Total Body Training With Only A Barbell

Remember that barbell gathering dust in the corner of your room? Still don’t know what to do with it? Read on, and we’ll take you through a plethora of drills that are easy to perform, in the comfort of your home. Follow the instructions closely, and you will start benefiting in a short period of time.

You will gain lean body mass, lose fat, lower your overall weight and improve your general fitness level and health condition. Last but not least, you will improve your look and get a proportional boost of self-esteem.

The program is easy to perform, does not require a large space at home, and can be performed at your own comfort any time of the day. It is also affordable, since it only requires that barbell we mentioned earlier on, which you may already possess, and is not an expensive item anyway. You can buy starting sets of plates, and then add larger ones as you progress.

The program is a perfect tool for persons who can not subscribe to a gym, because there is none located near them or they’re too expensive. The ability to perform the program at any time of the day does away with the “busy schedule” excuse as well.

Now read on …


1. Barbell Squats

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart; place the barbell straight on your trapezius and posterior part of your shoulders. Flex at the hip and then bend your knees and go all the way down as if sitting on a chair until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Lean your torso forward if you feel that your heels are unstable on the ground. Then get back to the initial position without locking your knees at the end of the movement. Remember that you must keep your back straight at all times.

2. Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart holding the barbell in your lowered arms, in front of you. Bend forward at the waist by flexing the hip. Keep your back flat and your head looking up.

Tighten your buttocks and lock your knees while bending forward. Stop going down the moment you feel your hamstrings fully stretched and go back to the starting position.

3. Barbell Lunges

Place the barbell straight on your trapezius and posterior part of your shoulders. Place one foot in front of the other. Bend your rear knee and direct it toward the floor. Do not force your front knee to go forward. Repeat the movement without moving your legs.

4. Standing Barbell Calf Raises

Put the barbell on the rear part of your shoulders and start lifting up and down with your toes while keeping your back straight and your knees slightly bent.

5. Lying Barbell Bench Press

Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position. Hold the barbell above your chest with palms facing forward and elbows bent. Push the load upward to the full range of motion, keeping it in the same plane at all times.

Don’t hyperextend, nor lift your body at the end of the movement. This exercise can also be performed with a wide grip on the bar, which will increase the effort on the external parts of the pectorals.

The close-grip version targets the triceps and the inside parts of the pectorals; the difference is that you must place your hands around 8 inches apart on the barbell then lower it to your chest with your elbows pointing outward.

6. Lying Bent-Arm Barbell Pullover

Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position. Hold the barbell above your chest with palms facing forward, hands shoulder width apart, and arms extended up toward the ceiling.

Slowly lower the barbell behind your head while bending your arms slightly, and then slowly return to the starting position.

7. Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, bend your torso forward and kept it at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Pull the barbell to the sternum while flexing your elbows and pulling your shoulder blades in toward your spine then get back to the initial position.

You can also perform the exercise in a reverse grip by following the same principles. Another option is to hold the barbell in a reverse close-grip manner so you focus more on the outer parts of your upper back. Make sure your back is kept straight throughout the movement.

8. Standing Military Press

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell in front of your shoulders, palms forward, and slowly push it upward without reaching the end of the motion to prevent lifting your shoulder blades. Then get back to the starting position in a controlled manner.

9. Barbell Front Raise

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell with the hands shoulder-width apart. Lift forward with the arms straight until you reach eye level, than return slowly to the starting position. Do not bounce the barbell up and never use your back to cheat because it’s a concentration movement.

10. Barbell Shrugs

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell shoulder width apart. Lift your shoulders straight upward toward the ears in the frontal plane without bending the elbows then slowly lower down the weight.

11. Upright Barbell Rows

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell shoulder width apart. Lift through your shoulder joint straight upward while bending the elbows and bringing the barbell up to your chin and then slowly lower down the weight.

12. Biceps Barbell Curls

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell shoulder width apart in front of you, palms facing forward. Lift the barbell up by flexing at the elbow joint until you reach a full biceps contraction then lower it down slowly.

13. Bent-over Barbell Concentration Curls

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Bend your chest forward until it is parallel to the floor. Lift the barbell up by flexing at the elbow joint until it reaches your shoulders level then lower it down slowly. If your lower back is unable to support this position, you can do the movement while seated on a chair. (Editor’s Note: photo below shown in this alternate seated configuration.)

14. Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions

Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position. Hold the barbell above your head. Your arms must be perpendicular to your body and the floor. Flex at the elbow and lower the barbell backward behind your head without moving your shoulder joint. Return slowly to the starting position.

15. Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extensions

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell shoulder width apart and straight up to your head with your arms extended. Flex at the elbow and lower the barbell behind your neck and then slowly lift it back.

