My Love Affair with the Barbell


By Scott Iardella

The barbell had me at “hello.”

I have to admit that when I started training over 30 years ago, it was the “barbell bug” that bit me from the very beginning.  But the harsh reality was that I had no idea how to really use this powerful tool.  The benefits are significant for the performance athlete, bodybuilder, or general fitness enthusiast. Here’s what we all know. The barbell is the king of strength and it always has been.

In a fitness industry with fads that come and go, the barbell has stood the test of time. To get stronger, put on mass, and perform feats that some might consider “superhuman” – there’s arguably no better tool.

If we agree how effective the tool is, then why doesn’t everyone include the barbell in their training regimen? As you consider this, let’s understand the key benefits of the barbell.  I’ll list them in terms of the fundamental barbell lifts: the squat, deadlift, and press (and their variations).


This is an obvious advantage. There is no other tool that can make us as strong as a barbell because we have the ability to load the bar to our strength capacity – our limit strength or maximum strength. If your goal is truly to become strong, the barbell is the tool to produce the highest levels of strength, period.


Barbell training, like other free-form methods, helps us to move better.  We can learn how to restore better quality of movement and move stronger by training with barbells, especially if we’re in for the long haul. This is, of course, providing we learn the proper biomechanics of exercise. The tool helps us to improve our functional movement patterns, improve mobility and flexibility, and develop motor control and coordination – all of which helps to improve daily function or athletic performance.


The barbell provides for continuous learning and development. Here’s what I mean.  Any movement based training (ex. barbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight training) is considered a continuous process of motor learning and skill development. This means we can always get better, we can always improve, and we can always deepen our skills with the exercises over a lifetime.


There’s a constant challenge with barbell training because we are training with heavy loads. It never gets easy, never. Whether we’re performing basic deadlifts, presses, or squats….or whether you choose the higher level Olympic lifts, we are constantly challenged with loads, skills, and programming. Barbell training is infinitely challenging on the human body.


Muscle mass and fat burning are the by-product of high quality barbell training. We will certainly change and improve our body composition with the right programming approach and techniques.  While I don’t advocate using the barbell as a conditioning tool (I think there are better methods for that), it will have a major impact on our metabolism and will stimulate powerful hormonal responses that contribute to building quality lean muscle and body composition changes.



These are some of the major benefits of barbell training.  Squat, deadlift, and press (or whatever is most appropriate for you). The barbell as a tool simply makes you better. No matter what your training level is, the barbell can help each and every one of us in many ways. The level and scope of how you use this tool depend on your specific goals. As with any tool or training method, know exactly where it fits it and how it will help you.  And find a great coach that can accelerate your performance because that one thing can make all the difference.


As a physical therapist and a strength coach, Scott has spent 3 decades teaching unconventional approaches to strength & performance training for long term health and fitness results. With numerous training and nutrition certifications, Scott is also one of the world’s foremost experts in kettlebell training and the prominent host of the Rdella Training Podcast. — Scott is the author of The Edge of Strength, a comprehensive new book describing his philosophy and methodology of training and performance (now available at