In a way, the barbell epitomizes what weight lifting is at its core, and with good reason. After all, it is the implement through which most exercises in competitive strength sports are tested. On top of that, it is the core piece of equipment for performing nearly every load-bearing exercise that someone is likely to utilize in order to gauge your strength level.
Don’t be mistaken; if someone asks you a blanket question like, “what do you bench?” or “how much do you squat?” they’re undeniably asking about how strong you are with the barbell.
With that being said, there are enough safe, effective, and easy-to-learn exercises that you can perform with a barbell that can thoroughly develop every muscle in your anatomy. In fact, if you are diligent in your efforts with such a training program, you could develop vast strength and power, along with the prodigious muscular development to accompany them, all without resorting to any other devices.
Best Beginner Barbell Workout
This barbell-only workout split will hit all of your major muscle groups and build some serious strength in the process. Consider your bases covered here; you’ll work your upper body “push” and “pull” muscles and hammer your legs with effective compound exercises as well.
Over the course of three days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are common choices) you’ll work with 10 unique exercises across a variety of repetition ranges.
Squat: 3 x 3-5
Hip Thrust: 3 x 8-10
Good Morning: 3 x 8-12
Deadlift: 3 x 3-5
Barbell Row: 3 x 8-10
Barbell Curl: 3 x 8-12
Overhead Press: 3 x 8-12
Front Raise: 3 x 10-12
Skull Crusher: 3 x 10-12
Barbell Workout Warm-Up
This total-body training regimen consists primarily of compound movements that involve your entire body, so there is no single pre-lift warm-up routine that adequately warms up every muscle being trained prior to use. Therefore, your best bet is to implement the practice of executing a warm-up set of the initial compound movement that kicks off each bundle of exercises.
For example, insert a warm-up set ahead of your bench press sets, but it won’t be necessary prior to the overhead press or lying triceps extension if those exercises are being completed on the same day.
Likewise, you should throw in a warmup set of squats, but it won’t be critical to perform one prior to hip thrusters because of the overlap in the muscles involved in each movement. The same is true if you intend to do standing barbell rows, and then follow them up with standing barbell curls. Prior to starting the workout, it would be wise to invest 5 to 10 minutes into low-intensity cardio on a stair climber, treadmill, or light jog to get the blood pumping.
Benefits of Barbell Exercises
There are clear reasons why the barbell has stood the test of time as the apparatus of choice for weightlifting competitions: It’s stable, it’s reliable, and it’s effective. What precisely does it accomplish? Proper use of a single barbell can transform you into one of the most well-proportioned and physically powerful people in any area code.
At their most basic level, barbell exercises lack much of the freedom of movement that accompanies the use of other lifting contraptions like dumbbells. This means that you won’t be asked to rotate your wrists with precise timing as you elevate a weight through space, as you would with a dumbbell curl or an Arnold shoulder press. Barbells also don’t provide you with infinite options for altering the angles at which your forearms and wrists hold weights.
Instead, your two hands are locked into position on the barbell and never shift from their station.
Because you will focus less of your attention on maintaining the balance of multiple appendages when you lift a barbell, you can devote far more of your energy to the trajectory of a single, large object. This imbues all of your barbell lifts with an explosive potential that isn’t present during the execution of many other exercises, and should allow you to lift much heavier weights over time.
The barbell is perfect for exercises that mandate the involvement of both arms or both legs as they move through an identical pattern of motion. Not only does this mean that both sides of your body receive comparable level of stimulus and resistance from the weight, but it also encourages the equivalent development of the muscles on both sides of your body.
Conversely, barbell workouts are excellent for identifying the very sort of muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. If one side of your body is stronger than the other during overhead presses, barbell rows, or you shift from side to side when you squat, you’ll notice the discrepancy immediately.
Best Barbell Exercises for Beginners
You can do just about anything with a barbell. Here are some of the best foundational barbell exercises to include in your training.
As everyone’s favorite pec-pumping exercise, the barbell bench press is also one of the three foundational movements of powerlifting. If you’re like many people, this may be the only exercise required to adequately develop the powerful muscles of your chest.
How to Do It
Lie down on a weight bench with the bar suspended overhead by a rack, then grab the bar with both of your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Unrack the barbell and suspend it directly above your shoulders with straight arms.
Bend at your elbows to lower the bar to your chest, pausing briefly at the bottom of the movement.
Press the bar back to its starting position.
Popularly declared to be “the king of all exercises” ever since medical columnist Dr. Paul G. Donahue declared it so in September of 1984, squatting requires you to support a weight with your entire muscular system, then to lower your body to the floor and push it back into an upright position while you do it. This exercise involves nearly every muscle in your lower half, while also challenging your bodily coordination and spatial awareness as well.