16. Reverse-Grip Barbell Curls

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart in front of you, palms facing backward. Lift the barbell up by flexing at the elbow joint until it reaches your chest then lower it down slowly.

17. Barbell Wrist Curls

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart in front of you palms facing backward. Curl your wrist up and then slowly release, rolling it to your fingers. (Editor’s Note: photo shown below is seated instead of standing.)

18. Good Morning

Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart; place the barbell straight on your shoulders. Bend forward at the waist until your chest becomes approximately parallel to the floor while keeping your back straight then slowly get back to the starting position.

19. Barbell Twists

Stand up, feet shoulder width apart; place the barbell straight on your shoulders. Slowly rotate your upper body from side to side while keeping your pelvis stable. (Editor’s Note: photo below is seated instead of standing.)

20. Barbell Crunches

Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position. Hold the barbell on your chest with both hands. Straighten your arms and point with them to the ceiling.

Slowly raise your shoulders and upper back, concentrating on your upper abdominals. Then return to the starting position while controlling the movement.

21. Side Crunches

Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position. Hold the barbell on your chest with both hands. Straighten your arms toward the ceiling. Slowly raise one side of your shoulders and upper back, concentrating on your obliques and slowly return to the starting position. Then switch sides.

The Program

Reps & Sets

Rest time between sets and exercises must be 30-90 seconds depending on your conditioning level.

If you are a beginner, how can you progress to a more advanced level? It’s simple; you need to increase the intensity of training by doing one of the following:

  • Increase the number of repetitions.
  • Add sets.
  • Increase or extensively decrease the speed of the movement.
  • Decrease time of rest between sets and exercises.
  • Add weights to the barbell.
  • Use advanced training techniques such as:
  • Drop Sets: place many plates on each side of the barbell (as much as you can lift for 6-10 repetitions). Perform repetitions till concentric failure then immediately remove one plate from each side and without rest continue the exercise to failure and again remove one more plate from each side.

Continue this procedure till you’re out of plates.

  • Exhaustion-Set System: perform as many repetitions as possible with good technique until concentric failure occurs.
  • Burn System: perform a set till concentric failure, then proceed with half or partial repetitions.
  • Pyramids: start with a set of 10-to-12 repetitions with a light resistance, which is increased over several sets so fewer and fewer repetitions can be performed, until reaching 1 repetition maximum. Then repeat the same sets and resistances in reverse order, with the last set consisting of 10-to-12 repetitions.
  • Super Slow System: perform very slow repetitions ranging from 20-to-60 seconds per repetition.
  • Super Setting Systems: in the first type, you use several sets of two exercises for the agonist and antagonist muscles of the body part. In the second type use one set of several exercises in rapid succession for the same muscle group or body part.

Training Program

Once-A-Week Total Body Training Program:

Twice-A-Week Total Body Training Program (Take Two-Three Days Rest After Each Session):

Day 1:

Day 2:

Three-Times-A-Week Total Body Training Program (Take One Day Rest After Each Session):

Day 1:

  • Squat
  • Lying Press
  • Military Press
  • Bent-over Rows
  • Biceps Curls
  • Lying Triceps Extensions
  • Good Morning
  • Crunches

Day 2:

Day 3:

Advanced Barbell Training Program:

Program 1:

Superset 1: 3 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Squat
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Superset 2: 3 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Lying Press
  • Bent-Over Rows

Superset 3: 3 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Military Press
  • Shrugs

Superset 4: 3 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Lying Triceps Extensions
  • Biceps Curls

Superset 5: 3 sets, 12-15 reps

  • Good Morning
  • Crunches

Program 2:

Superset 1: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Squat
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift
  • Lunges
  • Calf Raise

Superset 2: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Lying Press
  • Wide Grip Lying Press
  • Pullovers

Superset 3: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Wide Grip Bent-Over Rows
  • Reverse Grip Bent-Over Rows
  • Narrow Grip Bent-Over Rows

Superset 4: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Military Press
  • Front Raise
  • Upright Rows

Superset 5: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Lying Triceps Extensions
  • Biceps Curls
  • Overhead Extensions
  • Bent Over Curls
  • Wrist Curls

Superset 6: 2 sets, 8-12 reps

  • Good Morning
  • Crunches
  • Twists


  • Upper Body Stretch
  • Abdominals Stretch
  • Quadriceps Stretch
  • Hamstrings Stretch

The barbell is weightlifting in its purest form. No cables, no machines, no fuss: it’s the one piece of equipment every Men’s Health reader should be using. To get the most out of your staple bit of kit, we tapped PT Scott Laidler for the moves that will pack on muscle fast. Tackle them solo or combine all six exercises into the gruelling total-body barbell workout below. Prepare to bend some metal.

