If you have been to any decent gym, you would notice that the centre piece of the gym is the barbell squat/power rack. Why?
Performance: Maximal Strength
The barbell is most efficiently used for maximal strength training. Maximal strength is the maximum amount of strength you can exert without relation to the movement being done. This is because the barbell can be loaded the heaviest amongst any gym equipment.
During our personal training sessions at the PIT, we use barbell training a lot. To us, it is one of the simplest equipment to use for training of maximal strength.
Maximal strength is a very important quality for athletic development. Every movement can be expressed as a percentage of your maximal strength. It is no secret that high level athletes, even in seemingly non-strength sports or even endurance sports, place a premium on strength training.
Increasing maximal strength obviously enables you to perform movements that require more strength than you are used to. Less obvious benefits of improving maximal strength include:
Increase endurance for movements of the same strength requirement, eg running longer at the same speed.
Increase speed (and power) for movements of the same strength requirement, eg running faster for the same duration.
Increase control and precision for movements of the same strength requirement, eg greater stability when holding your gun.
Allowing more complex movements to be accessible, eg more complex movements in gymnastics.
Aesthetics: Muscle Building
For aesthetic goals, having more maximal strength means you can stress your muscles with heavier workloads, giving you more potential to build bigger muscles. To get strong, lift heavy. To get big, lift heavy a lot of times.
Maximal strength training does not directly increase muscle mass, but with the right diet and workload, having more strength gives you an advantage compared to when you were weaker.
Aesthetics: Fat Loss
Bigger muscles means bigger engines to burn more fat, 24/7. Even better than doing cardio. Every wondered why gymnasts/acrobats are lean without having to do cardio?
You see, the amount of calories burned in a workout is small compared to the amount of calories used for survival (Basal Metabolic Rate aka BMR). The fat burning effect of any strength workout happens after the workout.
Cardio increases fat burning by raising the body heat. Therefore, increasing the energy consumption for heat dissipation.
Strength training/muscle building increases fat burning by increasing the amount of energy needed by hungry tissues: muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat just lazing around.
So to sum things up, the barbell is probably one of the best tools you can use to achieve your fitness goals – whatever that goal may be.