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If you’re looking to get stronger, the barbell is the tool for the job – used in every Olympic- and power-lifting movement, from the snatch to the deadlift.

Barbells are Better: When it comes to building strength, skip the machines that isolate muscle groups—you’ve come to get strong, not waste your time. Machines don’t allow the body to work the way it was built to work: as one, cohesive unit. The barbell challenges every muscle in the body, big and small, to work together; and when the body works as one unit, it builds functional strength.

Building Strength: To get strong, focus on the big lifts, the ones where you can load up the bar: the back squat, deadlift, and shoulder press (and arguably the bench press). Athletes perform these lifts regularly to build strength by following a progression. Test your strength with the “CrossFit Total” WOD—it’s the total poundage of your back squat, deadlift, and shoulder press, and a perfect benchmark for strength gains.

Building Explosive Power: The Olympic barbell (the kind used in functional fitness) is made specifically to perform the Olympic lifts: the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. The sleeves (where you place the plates) rotate, allowing you to perform fast, explosive movements.