Bench Press

Why? There’s a reason most men head straight to the bench: when it comes to carving out that V-shape the bench press is unparalleled. “It’s the classic upper-body exercise,” Laidler weighs in. “Any programme is incomplete without it.”

Military Press

Why? A jacked torso needs equally impressive shoulders. “It can be performed standing or seated,” says Laidler. “However, you’ll be able to lift a little more standing, as it benefits from the stability of your core muscles.” Abs are an added bonus.

Barbell Squat

Why? This total-body bogeyman may be your most-feared move, but squats should be the bedrock of any bulking regime. Squats benefit from higher reps and volume; it’s why they’re the only movement in the set below with a double-figure rep range.


Why? Few moves are more primal than ripping a bar from Terra Firma, as the deadlift works your grip, glutes and the whole of your back simultaneously. Use it as a test of lower-body strength.

Bent Over Row

Why? They may not show up in the mirror, but skipping your back muscles means suffering muscle imbalances that could lead to serious injury. The row spikes growth in your lower back and guns for a balanced physique.

Barbell Shrug

Why? Partly aesthetic – the barbell shrug works your traps to fill out that V-carving space between your neck and shoulders – but it’s also a great ego-massager. “You’ll be able to move a lot of weight with this exercise,” Laidler says. “If you do get problems with your grip, try the deadlift alternate grip for better all around purchase on the bar.” Don’t shrug off the benefits of this underused exercise.

THE BARBELL. It’s perhaps the original fitness tool. You’ll never skill out of it, it’ll challenge your whole body, and there’s something deeply satisfying about picking up a weight and putting it down. But it’s possible your go-to routine has gotten stale, which means you might be missing out on certain areas, or are limiting your movement patterns. So we asked Adam Aguilera of CrossFit Sprag, outside Austin, Texas, to put together a set of moves you maybe don’t do. They emphasize functional movement patterns as well. (You can hoist a weight, but can you move it forward and to the side?) Aguilera has put a spotlight on flexibility, as well as greater depth of movement, to improve strength and help stave off injury. The first couple of times doing this workout, keep the weight lighter and find a good tempo, Aguilera says. If you want to load up at the end for a nice deadlift, nothing’s stopping you.

Get to Work

Load plates (the bar is usually 45 pounds) and do 4 sets of a move; rest 1 minute between sets. For each rep, take 5 seconds to move the weight, and hold 5 seconds at the end range of the movement.

Expert Tip: Super-Set Your Workout

While challenging, these movements are fairly straightforward, unlike, say, hang cleans. That’s by design. You can load on more weight, go slow, and focus on strength. Or ease up on the plates, aim for speed, and add in supersets. For instance, pepper in the warmup cardio movements between sets, or slot in flexibility/stability exercises (think Superman holds and bird-dogs). That’ll help maintain mobility through the workout, and it’ll also mean you can breeze through a post-lifting stretch session.

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Bearings are the weight bearing surfaces within the sleeve of the barbell that allow the weight to spin. And the better the spin, the easier it is to exhibit perfect technique.

Secondly, we want a good Olympic weightlifting bar to have some whip.

It should flex and rebound back into shape as the weights are lifted.

What are bumper plates? Dropping the bar from overhead is only recommended if you have bumper plates – the dense, rubber plates that are built specifically for Olympic lifting.

Finally, a weightlifting barbell has to be tough. Because you are going to be dropping it from overhead – with a lot of weight on it.

So, the best women’s barbell for weightlifting will need: a tough bar, with bearings (ideally), and some “whip”.

The Rogue Fitness Women’s Olympic WL Bar is an excellent barbell for weightlifting.

The 25MM Rogue Women’s Oly WL Bar is machined and assembled in Columbus, OH, utilizing the same 215,000 PSI tensile strength steel, quality needle bearings, and uniform Olympic knurling as the standard men’s Olympic Weightlifting Bar.

The shaft diameter is 25mm, so it’s easy to grip. And it weighs in at 15kg / 33 lbs.

The Women’s WL Bearing Bar features 10 sets of needle bearings, 5 sets per sleeve. Needle bearings provide the utmost in consistent, smooth spin. But, they do cost a bit more than a bushing bar – which is a much simpler type of weight bearing surface.

The WL Bar is made in the USA from 215,000 PSI tensile strength steel.

The only decision you’ll need to make: Bright Zinc or Polished Chrome for the finish?

Both are pretty resistant to rusting (oxidation).

For a higher level of corrosion resistance – and to bring some style to your game – consider the Women’s WL Bar in Cerakote.

What’s Cerakote? It’s a thin-film ceramic coating that offers amazing durability, protection, and a choice of colors and patterns.

Cerakote color option for the Rogue Fitness Women’s WL Olympic Barbell

Cerakote barbells are some of the best looking barbells around. It looks good, and works even better.

