7 Life Lessons Of The Barbell

By on February 17, 2015

You approach the barbell, sweat dripping from your brow to your chin and landing down on the floor.  You are covered in sweat and feeling exhausted as you grab the barbell and set up for the clean.  You lift your chest up, look in the distant and pull up on the barbell, sweeping it up into your body as you extend  your hips forward.  The barbell launches off your thighs from the explosiveness of your hip drive and travels upwards. A cloud of chalk rises in it’s wake.  You quickly drop your body under the bar as fast as you can…visions of setting a PR are quickly becoming a reality.  Your move your elbows forward as fast as you can to receive the bar and…….the barbell crashes to the ground.

Not what you expected to happen right? Man that barbell can be a real b-i-t-c-h!

The barbell to me is one of the most fascinating things in the gym.  Essentially it is a long metal pole about seven or so feet long yet it has the power to cause people to feel scared or thrilled….defeated or victorious.  The barbell can make you feel like a million bucks or make you feel like nothing.

Sure it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are first working with a barbell but once it is mastered and nurtured, it can sometimes become one of the best character builders that I know of.

Life Lesson #1:  It’s always awkward at first:  The first time you do anything..it is almost always awkward and unnatural.  Riding a bike, swimming, reading…anything.  The barbell is no different.  When that barbell is first in your hand it is going to feel awkward as hell.  You won’t know what to do with it…do I use my arms? Do I curl it? Do I pole vault with it?  Remember there is nothing wrong with feeling awkward with the bar at first…it is normal! And you will get better.

Life Lesson #2:  It takes practice: Transitioning into this life lesson…in order to get better at something you need to practice, also know as, repetition.  Doing the clean motion hundred…wait no…thousands of times.  Snatching until you can do it with your eyes closed.  In order to be successful at something, ANYTHING in life, you need to practice.  And practice a lot.  This once a week stuff just won’t cut it.

Life Lesson #3: You can’t cheat the barbell:  One of the most amazing things that I see when it comes to people using the barbell for clean, jerks, snatches..anything, is how they can get away with poor form up to a certain point and weight and then it is almost as if the barbell says “NOPE!  I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” and all of a sudden they can no longer go up in weight.  It’s almost as if the barbell lets you build up your confidence for a bit and then throws you back down to reality until you are ready to do it right.  And this is where it gets tricky because I will see people do one of two things.  One type of person will give up on trying to improve and will just stick to the weight that they can do and will make any and all excuses as to why they can’t go up in weight for fear of failure.  Then there is the second type of person who will say “hmm why is it that I can’t do anymore weight than this? I must be doing something wrong!” So what do they do, they improve their form and after some hard work and effort and some failure they blast through that plateau and come out on the other side in tune with the barbell again.

Life Lesson #4:  It builds character:  Want to see what someone is made of? Have them do a workout like Grace which is 30 clean and jerks for time.  It’s amazing to watch people and see the internal struggle that is going on during this type of workout.  Their body wants to quit and really does not want to lift that barbell another 5 times.  Their legs are tired and want to give out.  And this is where we see that fork in the road again.  Some people will slow down and mentally give up.  Some will lower their weight knowing full well they did not have to.  Then there are the people that have that epiphany….the one where they know deep down inside they can do it.  Where everything in their body is telling them no yet they keep saying yes.  Where the pain of quitting far outweighs the temporary discomfort they are feeling right now.  When it comes to the barbell…embrace the suck.  Trust me, there WILL be a time(s) when you want to give up…not if…but when.  When this time comes around, know that you have a special opportunity to make yourself tougher…mentally and physically.  And damn right this toughness will spread into other areas of your life as well.

Life Lesson #5:  Learn from your mistakes:  The barbell has an uncanny ability to point out what you are doing wrong.  In life you can learn from success but in reality…you learn so much more from your failures.  The barbell provides instant feedback…if you didn’t get your elbows up then you miss the lift.  If you didn’t get under the bar…you missed the lift.  If you are not successful with something…its ok.  Embrace it and look at it as an opportunity to learn and improve upon your mistakes.

“I have not failed…I found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

-Thomas Edison

Life Lesson #6: Progress isn’t never comfortable:  Many successful people in life always say that to improve in life you have to get out of your comfort zone.  It’s true.  To get to somewhere you have never been you have to do something you have never done.  The barbell can be very uncomfortable….you fall down on your butt, your wrists hurt, your elbows are sore…oh and don’t forget those bruises on your thighs.  Why are doing all this? It’s the price of progress.  Getting out of your comfort zone will bring you to the place where all the magic happens.

Life Lesson #7: Resistance Training:  In life people and things are going to push you.  People are going to talk bad about you and say negative things.  Things that you don’t want to happen will happen. You will get knocked down.  When that weight of life pushes down on you…push back. Do not give up or throw in the towel…push forward.  In the gym it’s called resistance training…outside the gym it’s called life.  Feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you don’t know what to do? I’ll tell you what to do…..squat it.  Heck, clean and jerk it if you’d like.

Find a barbell, use it, learn from it….just don’t quit.

Robby Blanchard

About Robby Blanchard

Robby is the Owner of CrossFit Reach and Reach Athletics LLC. He has over 8 year of experience in the fitness industry as a Coach, Trainer, Competitor and Gym Owner. Robby holds a Bachelor's in Exercise Science from Fitchburg State University along with a Masters in Business Administration. He is a L1 CrossFit trainer and hold a CrossFit Strongman and Olympic Lifting Certifications. Robby is a USAW-Level 1 coach and run's Reach Barbell Club, one of only a few sanctioned USAW gyms in Massachusetts.

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