Whether they are working out at home or in a gym, many beginners are overwhelmed with the sheer variety when it comes to strength training. Different trainers recommend starting out with barbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight exercises.
There are strengths and weaknesses of each technique for beginners. Here is a guide to deciding which type of strength training is right for you. As you get comfortable in your routine, you can incorporate different exercises for variety and build better muscle strength.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Barbells
Barbells are the foundation of most weight training exercises, including the big four that feature in competitions: squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift. If you are hoping to eventually perfect these exercises, training with a barbell can help you perfect your form while also improving muscle strength and balance. They form a versatile building block in your workout program since you can use them for multiple exercises and adjust the weight.
However, barbells are often intimidating for beginners. Using improper form while lifting could cause injury, which is why many lifters start out with a personal trainer. Barbells also train only specific muscle groups and ranges of motion. If you’re not fleshing out your workouts with variety, your muscle development will be very uneven.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Kettlebells
Kettlebells are another way of training with a weight that does not require barbells. Kettlebells train more muscles than barbells do and target the core more than barbell exercises. They can be used to perform many different exercises, which makes them a cost-effective choice for a home gym. They can also help you improve your cardiovascular fitness.
However, kettlebell training is not the best choice for complete beginners to strength training. Because this is a rarer form of gym equipment, most people don’t know how to use kettlebells properly and improper form can lead to injury. Kettlebells are particularly strenuous on the back muscles and most trainers don’t recommend them for people with chronic back pain. Finally, with a kettlebell, there is more danger of dropping it on your foot!
Benefits and Drawbacks of Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are some of the best ways to start strength training. They require no specialized equipment or workout space — all you need is a bit of floor space. Bodyweight exercises are gentler on the joints than weighted exercises as they rely more on flow than sudden movement, making them a better choice for people with chronic joint conditions.
For absolute beginners, bodyweight exercises are the best choice because they can help build the muscle needed to perform weight training exercises without injury. However, relying exclusively on bodyweight exercises often leads to a plateau. Once you master an exercise, then there is no way to make it harder by adding more weight. Often, more advanced athletes get bored with bodyweight exercises alone.
Choosing the Right Exercise for You
Choosing the right exercise for you will depend on several factors. First, you need to think about your fitness goals. For example, if you are eventually hoping to perform Olympic-style lifts, then you should start training with barbells to master form.
You should also consider your current capabilities and chronic pain conditions. Bodyweight exercises can help you build up the strength to incorporate barbells and kettlebells into your routine. They are also better for people with chronic joint or back pain than kettlebells or even barbells.
If you are still not sure about the right exercise for you, talk to a more experienced lifter or trainer. They can help you create the perfect routine.