Beyond the looks, Cerakote offers a high level of corrosion resistance.

You may also want to check out the Women’s Pyrros Bar.

It’s also a bearing bar that’s great for Olympic weightlifting.

This version of the Rogue Pyrros Women’s Olympic WL Bar ranks among the best in the industry for feel, durability, and performance.

The Pyrros bar is made from stainless steel – providing a great bare metal feel and the most durable finish available in a barbell.

Powerlifting exercises such as the high bar squat, bench press, and deadlift can also be done with an women’s olympic barbell. The best women’s barbell will have a 25mm diameter for easy grip.

Bella Bar 2.0

If you are a CrossFit enthusiast – you probably want a dual purpose Olympic bar.

A dual purpose bar is good for the Olympic lifts, but also good for old school strength moves like the squat, benchpress, and deadlift.

The Bella Bar is Rogue’s go-to multipurpose 15KG barbell for female athletes. Fully machined and assembled in Columbus, Ohio, this versatile ladies bar is uniquely optimized for Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and/or a CrossFit WOD.

The so-called “slow lifts” like the squat and deadlift don’t really require extreme barbell spin, or whip.

So, you don’t necessarily need an expensive bearing bar. But, you still need a bar that’s passable for the Olympic lifts.

Rogue Fitness sells the Bella Bar 2.0 that is an excellent solution.

The Bella Bar is Rogue’s go-to multipurpose 15KG barbell for female athletes. 25mm shaft diameter – so it is easy to grip.

It uses quality snap ring bronze bushings to allow the sleeves to revolve for those Olympic lifts. These are a more cost-effective solution compared to a bearing bar.

It’s also a tough bar. Made in the USA from 190K tensile strength steel.

It has dual knurl marks for powerlifting and weightlifting – so you know just how wide you can grip the bar and still stay legal.

There is no center knurl on this bar.

Why not? Because having knurl in the center of the bar can be a bit uncomfortable at times.

See the picture below of the “rack position” of the bar as an example. Think of it like taking a cheese grater to your skin. This does mean it’s a little more troublesome to keep the bar on your back for squats. If you are a back squat enthusiast you might want a bar with center knurl for that reason.

Center knurl on the barbell can help hold the bar in place, but it can also cause too much friction with bare skin in the rack position of the clean, as shown here.

The Bella Bar has the right combination of whip and rigidity for the powerlifts. When you are doing heavy deadlifts, benches, and squats you don’t want a bar that flexes too much.

This is a great bar for the CrossFit WOD.

The Bella Bar normally comes with a black zinc shaft and bright zinc sleeves.

You can also get a version that uses Cerakote.

Cerakote is also popular in the gun industry – because of the range of custom colors that can be used, but also because of the amazing durability of this thin-film coating.

The Bella Bar Cerakote offers great looks and a high level of corrosion resistance.

These bars look good, and will look good for a long, long time.

Available in over 24 different color / sleeve options – you’re sure to find one you like.

Cerakote Color Options for the Rogue Fitness Bella 2.0 Bar

For the sleeves – choose between black Cerakote or chrome.

The black Cerakote sleeve looks better, but chrome will be more durable, because loading and unloading the plates means any coating will wear over time.

And now, you can custom order a Bella Bar 2.0 with the color options of your choosing, using Rogue’s ZEUS Build-A-Bar.

Not only do you pick the color of the sleeves and shaft, but also the bushings. And you can choose custom text or an image to be placed on the bar.

Cool stuff.

And lastly, for the ultimate in bare steel feel and aesthetics look at the Bella Bar Stainless Steel. The Rogue Fitness Bella Bar (Women’s Olympic Bar) offers exception bare steel feel in a durable and tough finish.

The stainless steel version of the Bella Bar also offers the ultimate in corrosion protection.

No matter what version of the Bella Bar you get, it’s sure to be a hit. Check out the user reviews on the Rogue Fitness web site.

Fringe Sport Bomba V2

Rogue Fitness isn’t the only vendor that sells made in USA women’s Olympic barbells.

Fringe Sport sells their Bomba Women’s Barbell.

Fringe Sport sells the Women’s Bomba V2 Barbell – it’s an affordable but good 25mm / 15kg women’s barbell.

It’s a Women’s bar so 25mm shaft diameter and 15 kilograms / 33 pounds is the weight – as you’d expect.

It’s built from 206,000 PSI tensile strength steel – and made in the USA.

It’s a bushing bar – using high impact bronze bushings. As we mentioned above, this saves considerable expense compared to needle bearings.

With a moderate amount of whip and a moderate amount of spin – it can be used for dual purpose lifting.

Whether Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting this bar will work.

