You can use your barbell to lose weight -- just padlock it across your refrigerator door and the snack pantry. Joking aside, nesties can emulate trendsetting women at the gym who have discovered the incredible benefits of barbells. Even without aspiring to the spectacularly healthy and strong body of a female powerlifter, you may find that the simple barbell provides the missing piece to your weight-loss puzzle.
Set your focus on an organized approach to losing fat, rather than weight, especially at first when your barbell work will be creating heavier muscle as you shed lighter fat. Track your fat loss at home or at the gym by using a weight scale with a bioelectrical impedance feature. Measure and record your “inches” -- chest, waist and hips -- every two weeks. Set realistic, specific goals to lower your body-fat percentage, such as 1 percent in four weeks.
Create a three-part plan toward shedding fat that adds a healthy eating component and cardio work to your barbell routine. For your cardio portion, schedule three days a week of your favorite aerobic work -- spinning, circuit training, boot camps and running outdoors or on a treadmill lead the way in intensity. And to focus on healthy eating, track your food intake to avoid undermining your good exercise plans with too many high-calorie goodies, like ice cream and pastries. Online calculators make calorie tracking convenient. While you may at first lose fat yet gain weight as your barbell work builds heavier muscle, over time the calorie deficit created by your cardio and dietary monitoring help you attain actual weight loss.
Make a date with yourself for barbell work -- you can readily benefit from two to five barbell workouts a week, depending on your schedule, preferences and level of dedication. Whichever you pick, place the workouts on your calendar so you don’t let competing demands distract you. Even two barbell workouts a week can work wonders to create whole-body strength, and the resulting increase in muscle mass raises your metabolism to burn calories even when you are at rest. Trainer Irene Lewis-McCormick recommends two to three workouts a week for beginners, three to four for intermediates and four to five for advanced women in her book “A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.” Your program can include six to eight different lifts and two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Get your workout togs on and prepare to perform your barbell routine. Warm up first with jumping jacks, jogging in place or brisk treadmill walking. For all-body sleekness, power and balance, focus on the Olympic lifts -- the snatch, and the clean and jerk. These require excellent form, so you can join a group-power class that features Olympic-style lifts. Or line up a personal trainer or experienced lifting buddy to start you with an empty bar or even body-weight pantomimes to acquire correct form. Your resulting body will be quite aesthetically pleasant and athletic -- just do not to add weights too quickly. Focus on form above all else, advises trainer Lori Incledon in “Strength Training for Women.”
Work the powerlifts -- the squat, deadlift and bench press -- if you want to go from a jelly-belly or scrawny body to a strong body with muscles that happily slurp up calories and bring your food intake in line with your energy expenditure. A squat rack makes the squat so much easier, and a spotter is needed for your bench press. The deadlift represents one of the purest tests of overall strength, notes Leah Garcia in “Weight Training for Women: Step-by-Step Exercises for Weight Loss, Body Shaping and Good Health.” Again, you’ll need a Jedi Master of the barbell nearby to assess your form, as your back, shoulders, knees, hips and ankles have to be angled properly and safely with all your barbell work.
- A Woman's Guide to Muscle and Strength; Irene Lewis-McCormick
- Human Kinetics: Top Trainer Dispels Common Misconceptions Surrounding Strength Training
- Strength Training For Women; Lori Incledon
- Weight Training for Women: Step-By-Step Exercises for Weight Loss, Body Shaping and Good Health; Leah Garcia
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.