Priority #1 in my coaching is Minimize Injury Risk.
And if you never train with a barbell you’ll never suffer a weight training injury.
Sure there are exceptions. But the larger point below stands.
If you’ve injured yourself working out (especially an acute injury, like something going pop) the odds are it involved big barbell exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, barbell rows, and squats.
Now those are excellent exercises. But they’re not mandatory for folks who just want to build some muscle.
Especially folks over 40. There are safer, even BETTER alternatives.
Here comes the Hate Brigade:
You need to BENCH for a big chest!
You need to SQUAT for massive quads!
You need to DEADLIFT for…. I don’t know… social media status? (Romanian deadlifts are just SO MUCH better).
Again, those exercises aren’t bad. You just don’t NEED them to get jacked. And if the barbell has beaten you up and you want to try getting by with just dumbbells and cables, you’re in luck.
Common advantages to dumbbell or cable alternatives:
– less restrictive (not locked into fixed movement planes)
– easier to isolate specific muscles, especially weak points, or avoid aggravating injuries
– greater range of motion
– safer for going to failure
Here are some classic barbell lifts with some perhaps better dumbbell or cable alternatives:
BB Bench Press
– Cable chest press
– Neutral grip Incline DB Press
– cable row or pulldown, single or bilateral
– chest supported DB row or single-arm DB row
BB Shoulder Press
– neutral grip DB press, single or bilateral
– cable or DB lateral raise
BB Biceps Curl
– Seated or Incline DB curl
– cable preacher curl
BB or EZ bar Triceps Extension
– Cable triceps ext (overhead, lying, etc)
– Lying DB triceps ext
Lower Body Lifts
Having a barbell for squats, RDLs, good mornings, and hip thrusts is great (also a leg press, leg curl, etc) but with cables and dumbbells you can do:
– DB RDLs
– DB Goblet squats
– Cable or DB split squat variations
– DB step ups, DB lunges
Not hating the barbell. But there are safer, even better alternatives.