The stereotype of a bodybuilder is more often than not a mountain of a man curling a hugely heavy barbell slowly and determinedly. The notion is that doing barbell exercises is synonymous with muscle building, and will get a person ‘swole’, as they say.

While there’s no denying that you need barbells and other weights to bulk up, this does not mean that spending time around them will immediately turn you into Ronda Rousey. Unless that’s what you want, then, by all means, go for it. The issue here is we’re blaming the poor faultless barbells for their role in our misconception – they are a tool that can be used in many different ways, and deciding how is what makes the difference.

The other great thing about dumbbells and barbells is that you mostly just need a free hand or two to be able to use them. This means you can incorporate them into a myriad of barbell exercises, workouts for women and other routines.

Many people have an inclination to separate cardio and weight training, like tricky relatives at a wedding seating plan, in case things get too hairy. But in reality, the two can work together to your advantage if you let them. We’ll show you how and the what the benefits of this are, as well as how you can incorporate it into your own routine. Let’s get pumping!


It’s not like shopping at GAME, you won’t have to bulk up.

Unless you paint yourself green or get exposed to comical levels of gamma rays, you won’t become the Incredulous Bulk by using barbells more. For instance, our Les Mills Grit Strength class uses a combination of barbell, weight plate and body weight exercises to give you lean muscle and burn max calories in a short amount of time. The point of the class isn’t to bulk up, but the weight component is crucial.

The weights work what you want them to, by aiming it in short bursts at the right areas to give you strength and not size. You won’t look like The Rock, but you will feel like The Rock. Men and women’s bodies are also sculpted uniquely, so weight lifting for women will generally have a different goal in mind. Don’t think of it as bulking up, think of it as a strategic offensive against arm flab, particularly because it’s super effective at helping burn fat and calories, even post-workout!

You can do more, quicker, faster

Unless you’re training for something specific (or in a kung fu movie montage scene) and need to compartmentalise your exercises, you’re not likely to complain about a quicker and more comprehensive workout. By combining weights and cardio routines you are inherently saving time and compounding the two workouts’ effects. Two birds with one, erm, weight, so to speak.

For example, Radan Sturm of Liftonic recommends increasing the weight slightly with each rep of moves you do, thereby incrementally challenging and improving yourself. While recovering between reps or sets of one kind of exercise, you can do another kind, and also use it as a way to track your progress.

Take exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, pullups, dips and single leg deadlifts and add some weights (or just a resistance band to start with if you like) for a great all-over workout for women. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you acclimatise and how badass you will feel straight off the bat.


For healthy living, it’ll be worth the weight

The list of the most common disorders and ailments in modern society reads like a list of “things that will happen if you don’t get off your chair once and awhile”. Suffice to say, long-term health is something we are painfully aware that we need, and the best way to get started on that chestnut is to be fit.

Think of it as a biological pension fund. Getting toned and lean means adhering to the holy trinity; burning calories, doing cardio and weight training. You’re working on the muscles that you will need well into your golden years, so you might as well tune ’em up good. And what better than building up muscle strength to fight that old villain osteoporosis. In order to build up your muscle endurance and strength, make sure you are lifting heavy enough.

After an intense lifting session, your body will continue to burn calories at a higher rate for hours. In other words, to be healthy in old age, you’ll have to weight for it.


You can feel it in your bones – in a good way

Tired of battles with stubborn jars, or boxes that are just too heavy? A little independence can go a long way, and most people wouldn’t mind being a little stronger than they are. Besides the surface benefits though, conditioning your bones and joints in a constructive way will serve you well in any walk of life. And help you to still walk well into your life.

You’d be amped to take the stairway to heaven instead of the escalator. For example, for all the wonderful benefits of yoga, a person does need some occasional higher impact activities, to shake the dust from our bones, so to speak.

Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science at New York City’s Lehman College, says it’s the load put on our bones, tendons, ligaments and supporting muscles from weight training that adds to their long-term health.

Later in life, among people who are sedentary and women who have reached or passed menopause, bone tissue growth slows down which can cause postural problems. In other words, weight and strength training isn’t something just for athletes, but needed across all ages for general fitness and wellbeing.


Classes that help

Most people don’t have a spare barbell they can just quickly grab or someone to tell them how to not injure themselves, but this is where barbell classes can be really helpful. We make use of the Les Mills system at Viva, which incorporates sports science and years of knowledge to get you to get the most out of your body.

Les Mills takes cutting-edge HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and combines it with powerful music and inspirational coaches who will be down on the floor with you, motivating you to go harder and get fit faster.

Our different classes offer different angles. Do you still need help choosing the best group training solution for yourself? We have an amazing class finder tool that will give you a bespoke list of the classes for you! Check it out here.



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