The popular fitness/bodybuilding/strength gurus are extremely stubborn. They are not happy at all when you criticize their ideas. In their heads, they have the perfect way to do things and a bag of arguments why everything else is inferior. For example, people like Mark Rippetoe believe that bodyweight exercises have nothing on barbell training while many members of the so-called “street fitness movement” are afraid to squat a 20 lbs. dumbbell. The reason why people get offended when you question their doctrine is the need to associate with the way you train. You see it as part of yourself, as something you own. When under attack, you want to protect those ideas as if they are your possessions. Admitting that maybe your were a little wrong in some of your statements can be very difficult. As people, we naturally want to lawyer our way out of every situation.
This is why you should be careful when someone is offering you training methods and ideas which sound too good to be true. Everybody has an agenda. They need you to become a follower and eventually a perpetual buyer of their products. Since we all need to make money, this is somewhat justified, but only up to a certain level which is often crossed by gurus whose main goal is to make you a monkey that only trusts them and nobody else.
The minute you become one of those individuals who spend a lot of time and emotional energy arguing over things like “barbells vs. bodyweight”, “dumbbells vs. kettlebells”, “low bar squats vs. high bar squats” you know you have been brainwashed.
In essence, all training methods represent different music genres or in other words division. The minute you divide something into many pieces it becomes weaker and less effective. Most people would benefit a lot more, if they focus on listening to good music instead of limiting themselves to one kind for the sake of belonging to a group.
IT ALL SUCKS
All training methods have severe flows. Below you can see the major downsides of each popular muscle building method:
- Bodyweight exercises cannot replicate full body drills such as the deadlift;
There are many advanced bodyweight exercises working the upper body and the core incredibly hard, but replicating exercises like the deadlift, the snatch and the overhead squat with bodyweight drills is essentially impossible.
- People with severe shoulder injuries may find themselves unable to ever do a lot of the advanced bodyweight exercises;
If you have sensitive shoulders, you will need to be extra careful when doing bodyweight exercises. Depending on how severe the problem is, you may have to stay away from many movements, or at least follow long training protocols that prepare the joints for the strain.
- The bodyweight world is not very kind to tall people.
You may not want to accept it, but you cannot have it all. Different people are meant for different things in life. The bodyweight world will forever be the kingdom of short people. When you are tall (over 6’4”), doing advanced bodyweight exercises becomes a nightmare. You will be frustrated and will feel like a 5’3” guy trying to dunk a basketball. All advanced bodyweight exercises are extremely unfriendly towards tall people. Most gymnast are barely 5’9”.
- bodyweight exercises often serve as an excuse not to train your legs effectively;
I really love it when the bodyweight crew starts talking about how leg training is “extremely” important to them and yet all videos contain 99% upper body work done by people with toothpick legs. If you are lucky, you may get to see high bodyweight squats and/or pistols.
Of course, the root of this problem is found in the human apparatus rather than bodyweight training itself. Nonetheless, if you want to have extremely strong legs, bodyweight drills are rarely the perfect choice for most people.
Dumbbell and Barbell training
- gym membership needed;
When your whole training revolves around free weights like dumbbells and barbells, you cannot train without a gym or proper equipment in your home. Obviously, that is fine for most people but if you live in an area where there are no quality gyms, you would have to find an alternative.
Back in the day, I had to travel 1 hour in both directions to reach an affordable gym where I can do my routine. When you have enthusiasm this is not a problem, but eventually you realize that maybe diversifying your way of training can save you time, which is the most precious commodity. Combining bodyweight training and barbells is one way to do achieve this goal.
- Weight training can be quite boring;
Barbell exercises do not change. You just add more weight. There are no advanced exercises and you will be doing the same movements for years. This can become quite boring and is also one of the reasons why the barbell sports are not exactly a popular spectator sport.
- People use barbell training as an excuse to get fat;
The fast majority of permabulkers is found in the powerlifting community. When you are heavier, you lift heavier weights. It is that simple. The result is a bunch of wannabes who eat at McDonald’s ten times a week just to keep their bench press at 90% of their bodyweight.
While kettlebell training is free weight lifting, it deserves a separate part because of the marketers who made sure you imagine S.W.A.T. teams when you hear about those iron bells.
- All kettlebell exercises can be done with a dumbbell or a T-Handle;
All kettlebell exercises can be done with a dumbbell whether you want to admit it or not. I would even go as far as saying that some are even better with a dumbbell. I personally prefer dumbbell snatches over the kettlebell version many times. Nonetheless, some kettlebell drills, like the front squat, feel much better than their dumbbell version.
- Too much hype and propaganda.
The return of the kettlebell was possible thanks to serious propaganda coming from….you know very well who. Kettlebells this, kettlebells that….
Here is a little secret for you: it is all bells and whistles. Everybody wants you to become a follower. What people need to learn is how to use their heads. I lost a lot of time waiting for something to give me the secret when it was all in front of me – there is no secret. All gurus are drug dealers.
- Kettlebells force you to stick to high reps and many of the exercises are ballistic which is not always good for your joints;
Eventually you will be doing sets of 50 with your beloved kettlebell. This means that kettlebells are not efficient for building absolute strength past a certain point. Of course, this shortcoming, like all others, can be minimized through proper programming and exercise selection.
The solution? Just mix it.
The solution has always been the same and many of you know it already – the best way to train is to mix things.
With that said, the most important thing to remember is to never subscribe completely to any ideology. Tunnel vision is a byproduct of ego thinking and the need to believe that your way is the best, and all else should be disregarded as heresy. We focus too much on having rather than being and doing.
Today, having things is seen as the ultimate way to express yourself, which is what the fascist corporate world wants. Being offended by someone’s statements regarding “your” training methods is the equivalent of fighting over smartphone brands.
To prosper in this lifting game, you need to think in terms of doing instead of owning. You do not own any training methods because they cannot be owned. They are not yours, do not represent who you truly are, and there is no need to get defensive. When choosing a training system, you should try to be objective, and realize that you are allowed to mix things anyway you want. Everything works as long as you know what you are doing and why.
Bruce Lee: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”