How to Do It
Position your body beneath a barbell with the bar behind your head and supported by your upper trapezius and shoulder muscles, and with your hands grasping the bar with an overhand grip.
Lift the bar off the rack, take a step backwards away from the rack, then bend at the knees to lower yourself to the ground until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
Press through your feet to raise your body and the bar back to its starting position.
In a May 2014 Los Angeles Times article about his training program, film star Hugh Jackman stated, “If I could only do one exercise, it would be the deadlift.” Similar to the squat in your body’s movement pattern, the deadlift obligates you to use your entire muscle system to pull a weight off the ground. The act of pulling a heavy weight off the ground adds unparalleled strength to your entire posterior chain.
How to Do It
Grasp a barbell on the floor with the grip of your choice, which will more than likely be an overhand grip, or an alternating grip of mixed overhand and underhand positions.
While keeping your arms and back straight, bend at the knees to get into position.
Pull the bar off the floor by pressing through the floor and straightening your knees.
As the bar passes your knees, thrust your hips forward and come to a standing position.
Reverse the motion to slowly lower the bar back to the floor.
While the classic barbell squat places major emphasis on the quadriceps, good mornings will place far more focus on your posterior chain. This includes your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings. The best part about the good morning, though, is that it is quite challenging even with very light weights.
How to Do It
Position your body beneath a barbell with the bar behind your head, supported by your upper trapezius and shoulder muscles, and with your hands grasping the bar in an overhand grip.
While keeping your spine straight, tip over at the waist and allow your knees to bend just enough for your glutes to drift backwards. Pause when your torso is parallel to the floor.
Reverse the motion and push your hips forward to return to the starting position.
While it was once an Olympic lift until it became too difficult to judge efficiently, the overhead barbell press remains a rapid way to build impressive shoulder strength, especially in the anterior deltoids and throughout your upper back.
How to Do It
Unrack a bar from a shoulder-height rack with a close, overhand grip. Your elbows should point downward toward the floor. Take a moderate, hip-width stance.
Press the bar straight upward, tilting your head back out of its path.
As the bar passes your eye line, push your head “back through” and extend your elbows.
The bar should finish directly above your shoulders, just behind your ears.
One of the best overall back development tools, the standing barbell row enables you to simultaneously work the three largest muscle groups of your back: your trapezius, lats and rhomboids. It also drills down on the essential hip hinge technique that is required for exercises like the deadlift.
How to Do It
Stand upright with your feet under your hips, holding the bar with a close overhand grip.
Hinge at the hips; push your butt back and tip over until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. Allow the bar to hang freely under your shoulders.
Contract your back to pull the bar into your belly; think about driving your elbows up and behind you.
Once the bar gently touches your torso, lower it slowly back to the original position.
Your biceps are the muscles you’re most likely to flex whenever a child politely commands you to “make a muscle.” The standing barbell curl is one of the most productive exercises you can execute to ensure that you’ll display some impressive peaks the next time someone asks you to flex.
How to Do It
Grab a barbell with an underhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Stand upright and bend at your elbows to raise the bar up toward your chest, squeezing your biceps at the peak of the movement.
Carefully lower the bar back to its starting position.
The skull crusher (also known as a lying triceps extension) permits you to isolate your triceps from your chest and shoulders and train them to exhaustion through direct muscular stimulation.
How to Do It
Lie down with you back on a weight bench, and raise the weight directly over your head with your hands about two thumb’s lengths apart from one another,
Bend at your elbows to bring the bar close to your forehead.
Squeeze from your triceps to straighten your arms back to their starting position. Pause and squeeze at the peak of the movement.
The hip thrust has risen to popularity as one of the most preferred exercises among lifters who want to devote major attention to training their glutes, and for good reason — it allows you to stimulate your backside without applying direct stress to your lumbar spine.
How to Do It
Sit with your legs straight out on the floor, with your back contacting a weight bench at just below shoulder level. Position a barbell across your lap at the point where your legs connect with your pelvis. Lean your upper body back into the weight bench, and bend at your knees.
While keeping your feet flat on the floor press through your feet, and squeeze your butt to straighten your back as you lean backwards and onto the weight bench. Your rear end should elevate off the ground as you extend your hips and form a straight line from kneecap to shoulder.
Beginner Barbell Workout Tips
Even though many of the exercises performed with a barbell are somewhat rudimentary, you should still pay strict attention to your form. Ideally, your technical awareness will be maximized when there is a barbell in your palms, and this is out of respect for how quickly a workout can become dangerous when perilously heavy weights are being tossed around. Here are a couple of quick workout tips to keep your barbell training on the straight and narrow.
