What You Need to Know Before Picking up a Barbell for the First Time

So, you’ve survived your first day in the gym and are ready for the next step – or maybe you’ve mastered dumbbells and machines, but still haven’t figured out what to do with a barbell. Either way, here are all the basic things you need to know on your first day of lifting.

What is the difference between barbell and dumbbell?

A barbell is one where the handle is a long barbell.

The word “dumbbell” probably comes from the idea of ​​using a weight that looks like a bell but doesn’t work. Other kettlebells that have the word “bell” in their name are named after their shape. The weights are shaped like a kettle with a handle on top; Barbells are long bars with weights at both ends.

What exercises do people do with barbells?

There are many, but the most common are the following and their variations:

  • Squats , in a squat rack
  • Bench press on a bench press machine (make sure you have safety equipment or someone to spot you)
  • Deadlift , off the floor
  • Presses are usually off the rack
  • Rows, from the floor
  • Olympic lifts are like snatches

Are there different types of rods?

So many ! The most common in most gyms are:

  • Olympic style barbells, about seven feet long and weighing about 45 pounds. You load whatever plates you want onto the ends. They are great for squats and deadlifts. You will likely find them on or near a squat rack or deadlift platform.
  • Smaller “fixed” bars where weights are permanently attached to the ends. They are handy for curls and other exercises that require lighter weights. You will probably find them next to dumbbells. The total weight of the rod will be marked on the end.
  • Smaller loadable barbells are also usually found next to the dumbbells. They are also for curls and the like. Weight will vary, but is often 25 pounds or less.

The two smaller types can be straight rods or have a shape best described as wavy. The wavy look is called the “EZ bend” and may be more comfortable to hold when you’re doing arm curls.

Fixed necks speak for themselves, so let’s talk about the ones where you load the plates on yourself.

How to find a barbell and carry it around the gym?

Bars often live on racks or platforms where they are used. If you can’t find one, you can usually get an empty bar from another station (for example, take a bar from an empty bench stand when it’s not in the squat rack).

If you still can’t find the bar, look around the edges of the room to see if there are any bars on the floor, hanging on the wall, or most likely stored upright somewhere on a shelf. Barbells that are stored vertically behind a squat rack are the hardest to find.

And if you need to carry it somewhere, for heaven’s sake, watch both ends so you don’t hit the mirror or something. It’s usually best to have one end in front of you and the other in the back, or keep it somewhat vertical if you can.

How to put plates on the bar?

They just slide.

If you’re going to be doing the squat or bench press, place the barbell in the rack at the appropriate height. Check the correct height by doing a few reps with an empty bar.

Then, holding the neck on the stand, take the cymbal and put it on. Slide the corresponding plate from the other side.

How do they stay?

There are collars or clips. They tend to get lost, so look for them on the hooks of a squat rack, on the floor next to a squat rack, or somewhere in a small accessory bucket.

One type looks like a wire clothespin and you squeeze the handles together to put it on the bar. The other looks like a donut with a small lever on it; open the lever to put it on the bar, then close the lever to lock it.

Does it matter what order the plates go in, or which way they are facing?

By and large, no. It all still weighs the same and there are no major safety issues if you load the bar incorrectly.

However, people have strong opinions about how to properly load the barbell. Here is the protocol:

  • The largest and heaviest cymbals go first.
  • Smaller plates come later. This allows you to make small weight changes without unloading large plates.
  • Use the largest possible plates. For example, load 45 instead of 25 and two 10s. This way you won’t grab all the small plates.

The direction of the pancakes is a point of contention between different types of athletes, and it depends a little on the type of gym you’re in and the type of pancakes they have.

  • If the plate looks the same on both sides, load it however you want.
  • In the iron plate powerlifting gym, face the labeled side inward toward the bar.
  • Unless everyone is loading the first plate in and everyone else is out. Then do it.
  • Or be a rebel and look them in any direction.

How to load plates on a crossbar lying on the floor?

