What is the fastest and most economical way to build a powerlifting gym? First, you need a good power rack so you don’t get hurt. Second of course are plates and dumbbells and then some bars. Notice I said bars. There are other ways to do contrast training other than bands, chains, and weight releasers. When it comes to equipment, bars can completely change a gym. For instance, when doing max effort work, you can have a record with a bow bar, front squat bar, Zercher squat bar, Safety squat bar, a regular squat bar, or a 14-inch cambered bar. They all have a value of their own.
In Olympic lifting, they have primarily two squat records to base their max squats on: front and back with the same bar. This also limits the volume of squats one can do in a workout at a certain intensity zone. Even when training at different intensity zones, there are only two varieties of squats to work with. But with several bars to work with you could expand your max effort exercises. I have seen one exercise totally change a lifter’s progress. It could be a front squat, which Eddie Copeland used to develop his 826 deadlift at 186 bodyweight, or the Safety squat bar, sometimes called the Hatfield bar because of the success Dr. Squat, aka Fred Hatfield, had with it to the point of squatting 1014 at 256, just about the biggest squat of all time regardless of bodyweight, or the Zercher squat lift, invented by Ed Zercher and used to a great degree by Bob Barnett to pull 675 at 165 bodyweight in the late 1960s. Alexander Karelin also used the Zercher squat or lifted off the floor to demoralize his opponents.
How can a bar help avoid accommodation? By changing total volume without compromising bar speed at the same percentage of a one-rep max when training for power development at 40% to 50% for multiple sets. If your front squat record is 500, 50% would be 250. If your Safety squat bar best is 600, then 300 is 50%, and if your regular box squat max is 700, you would use 350. The front squat volume for 12 sets of 2 reps is 6,000. The Safety squat bar volume for 12 sets is 7,200. The box squat with a regular bar would be 8,400 pounds total volume. The sets remain the same in a three-week pendulum wave. The percentages are the same. The bar speed remains the same, but the total will be altered by using different bars with different maxes. This is very important to avoid accommodation. See the Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M. Zatsiorsky (1995). The same scenario can be used when using a bow bar, a 14-inch cambered bar, or a Zercher squat bar.
When we do max effort work at Westside, we switch a barbell exercise each week. This will help eliminate accommodation while maxing out. The different bars make it possible to change a squat or good morning exercise. Of course, using different heights, boxes, or stances while doing the exercise helps. The bars are constantly rotated to change the amount of weight one can use. This concept holds true when speed benching as well. An arch bar requires a maximal grip and a different hand position. A 3-inch cambered bar will work similarly to a 5-inch cambered bar but with a different range of motion. A bow bar that has a 2-inch camber is not quite as radical. A football bar with three parallel grips is a great change of pace to bench with. A T-grip bar with slightly different grip angles is big at Westside. Lifters at Westside will do not only triceps work with a 7-foot EZ curl bar but also speed and max effort work .
A great bar for rehab or better yet for prehab is the Bandbell bar. It is a special bar made of fiberglass that vibrates when you hang kettlebells or light plates from it. You do this by fastening mini-bands around the bar and through the kettlebells or plates. This causes a chaotic osculating pendulum effect. This bar enabled me to bench 300 just 3 months after shoulder socket surgery.
Just like speed day for squatting, the percent of a bench max can change by rotation of specialty bars. This too will change the amount of volume on speed day, as each bar has its own max.
There have always been squat bars, power bars, and deadlift bars, but the specialty bars can completely change the potential of a gym. A gym can increase its variety by obtaining many bars to choose from and rotate regularly. Bands, chains, and weight releasers play a large role in our gym’s success and so does using a wide variety of bars.