And, it’s bargain priced – especially considering it is made in the USA, has a lifetime warranty, and is overall a great product.

The Bomba Bar V2 is also available in Cerakote.

Fringe Sport sells the Women’s Bomba V2 Barbell – also in super-tough Cerakote finish

With excellent oxidation (rust) resistance, and cool looks it’s perfect for your garage or home gym.

Fringe Sport offers the Women’s Bomba bar in Blue, Pink, or Purple.

Best Women’s Barbell – In Summary

With a 25mm shaft diameter a Women’s Olympic barbell will be easier to grip, and is significantly lighter than a men’s barbell.

Beyond that, to find the right women’s Olympic barbell you need to figure out what kind of lifting you want to do.

To specialize in the fast, technique driven Olympic lifts go for a bearing bar.

If you are doing CrossFit style functional fitness or otherwise doing powerlifts as well – look for a dual-purpose bushing bar.

Photo and Image Credits

  • The Rogue Fitness logo and some product imagery on this page is property of Rogue Fitness and provided by Rogue Fitness.
  • The Fringe Sport logo and some product imagery on this page is property of Fringe Sport and provided by FringeSport.

The Best Women’s 15kg Olympic Weightlifting Bars – Updated 2020

Table of Contents


This is for women’s olympic weightlifting bars (often called WL bars for short) that are best for doing the clean and the snatch.

With the rise of women doing olympic lifting in Crossfit, and other female lifters incorporating olympic lifts into their existing routines, and just more women lifting barbells in general, more and more women are in search of bars that are more appropriate for them than the traditional power bars in most traditional gyms. Men’s WL bars also aren’t the best, because the shafts are thicker than optimal for women’s hands.

Olympic weightlifting bars are used frequently at olympic lifting gyms, Crossfit boxes, the Olympic Games or anywhere that lifters may be doing olympic lifts. They are made to be springy at high loads to facilitate explosiveness, prevent a high shock load for the lifter, and absorb the shock of being dropped.

It isn’t necessary to get a $500-1000 bar just to have a good tool for olympic lifts. Bars in that range are typically IWF certified bars, which carries a huge bump in the price tag reflecting the cost of IWF certification. Plus, those bars are normally not appropriate for anything but practicing a few heavy singles, because the knurling is meant to really grab onto your palms to help you get the barbell up for that one heavy lift that really counts. For learning the lifts and doing regular workouts, you’re better off with a medium knurling that won’t eat up your hands.

What we look for in the best women’s olympic barbell

Let me clarify the ambiguous heading above: We’re talking about the best olympic barbells for women, not olympic barbells for the “best women”.

Weightlifting bars typically have a number of attributes that separate it from any number of other bars you might encounter.

More Flexible Steel

A good flex facilitates the “whip” desired for pulling heavy cleans off the floor. It makes for a smoother lift off the floor, the way the bar begins to bend upward, ever so slightly, until you pull hard enough that it completely lifts up. This is not noticeable until you get over 300 lbs or so and have done cleans on a WL bar and power bar to feel the difference. With heavier and heavier weights, the difference is huge. A power bar gets really hard to do cleans with.

The second factor in the flex is catching the bar on your shoulders in a clean. With good form the impact on your shoulders is minimal. You can test this yourself at very light weights. Load a couple 25s on, do a messy power clean by catching the bar hard on your shoulders, and it will shake, relieving the impact. Do this with a stiff 30mm power bar and you can see what I’m talking about right away. Which do you prefer? Yep, now you can never go back.

The third point at which the flex helps is bouncing out of the hole as you catch in a full squat clean. The bar tips flex down with you and whip back up as you push yourself out of the hole. Powerlifters specifically do not want this flex, because their squats are slower and any whip will be too fast for them and throw them off. They need a slow, controlled squat that may take a few seconds to complete.

High Tensile Strength Steel

Nowadays it isn’t hard to find tensile strengths over 200,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). In years past that was considered extreme and quite rare.

That isn’t to say that you have to get over 200,000 PSI. Bars well under that should not bend either. Moderately priced bars are all made to hold up to frequent drops with bumper plates onto rubber flooring or a platform. That’s quite a shock load, but it’s not nearly as bad as dropping a bar on the safety pins of a rack, which is likely to bend any bar (or the safety pins – something has to give).

When we talk about bending, we’re talking about a permanent bend, effectively rendering the bar useless or at least extremely annoying to use. Flex under load is normal and is part of what saves the bar from developing a permanent bend. Along with high tensile strength, that’s what keeps the shaft going strong.

The steel formulations today are better for high tensile strength bars for olympic weightlifting, basically so that you can get a high tensile strength bar that isn’t super stiff because of it.

