Sound impossible? Think again.
If there’s one thing that people are discovering more and more with the ever-increasing frustration wrought by the multitude of fitness fads pimped by the fitness industry on the daily, it’s that simple is better – not to mention more effective, more time efficient, and friendlier on the wallet than wringing it out every time a shiny new magic bullet screams your way from across the TV inducing you to “call now, supplies are limited!”
What’s more, people have once again begun to look backward to look forward – strength is in vogue again, and hopefully it’ll stay that way. In addition to rediscovering plate-loaded barbells and massive sets of incrementally larger dumbbells, people have begun to discover that these weird looking things called kettlebells and even one’s own bodyweight are being touted as among the best and most underutilized tools for building brute strength on a budget. One big question seasoned gym goers and strength enthusiasts have, however, is “How can you get stronger with kettlebell and bodyweight exercises without incrementally adding more and more weight?”
A great question. Here are the top 3 benefits of training for a fixed weight to get you stronger.
1) Fixed weights help you build a better training base.
If you only ever focus on intensity (i.e. the proximity of the weight you’re lifting to your 1 rep max) and adding it perpetually, you will likely burn out and crash faster than your training partner can shout “ONE MORE REP, BRO, IT’S ALL YOU!” Other training variables, such as volume (number of reps), are an important part of the process.
Rather than simply trying to grind out as many heavy reps as possible, you can do something like the following:
Let’s use the squat as an example. Find a weight heavy enough to allow you to lift it only, say, 6 times with good form. Instead of doing progressively uglier sets of five, work on doing solid sets of 2. Start off working up to doing a total of 3 times the amount of your rep max (18 reps), so 8 sets of 2 reps. Eventually, work your way toward 4 times that amount (24) for 12×2. Then work on getting 24 total reps in fewer sets (i.e. start doing sets of 3). Once you can do 8×3, work your way up to 6×4. You can either continue adding volume, or take a few days off and then test your rep max. Odds are very good it will be far beyond 6. Congratulations! You just got stronger!
2) They make it easier to take advantage of techniques that adding weight won’t allow.
A few examples of this would be rest/pause reps (i.e. pausing for several seconds at the beginning and end of an exercise), sticking point reps (wherein you either start at the sticking point or move in and out of a sticking point before completing a rep). These techniques can definitely be done with barbells and dumbbells, but not if your only focus is on lifting as heavy as possible.
3) It is easier to do complexes with a fixed weight.
Complexes (i.e. doing multiple exercises one right after another) can be done most excellently with barbells, no doubt. But the technical demands of many barbell lifts can make them riskier when done under fatigue – especially so if you have strength imbalances, which barbells most definitely punish. Kettlebells and bodyweight, however, are much more forgiving on strength imbalances and allow for greater opportunities to correct them – even within workouts.
Let’s say you can now squat that weight for 15 reps – good for you, you strong mofo! Here’s an example of how you could put that into a kettlebell/bodyweight combo.
3/3 clean and press on each side
5/5 swing per arm
Crawl 20 yards
There are many other benefits – learning the value of patience in your training, learning how to create and follow and intelligently written training program, treating your strength training as a skill and not merely a cheap thrill, and in the case of bodyweight, learning how to move your body more powerfully through space, etc. The list goes on, as do the benefits, but you get the point.
If getting strong is your goal, don’t keep adding weight until you get pinned by it. Sneak up on it and attack it through such time honored methods as mentioned above, and before you know it you’ll be mastering both the iron and your fair flesh faster – and easier – than you ever thought possible.