Okay, deadlift time! Getting your first large (45-pound) plate is easy. Fasten it. Now to load 45 on the other side you need to place the rod in the center of the plate and then do the following:

  • Sit on the bar or stand next to it.
  • Grasp the opposite sides of the plate (at 9 and 3 o’clock) and pull strongly towards you.

This should turn on the second plate. Now, if you add smaller plates, they should slide easily.

If you need to add more big wheels, you can use a deadlift jack if your gym has one, or use the tiny plate trick . Set a small plate (such as a 2.5 or 5 pound plate) next to the plate you loaded and roll it onto the small plate. Now you have enough space to load more plates without rubbing against the floor.

When it’s time to unload the bar, use the tiny plate trick again. And to pull out the penultimate plate, take it at 9 and 3 like you did to load it.

And the last trick: after you have unloaded all the plates on one side, do what I call “Excalibur” to quickly deal with the other side. Remove the clamp, then grasp the empty end of the rod and tilt it up until it is vertical. You can then pull the empty bar from the stack of plates, just like Arthur pulls a sword from a stone.

Do you think bar?

Are you sure you do! This is part of the weight you are lifting. People also talk about big lifts in terms of the number of 45-pound pancakes on each end of the bar. (Internationally, you’ll see 20kg barbells and 20kg cymbals, which are roughly equivalent.)

So the math looks like this:

  • One 45-pound plate at each end of the neck is 135 pounds and is colloquially referred to as “one plate lift”. (For example, “I can shake a plate.”)
  • Two 45 lb plates at each end add up to 225 lb (90 + 45 + 90). All you do with it is “two plate” lifting.
  • Three 45-pound plates add up to 315 (135 + 45 + 135).
  • Four 45-pound plates add up to 405 (180 + 45 + 180).
  • Etc.

Are there different boards?

Yes. There are bumper plates that are designed to fall safely to the floor, and they are full size (about 18 inches in diameter) regardless of their weight.

Then there are your standard iron plates where 45 pound weights are full size and lighter weights are smaller in diameter. The cymbals in most gyms are like this, and they can be plastic-coated rather than just iron.

Then there are the multi-sided “hex” plates, which have the same idea but are much more annoying in the deadlift .

The only thing you need to know is that if your gym has both bumpers and regular plates, save the bumpers for people doing olympic lifts or deadlifts. You don’t need them for the squat or bench press, no matter how cool they look.

Should I look in the mirror?

Please do not. As you squat, turn to face the counter and exit backwards , no matter where the mirrors may be in the room.

Otherwise, pay attention to how you feel, not how it looks in the mirror . You can record yourself and watch the video later if you’re really interested.

What are the scratch marks on the handle? Where should I put my hands?

This thing is called knurling, and it will help you get a better grip on the bar. Hand placement is a personal choice for each individual, so experiment with tighter and wider grips on each exercise. I like to use a wide grip on the bench (ring fingers on a smooth little line) and a narrower grip on the overhead press (about 3 inches from where the knurling starts near the center).

Pay attention to these guidelines to make sure your hands are centered so that you can keep the barbell in the same place each time you lift the barbell.

Am I going to drop it on myself and die?

You do not. If you are squatting, install belays on the rack. That way, if you can’t stand up completely, you can just sit down and set up the safety bar.

Whether you’re deadlifting or doing another exercise from the floor, jumping is easy: you just lower (or better yet, smoothly lower) the barbell.

The bench press is where people most often fear for their lives. Ideally, you should be using a bench with fuses (often referred to as “face savers”), and yes , it’s possible to drag the bench into the power rack to use the fuses there. But more often, people will ask another gym goer to “spot” them , meaning that person will stand by in case you can’t finish an exercise. In this case, they will help you return the barbell to the rack. Don’t drop the bar and wait to be grabbed; their hands only need to apply a few pounds of pressure to make the bar light enough that you can put it back on the rack.

If you finish the bench without a belayer, you still don’t have to die. Just place the barbell on your stomach, roll it over your hips, and then sit down. Uncomfortable, yes, but not fatal.


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