Snap Rings or Roll Pins to Secure the Sleeves

A well-made women’s olympic bar has the end sleeves secured with either a snap ring (also called a retaining ring) or a pin hammered through a hole going the width of the sleeve, which is the method York Barbell in particular prefers. Most everyone besides York does the snap ring method.

One of these methods is to ensure the sleeves don’t break loose and fall off the bar after enough drops with bumper plates. Dropping a bar is tough on it, even on 3/4″ rubber flooring. Good bars can hold up fine. On the cheapest bars, usually sold for around $100 or included in a 300 lb weight set, you’ll find an allen bolt, which you need an allen key (hex key) to tighten. And tighten it you will. These are notorious for coming loose over time. Even if you apply Loctite to it, it will probably just break on you.

Snap ring example – See the two holes on top that the special pliers hook into to pull it into place.

Medium to Soft Knurling

The knurling is the texture that cut into the shaft of the bar to help you grip it better. There’s a whole science to it and different steps involved.

How ever the maker decides to create the knurling pattern and texture, which we don’t need to go into here, the end result needs to be that you can get a good grip without the knurling damaging the palms of your hands over many reps.

No Center Knurling for High Rep Workouts

All bars have knurling over most of the length of the shaft. Some men’s bars have a section of about six to nine inches of knurling in the center of the bar, while others are smooth in that area.

Women’s IWF competition rated bars are required to not have center knurling, as opposed to the men’s standard that has the center knurl required as throwback to the old one-handed snatch that nobody does anymore.

While lifters doing other movements might like the center knurling, for the olympic lifts it serves no purpose anymore but to scratch the front of your neck during cleans. For this reason, lifters concentrating on olympic lifts prefer no center knurling.

The knurling further down the bar should extend to the end of the shaft to accommodate tall users with the maximum width snatch grip, but this isn’t the case on all bars.

910mm Spaced Ring Marks

Every bar has a 1/4″ wide smooth mark in the knurling where you place your hands. IWF spaced markings are spaced for olympic weightlifting and are 910mm apart. Lifters grip in various spots depending on their body size, but the knurl marks at least provide a reference point to help them guide their hands into the right spot for them.

In recent years, many manufacturers have added IPF 810mm spaced marks as well, for a pair of “dual” marks 5cm away from each other. They just help you position your hands consistently. That’s all there is to it.

25mm Shaft Diameter

Not to be confused with the size of the sleeve where the weights go, which is always 50mm (1.97″) on a high quality bar.

Here we’re talking about the shaft that you grip. For the optimal grip, 25mm is the best size for women’s olympic barbells. It makes for a good pulling grip for most women.

As Breaking Muscle puts it, “This diameter difference is for one purpose only: to allow a hook grip for those of you who have smaller hands, as is usually the case with women versus men.”

The diameter is also major factor in the amount of flex that the shaft has, which is very important for cleans. See the info further above on flex.

Sensitive and Smooth Rotation

How sensitively and easily the sleeves spin is very important for olympic lifts so you can transition between the pull and the catch without tweaking your wrists.

Manufacturers like Werksan have settled on 5 needle bearings per sleeve for their very best competition bars.

For budget weight lifting bars you don’t need that many. Fewer bearings will reduce the spin, as will a combination of bushings and bearings, but it’s still good.

Bronze bushings are the next step down. Some women’s weight lifting bars we feature below have bronze bushings. Lubricated bronze slides well against steel (I think it has something to do with the dissimilar materials, such that bronze actually slides against steel better than steel-on-steel does).

Shaft Finish

The finish, or outer coating, applied to a bar makes a difference in its durability, tackiness, rust resistance, and how well it holds chalk.

Chrome plating looks nice and wears well from repeated banging on a rack. It is also the most resistant to corrosion among all bar finishes, with the exception of stainless steel. The disadvantage of chrome is it is more slippery when wet from sweaty hands.

Black Oxide
This is a thin coating that feels almost like bare steel. It’s thin enough that it doesn’t fill in any of the depth of the knurling like chrome or zinc plating does. It also gives a better grip than chrome. And it helps prevent rust (anti-corrosion), but the anti-corrosion properties of black oxide are activated by oil, so you have to oil it once in a while. It scratches more easily than other finishes, so a bar used in a rack will immediately show signs of use from the metal-on-metal contact. It can also wear off simply from the abrasion of your hands against it over time.

Black Zinc
Like black oxide, it provides a good grip and prevents corrosion without the need to oil it as much. Zinc plating has a certain thickness to it, so it does fill in the knurling slightly like chrome does, making the knurling a softer feel. Zinc itself is a bright silverish color and the black coating is actually applied over the bright zinc.


