the day—unless you work at a gym or own one.

How This Affects Programming

There are different ways of progressively overloading the body. Add weight, add reps, reduce the rest periods, etc. However, when absolute strength is the goal, the choices are narrowed. Adding reps beyond five or increasing the density is off the table, as these types of progression build mass and endurance and not a lot of strength. 

Two strategies remain:

Increase the intensity. To remind you, in strength training “intensity” does not refer to a subjective effort. It is an objective measure of the weight or the resistance, e.g. % of your 1RM.

Increase the volume while maintaining high intensity and limiting the reps per set to five and fewer. “Volume” is the total number of reps done in a workout, a week, etc.

Both strategies must be used over a long haul but, as you are about to see, the barbell is more biased toward the first and Bodyweight is somewhere in between.

The barbell makes it easy to up the intensity. Just plug your numbers into a proven powerlifting cycle template (the SFL Barbell Cert manual offers more than thirty choices), and you are in business.

The barbell frowns upon the second strategy because exercises like deadlifts and back squats take a lot out of the body and demand extra recovery. The second strategy can work if you lift several times a day and practice sophisticated recovery techniques, the way elite Russian lifters do, but this is impractical for most people with real jobs.

Bodyweight demands creativity in resistance adjustment: shifting more weight to one limb, elevating the feet, manipulating the range of motion, etc. You cannot adjust the resistance with barbell precision, hence cycling is out and specialized variety is in as a means of increasing intensity. Volume is easily added, as the exercises are a lot less systemically draining than the power lifts. Besides, your body weight is always handy for a strength training session, which enables you to make dramatic strength gains on the grease-the-groove protocol. In summary, bodyweight strength training employs a balanced combination of both strategies.

Helpful course to enroll - Kettlebell Training Specialist

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