T Nation

No Barbell


#1

Hi Guys. My gym has no barbell, not even one, only a smith machine. Imagine that!? So why do I go to that gym?
1. It is in the building where I work - extremely convenient (I go during work)
2. It is $30 a month - very cheap for New York
3. I have made progress and I think I can continue to make progress in this gym

MAIN QUESTION: Cycle in exercises on smith machine occasionally or avoid it completely?

I have been weight training just under a year. I have come up with some workarounds and would like to hear some opinions and additional ideas.

Major exercises that I am missing out on due to absence of a barbell/squat rack:

  1. Squat Variations
    There is an EZ curl bar that I can clean and perform front squats, overhead squats, hack squats (useful exercise?). I also use dumbbells to perform lunges, split-squats, and step-ups. Sometimes I just squat in the smith machine - should I continue this or am I better off with above replacements?

  2. Deadlift Variations
    I use the EZ curl bar to deadlift.

  3. BB Bench Press
    I mostly bench with dumbbells. It's awkward to bench with the EZ Curl bar. I also perform dips and pushups. Cycle in smith bench sometimes?

  4. BB Rows
    I use the EZ curl bar here. I also perform various cable rows and bent-over dumbbell rows.

  5. Good Mornings
    I guess I can try this exercise with the EZ bar and see how that works. I have mostly been performing the Straight-leg Deadlift and leg curls for hamstring work. (No glute-ham machine)

  6. Calf Raises
    I cannot really find a replacement so I have been using smith calf raises. I have heard of ways to use the leg press machine for calf work. Also perhaps a buy a dip belt and do donkey raises?

Anything I am missing?
BTW my progress in the first year (almost) is 165lbs to 183 lbs (as of this morning) and only 1% increase in body fat.

Thank you.


#2

I say if your still making progress and you're happy with the situation why change it. However, when progress halts and/or you are no longer happy training there it is probably time to find another gym.

Hope this helped.


#3

Find a better gym.


#4

If finding another gym isn't an option, why not just buy a bar and take it there? Hell, buy a cheap one and just leave it there. A cheap bar beats the smith machine.


#5

Ask when they want to become a real gym and get a barbell.


#6

Couldn't you donate them a barbell?


#7

This has got to be one of the strangest gyms I've ever heard of. Is it named Curves, and is it frequented by overweight housewives who do a lot of step aerobics with pink dumbbells?


#8

I second (or third?) that. I've seen that in small gyms before - a piece of equipment that says "donated by XXX, please do not remove." Never on a friggin barbell though... last I saw it was on a heavy bag.

As a guy that trains during "lunch" at work I can understand the appeal of this place. Allows you to sleep in the morning and have your evenings free. Very good deal.

OK enough babbling - go find yourself a barbell.

Training program looks good BTW.


#9

This is a corporate gym for employees that work in the building. Most members and all of the staff (except for 1 dude) don't know how to train.

I think the reason they don't have a barbell is because it's a 'safety issue'. But even if I brought my own bar, I think I would need more than that. Wouldn't I need a power cage for squatting and benching?

My main question is - assuming there is no barbell, should I use the smith machine now and then, or stick to dumbells/EZ curl bar/dips/pull-ups exclusively? Or would you occsianlly use the smith machine (realizing you will not reap the same benefits as with a barbell)


#10

You wouldn't NEED a rack (but it certainly would be helpful). From Dan John - "put a barbell on the ground and pick it up a bunch of different ways." Good advice. Deadlift variations, Olympic variations, etc.

I'd say use the Smith on occasion - better than nothing I suppose. You'll make progress.

Remember that what you get out of training is proportional to how much you put in. Visit any "fully stocked" gym and you'll find 90% of the jokers don't look different from the average guy (or gal) on the street (despite the fact that they've been "training" for years).

In the face of adversity - adapt.


#11

I watched a rather buff couple working out one day and ended up thinking of them as "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". They did EVERYTHING in the smith machine. I don't condone its use for anything but close grip bench with bands and this partially bent over row thing I do that really hits my posterior delts but... If that's all you got, use it! Do as much standing dumbell/ez-bar work as you can think of to help develop your stabilizers and core muscles. That will at least help cover your bases. When you can get into a real gym of course, run, don't walk.


#12

That makes me sad. ::teardrop falls into my protein shake:: Geez man, no barbell, no workout partner. I'm glad you're even lifting at all. :wink:

Very important question...How heavy do the dumbbells go?? If you've got a set of dumbbells, plus some cables, you're golden. A barbell would be a luxury that you're not afforded. The EZ Curl bars are gravy.

Any move you'd do with a barbell, simply use 2 DBs for. It's not ideal but, 'twill do, 'twill do. Instead of back squats, you've got DB deads/squats. Also DB overhead squats (1-arm'ers = tons o' fun). Chest, back, and shoulders are mostly self explanatory. You've got to play with the hand you're dealt. I don't think you're actually in too bad of a situation.


#13

When you are a beginner it isn't too bad, as long as the dumb bells go up to at least say 50/60 pounds??? But after a bit of training and good progress its time to convince them to get one barbell and a rack at a bare minimum. If not, I would honestly consider buying your own barbell and using it and pester them to get even one of the most basic racks to use. I am sure they would eventually if you keep going on about how essential it is.


#14

Yep, they got DBs up to 80lbs, which is plenty for me right now. They also got a cable station.

My main thing was whether I want to use the smith machine a little or not at all. From my exprience and the responses so far I am thinking to continue using it a little here and there as I have been.


#15

No barbell in a gym...plus in NY, that's nut! Anyway, you can get some good workouts with DB's using creativity and hard work :
-DB snatch
-DB clean & press
-DB swings
-One arm DB overhead squats
-DB floor press
-DB overhead press
-Farmer walk
-Bent presses
-One arm DB bench
-DB pull and catch
-Turkish get up
-weighted pull-ups
-rows
....the list goes on and on...
Plus you can focus on good bodyweight movements such as dips, push-ups, pull-ups, pistols, bodyweight squats, natural GHR...