Women’s olympic weightlifting bars are made to weigh 15kg / 33lb. There are 35lb women’s bars out there, but here we focus on the 15kg ones. There are more and more women doing barbell work, but at this point a 35lb women’s bar is still a specialty item and not justifiable by most manufacturer’s in addition to a 15kg bar.

The bars

These four best women’s barbells are in the affordable price range of $200-400 and are suitable for beginner and intermediate lifters who don’t need a competition level bar.

Too pricey? If your #1 priority is a 25mm bar and you don’t care about the strength or sleeve spin, see the Rage Phoenix 2.0 Women’s Bar.

Rogue 25mm Women’s Training Bar

Shaft Diameter: 25mm Center Knurling: No
Shaft Finish: Black Zinc Ring Marks: IWF
Tensile Strength: 190,000 PSI Sleeve Surface: Grooved
Sleeve Spin: Bronze Bushing Made In: USA
Knurling Feel: Medium Weight: 15kg

Rogue’s 25mm Training Bar uses the same 190,000 PSI steel shaft as all their other men’s 7ft bars. That makes production a little easier!

While not nearly as popular as their Bella Bar (see our review), which is one of the most widely used barbells for women, this one is more appropriate as a WL specific bar.

Rogue stands behind their products, and you know they’ll be around for years to come. It’s one reason people often go for Rogue when in doubt.

Plus, Rogue makes their bars in their own facility in Columbus, OH. That makes it the only one on this page made in the USA.

It’s also the only bar here with bronze bushings. So this is questionable as a pure WL bar. Bronze bushings are only one step down from needle bearings, better than composite bushings as far as the sensitivity of the spin, if it’s constructed nice and tightly and lubricated right. If you’ve used a good bronze bushing bar and you’re ok with it as a WL bar, this could be a really good choice for you.

Price: $305 at Rogue

York 32003 Women’s Elite Training Bar

Shaft Diameter: 25mm Center Knurling: No
Shaft Finish: Satin Chrome Ring Marks: Dual
Tensile Strength: 190,000 PSI Sleeve Surface: Smooth
Sleeve Spin: Bushing Made In: Canada
Knurling Feel: Medium Weight: 15 kg

The second-best women’s barbell that York makes! The top one is priced over $500.

Not quite USA made. It’s made in Canada using US steel, like all their Elite series bars.

York Barbell has been involved in olympic weightlifting since their inception in 1932. They revised their bars a year or so back without changing the model numbers. For this one they added dual ring marks and new end caps.

From the close-up shot you see York’s patented split-sleeve design. Dead giveaway it’s a York bar when you see that.

Price: $398 at Adamant Barbell

Rep Fitness Women’s Gladiator Bar

Shaft Diameter: 28mm Center Knurling: No
Shaft Finish: Hard Chrome Ring Marks: Dual
Tensile Strength: 205,000 PSI Sleeve Surface: Grooved
Sleeve Spin: 5 Bearings Made In: USA
Knurling Feel: Medium Weight: 15 kg

Rep Fitness does not make their women’s version of the Gladiator bar with a stainless steel option. That’s ok, it’s still a great chrome plated bar!

Plus, 5 needle bearings per sleeve… That’s 1 more than Fringe (below).

Rep Fitness has been in business in Denver, Colorado (10 miles from Rage Fitness) since 2012, and they have earned the respect of the Crossfit crowd with their high quality equipment.

Rep has always had favorable reviews online and are good with answering questions. Rep’s equipment seems to be nearly as high quality as Rogue. Rep isn’t a “budget” option that cuts any corners.

Rep’s prices for larger orders are particularly competitive vs some others who offer free shipping on all sized orders. On small orders Rep normally isn’t as competitive, although in this case for a stainless steel WL bar they’re basically the only choice in this price range! If you’re in the market for additional stuff like bumpers, once you get one or more pallets worth of stuff you’re taking advantage of the fact that you’re paying actual shipping costs instead of a padded amount added to all products for “free” shipping on single-product orders.

Price: $219 at Rep Fitness

FringeSport Women’s Weightlifting Bar

Shaft Diameter: 25mm Center Knurling: Yes
Shaft Finish: Matte Chrome Ring Marks: IWF
Tensile Strength: 216,200 PSI Sleeve Surface: Grooved
Sleeve Spin: 4 Bearings Made In: Taiwan
Knurling Feel: Medium Weight: 15 kg

This bar is the #1 women’s bar that Fringe makes for olympic weightlifting. All their other bars are made for either powerlifting dual-use. This one is their only bar with 4 needle bearings per sleeve, IWF-only ring marks, and it has the most whip out of all their bars despite the ultra high 216,000 PSI tensile strength.

