Kevin Toonen is the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Sydney's 98 Gym. You can now follow his programming online from anywhere in the world.
I must admit that the heading of this article is loaded…it's not a question as much as it is fact in my mind. I was asked the other day by a friend to explain to them why they should lift…and by that they meant squat, bench, press & deadlift. I love explaining this to everyone, its a chance to expel some myths, talk about my favourite subject (very selfish i know) and inevitably start changing peoples minds and ideas about barbell work.
Now lets make this clear from the start, I'm a results driven coach, by that I mean I don’t just program 'stuff' for random reasons, or because it looks cool. I care about each of my athletes and clients, I want them to get better and I believe in a scientific approach to training. And thats why I program barbell work into everyones programs…if they can handle it. I’ve only had a few cases where a empty bar was to heavy for someone…however the goal is always to get them to move into this along the way.
In the last 18 years of coaching I have seen barbell work come in and out of vogue, I’ve heard how bad squats or deadliest are for you back, knees, hips etc. To clear that up…BAD squats/deadlifts (poor form) are bad for you, done correctly they can only make you faster, stronger, mobile and improve bone density, ligament and tendon strength. Does that sound like a bad thing? Of course not.
If you think about simple tasks you do everyday, walking to and from public transport, work, carrying the shopping up stairs, holding your kids, picking up work tools in and out of your work ute, playing sport on the weekends, wearing some form of uniform that adds extra load onto your frame.... Doesn't it make sense to ensure you are strong enough to do all this?
Would you like to be able to move more freely when your older, decrease your chances of injury, bounce back from surgeries faster? The list can go on for ever. My point is, lifting is safe if you know how, it improves the way you move and the ease in which you can do it.
My background is tactical so I was sold very early on with the need of strength. For me and the rest of the tactical population the need to move fast under load is paramount for survival, we need to be strong enough to pull a mate with all his/her gear on if they are wounded or in need of assistance.
Now I weighed 88kg, plus uniform, boots, weapon, body armour, water, ammunition, specialist gear…that brings the total to 120kg…and sometimes much much more. Dragging that weight around is hard enough, throw in a causality that needs to be dragged out you can easily see why strength matters. How about playing sport? Bodies running into each outer at pace, fast dynamic changes in direction, turning, pivoting, accelerating, decelerating…would it be safe to say that having a strong body matters? Yep its safe to say it does.
Now lets get back into the weight room, lifting a bar in a safe environment with good form, strengthening your legs, core, lower back, shoulders doesn't seem that bad anymore, does it. What about if you are a runner or endurance athlete? Of course it makes sense to have strong legs, back, core. It will ensure you can hold your pose (position when you run, ride, or swim) for longer and make you more efficient as well. And no, lifting weights wont make you massive… you need years and years of target programming for that. Of course it can if thats what you want but its all in the way you use these lifts in your training. Remember its how you place these lifts into your training that makes the difference, it the volume, intensity, frequency, your genetics, diet and lifestyle that will decide the end result.
Learning how to lift and using these barbell exercises will only make you better, if you're still not sold then just give it a go, learn how to lift…learning a new skill improves cognitive behaviour as well so at the very least you will improve brain function while doing all of this.
And a final note it must be stated that its how you utilise these lifts that matters. If you program these lifts in the incorrect matter or overreach by overestimating your ability, conditioning or training age of course you are in danger of injury.
Train hard, but always train smart!