Working out with barbells is a form of resistance training. For some women, however, the word “resistance” is synonymous with their attitudes toward weight lifting. This is often rooted in a fear of developing bulging muscles. In reality, genetics and lower testosterone levels will almost certainly prevent a woman from bulking up. At the same time, barbell training offers benefits such as increased muscle and bone strength, plus improved coordination. If in doubt, consult your doctor and a personal trainer and find out what a barbell workout can do for you.
Breathing is important for any resistance exercise routine, and lifting a barbell is no different. When you breathe, you send much-needed oxygen to the muscles. To effectively do this, exhale when you’re pushing the barbell against gravity and inhale when you’re moving with gravity. Don’t hold your breath while you’re lifting.
High Reps Vs. Heavy Weights
There’s some disagreement about whether high-repetition workouts with lighter barbells are superior to low-rep routines with heavier weights. The key, however, is to work to your limit within 90 seconds -- the method you employ to reach that goal is less important. For example, if you’re performing curls with a very light barbell for two minutes, you’ll be better off adding weight and cutting your reps. If you’re working to the max in less than 90 seconds, just keep doing what you’re doing.
Don’t lift too much weight. As a rule of thumb for beginners, if you can’t perform at least a dozen reps of an exercise, you should try a lighter weight. Also, remember that you can be seriously injured if a barbell falls on you, so have a spotter nearby whenever you move a barbell over your body. The spotter can also help you place the weight properly before you perform an exercise -- when you’re doing a squat, for example. If you’re an experienced lifter, you may feel that you don’t need a spotter. But accidents can happen to anyone; chances are that if you’ve been lifting for many years, you’re lifting significant amounts of weight, so your injury will likely be more severe if the barbell slips from your grasp. You may wish to employ two spotters, one on either side of the barbell, when you’re lifting particularly heavy weights.
When you’re working with any free weights, but especially when you’re lifting a heavier barbell, it’s important to maintain proper form. Lifting a barbell with poor form can do more harm than good and cause a serious injury. Also, if you’re used to working with machines -- which stabilize the weights for you -- you may unintentionally move the wrong parts of your body as you try to stabilize a barbell, which prevents you from gaining the full benefit of the exercise. If you’re new to weight lifting, or if you’ve never had anyone assess your form, make a date with a personal trainer who can show you the proper barbell lifting form, or can correct any mistakes you’re making.
Balance Your Workouts
Make sure your exercise routines cover all the major muscle groups, including your legs, core, back, shoulders and both your upper and lower arms. Choosing the right mix of exercises is another area in which a personal trainer can help. Don’t work the same muscles two days in a row. Either perform your entire workout every other day, or work a few muscle groups one day, and your remaining muscle groups the next.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.