You can make your time in the gym worthwhile using just dumbbells or kettlebells (or no equipment at all), but if you really want to dial up a body crushing workout, there’s one piece of equipment can’t skip out on: the barbell.
The barbells you’ll find in most gyms weigh 45 pounds (20 kilograms) and measure 7 feet long, giving the implement the heft you’ll need for the various heavy pushes and pulls you’ll perform. Olympic bars, which would be cleared for competitive lifts, have 2-inch thick sleeves for weight plates (standard barbells are smaller with 1-inch thick sleeves).
Barbells are essential for the heavy loaded multi-joint exercises that most people envision when they think of weightlifting. Back squats, bench presses, and deadlifts can all be performed with other implements to varying degrees of effectiveness—but you’re not going to be able to work with as much weight without the bilateral muscle recruitment you’ll have with a barbell. Unilateral movements with dumbbells and kettlebells can help you build your body, but there’s nothing more impressive than stacking plate after plate onto a bar and crushing reps.
While barbells can be unwieldy in small spaces, you can build full workouts using just a bar and some plates. Check out these exercises you can include in your typical workouts, then try the full routines to make your next trip to the bar even more effective.
Start your workout with a stretch.
Banded Barbell Glute Bridge
You’ll need to wrap a mini band above the knees for this exercise. Start with 3 sets of 20 reps to get the feel of the movement, then add more load and perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Try 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of this exercise on leg day—just make sure to keep the load manageable.
Keep the 2 seconds down, 2 seconds up pattern going for 4 sets of 8 reps.
Barbell Floor Press
Take the bar off the bench and move to the floor for this exercise. Make sure that the back of your arms rest on the floor so you can start from a dead stop position. Try 3 sets of 10 reps to help you press past your bench plateaus.
Barbell Triceps Extension to Press
Start light (even just the bar is good for beginners) and take your time on this exercise. Try 4 sets of 8 reps, then scale up as you master the form.
Barbell Isolation Curl
Don’t forget to engage your glutes and core here when you take this move on for 3 sets of 8 reps. One last thing: Don’t curl in the squat rack, unless you’re the only person in the gym.
Keep the reps low for this explosive exercise, starting with 3 sets of 5 reps (at most) when you’re first taking it on.
Barbell Push Press
Keep the weight low when you’re starting out with this explosive exercise, beginning with 3 sets of 8 reps when you’re first taking it on.
Barbell Man Maker
Keep the weight super light if you’re going to try the recommended 4 sets of 10 reps, especially if you’re just starting out with multi-joint barbell moves. You can also scale down and perform fewer reps until you’ve nailed the form and feel more comfortable with the full clean to press series.
Try 3 sets of 8 reps to finish off your workout.
Barbell Core Moves
Try these ab moves for a more ripped midsection. Build a full core circuit by performing 3 rounds of 12 reps of any of these 63 exercises.
Total Body Barbell Circuit
Perform each exercise consecutively with little to no rest. Once the round is done, rest for 30 seconds. Finish 8 total rounds.
Keep the weight light, since volume is the focus for this workout. You’ll do 10 rounds of this circuit. Perform each exercise for 10 reps to start the first round, then subtract 1 rep for each round that follows until you hit 1 rep.
Barbell Cook and Chisel
Perform each of the following exercises for 30 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds between each move. Complete 2 rounds, resting for 2 minutes between them.
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