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Beyond Barbells

Over the past week, I have listened to Julien Pineau’s talk on Barbell Buddha (which I shared on Wandering Web last Friday) twice, and then spent an entire afternoon geeking out on StrongFit’s website. The first time I had heard Julien’s iconic French accent was on Barbell Shrugged about 6 months ago, and I could tell immediately this guy was on the cutting edge of strength and conditioning, without any of the pretentiousness that sometimes comes with anyone who is on the cutting edge.
While I really encourage you to go listen to that podcast (link on Wandering Web from March 27) I’ll go ahead and describe the biggest lesson I took out of it: looking beyond the barbell for strength gains. Traditionally, in order to get stronger, an athlete adds weight to a barbell week to week in order to overload the body progressively and cause positive adaptation. The problem with this is twofold. One, at some point it is highly likely (read: certain) you will hit a plateau and not be able to add weight. At this point, you typically deload and try to give it another go in a few weeks. The second problem comes with the technical difficulty of some lifts. Everyone thinks they know how to squat, bench, deadlift, clean, snatch, etc etc in a way that is safe and won’t cause injury. They don’t. Eventually many people find nagging pains after training only in this manner.
We can beat both of these problems by utilizing one magical piece of equipment, the Prowler/Sled combo. The logic behind this is really, exceptionally simple which is what I love about Julien’s ideas. They make sense. With prowler sprints, you will get tired. There is no way to slack through them. Also, you can always take two more steps, and the risk of injury is nearly zero. Additionally, nothing activates your posterior chain (group of muscles running up the back of your body) like sprinting on a prowler. If you want to be a better athlete, you want to have a strong backside. The sled actually hits quads harder, so you can even spin the equipment around and complete a different workout while continuing to increase your heart rate and smash conditioning. Nothing is faster, and it is fair to question if anything works better, whether you are a CrossFit athlete, soccer player, football player, or weekend warrior.

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