Don’t Overdo It
The double-edged sword of barbell training stems directly from the fact that it can help you develop strength so rapidly: There is constant excitement around the idea of stretching your personal strength and power boundaries.
It’s great to have an ambitious mindset, but many hazardous gym incidents have occurred when people tested their limits with the bench press, squat, and deadlift before their bodies were suitably prepared for the strain. Progressive overload is key for making gains, but ensure that you undertake new challenges at a reasonable cadence.
Mind Your Form
Another consequence of the rush to test training boundaries through the use of popular barbell exercises is that you may find yourself willing to sacrifice proper technique and reduce your range of motion in order to complete your lifts.
Partial reps certainly hold a respectable place within a training repertoire, but they shouldn’t typify your training style. In the long run, you’ll develop a stronger body and more stable technique if you prioritize proper form and a full range of motion over an at-any-cost approach to maximizing the amount of weight you are lifting.
Many barbell exercises involve moving the weight in space via your legs or arms while your trunk remains mostly stationary. This is a fantastic way to build up core strength, but it can also compromise your power output if you’re lazy about your bracing habits.
[Read More: Best Posture Correctors The Provide Posture Support]
Make sure to inhale deeply and contract your abdomen while you perform any multi-joint barbell exercise. A stable midsection will allow you to effectively transfer force throughout your body, improving your speed and strength with the bar.
How to Structure Your Barbell Workout
It’s true that you can develop a phenomenal body and get into remarkable shape by executing these exercises in just about any order, as long as you train to failure within a prescribed rep range.
With that being said, things should run a bit more smoothly if you implement some basic periodization strategies. This involves grouping your exercises together in thematic ways: If you adopt this mindset, certain muscle groups will receive identifiable periods of focus, and exercises are ordered in such a way that large muscle groups aren’t limited by the weaknesses of small muscle groups.
One of the most common ways to divide resistance exercises into multi-day occasions is to separate them on the basis of their upper- and lower-body focuses. If you are completing all of your training with a barbell, exercises like squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusters can all be confined to a single day. Likewise, major upper-body exercises like the bench press, row, and overhead presses can be similarly grouped together into their own day of training.
If you want to train your entire body on a single day, the same idea applies. Simply begin with your intense lower body exercises, like the squats and deadlifts, and then work your way up to the less comprehensive exercises that target your upper body.
This way, you can avoid compromising your execution of an intensive movement like deadlifts because your arms have already been pre-fatigued by an exercise like the curls.
Another popular way to group exercises together is on the basis of whether the muscles being trained are responsible for pushing or pulling movements. Employing this strategy of arranging exercises will group movements like the bench press, overhead press, and lying triceps extension together.
[Read More: The 12 Best Supplements for Muscle Growth]
Similarly, deadlifts, standing barbell rows, and curls all end up trained in concert as well, as those exercises involve pulling the bar off the floor or toward your torso, even though they work different halves of your body.
Respect the Bar
By now you should be feeling empowered to tackle a barbell without any fear or intimidation holding you back. Always remember that learning to wield a barbell has a lot in common with learning to drive a car: At first, you might be nervous and fearful about all of the scary things that might happen if you make a mistake. But you should be mindful of what might happen once you acquire experience.
Namely, robust strength gains, mountains of muscle mass, and perhaps most importantly, confidence in the weight room and of your own abilities. The barbell gives back what you put into it.
The barbell may be conceptually simple, but training with it can be more complex than you might think. Here are your common barbell training questions, answered.
Can beginners use a barbell?
Not only can beginners use barbells, but they absolutely should. Familiarizing yourself with a barbell in the early stages of training is an excellent way to prepare your body for the rigors of resistance exercises.
What are the benefits of barbells?
The benefits of barbells include their ability to balance the amount of weight being lifted by each side of your body, their ability to carry very heavy amounts of adjustable weight, and their ability to train every part of your anatomy in either a compound or isolated fashion.
What exercises can a beginner do with a barbell?
A beginner can do at least one variation of every fundamental exercise with a barbell. This includes the bench press, overhead press, standing row, squat and deadlift.
What is the best beginner barbell workout?
The best beginner barbell workout familiarizes the trainee with all of the basic barbell movements for each body part. It also enables them to execute compound exercises that train the body to support heavy amounts of weight like the squat and deadlift.
Featured Image: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A / Shutterstock
The post This Is the Best Beginner Barbell Workout You Can Do appeared first on BarBend.