As far as the “matte” chrome… I don’t think that there is any difference between matte chrome and satin chrome, which is what York calls it. The word “matte” has gotten to be a popular buzzword with Rogue and others, with their popular matte finishes on power racks, etc, and the “Matte Black Friday” sale. Basically a less glossy chrome that looks more like stainless steel. As if it weren’t already hard to tell the difference! Mirror-like chrome is one thing, but when they start using this satin chrome I have a hard time identifying what it is on an unknown bar.

Fringe’s guarantee is the best in the industry. It’s more than just a warranty against defects. They offer a full 1-year guarantee. Return it for any reason within a year and get your money back! Or within 30 days they’ll even pay the return shipping.

Price: $399 at FringeSport

Got any questions about these bars? Leave a comment and I’ll see if I can help!

Dear Dr. Bell, what is the difference between a Standard Weight Lifting Bar and an Olympic Bar? Which is better to use?

Standard Weights are typically found in home gyms. Standard Weight Lifting bars are one inch (25mm) in diameter on the end and the middle shaft. Standard Weight-Lifting bars are cheaper and will start flexing badly around 200 pounds. They are likely to bend permanently with heavier loads.

Olympic Bars are made better. Even cheaper Olympic Bars are made to handle much greater loads. Even if you load an Olympic Bar with very heavy weights, they are made to flex under load, but will return to the straight position. It is the quality of the steel used in the bar that determines how well a bar maintains its shape.

Olympic Bars are one and 31/32 inches (50mm) in diameter and only take Olympic Weight Plates, made with 2-inch diameter holes. The ends of an Olympic Bar are 2 inches in diameter (50 mm). The center portion of an Olympic Bar can range from 28mm to 32mm or one and a quarter inches. There are also specially made one inch (25mm) bars, made for women.

Olympic Bars come in a variety of options for Power Lifters, Olympic Lifting, Weight Lifting and even different knurling patterns for different exercises. For example, Olympic Bars made for the Bench Press, are smooth in the middle so the knurling pattern does not grab your shirt, which could easily take you out of your “Bench Press Arc” and defeat your lift. Olympic Bars made for the Squat have knurling in the middle of the bar, this knurling will “grab” your shirt to help prevent the bar from sliding down your back while squatting.

Olympic Weights are made with a far greater degree of accuracy than Standard Weights. While it may seem silly to worry about small inaccuracies in plates, unbalanced loading of a bar can not only throw-off the accuracy of your record keeping, but can also throw-off your max or near max lifts, due to uneven loading of the bar (not to mention potential injury due to heavy, un-balanced lifts).

Olympic plates now come in a wide variety of options, for example rubber or urethane coated plates can prevent rust, noise and chipping. Olympic Bumper Plates are made with solid rubber, all the same diameter, so they can be dropped from considerable height, without causing damage to flooring. Grip plates are made with built-in handles for easier and safer movement.

Olympic Bars are made with revolving ends or what is refer to as “Sleeves,” to diminish or eliminate “the torque” on the bar. This is very important on fast, explosive movements such as the Power Clean, Clean & Jerks, Snatches, etc., where you need the bar to rotate quickly. It is also helpful on exercises where your grip needs to rotate slightly like the Squat or Deadlift.

Olympic Bars are made to be used with other Olympic Type equipment, for example, Olympic width benches, power racks, etc. Olympic Bars are 7 feet long, made with shafts of “52” inches in length. These dimensions are critical to fit perfectly on weight training equipment. Standard Bars are only 5 or 6 feet long and will not fit.

Olympic bars are heavier and thicker on the ends, which makes them far more stable than Standard Bars. Olympic Bars make it far more difficult to tip over when the bar is racked and you are loading heavy plates, particularly one-side at a time, a necessity when lifting alone. You can easily add one or even two Olympic Plates/side without the bar tipping. This cannot be done with standard plates/bars without the bar tipping over (one plate/side, added evenly is highly recommended, even with Olympic Weights just to be extra safe).

While I will readily admit Standard Plates are cheaper and women and children can benefit from lower starting weight of a Standard Bar, for long-term use, the Olympic Bar is better. Olympic Bars are made to be 45 pounds whereas Standard Bars are half that or less. Note of warning: Weights manufactured in China are coming in to the USA marked as Standard, when in fact they are designed in Olympic specifications. I cannot attest to the accuracy or quality of China made equipment. While they may be cheaper, they may be inferior to USA/European made equipment in terms of quality and accuracy.

For the “real” Weight Lifting experience, I recommend the use of Olympic Weights and Bars. You can easily and effectively use Olympic Weights with all professional/commercial grade weight lifting equipment.

Thank you for your question and good luck in your training.

Best regards,

Dr. Jim Bell


Barbell Exercise List

Barbell Exercises for Legs

Back squat

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and place the barbell on your shoulders (behind the neck). Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or a bit lower, pause and stand back up.

Straddle lift

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart. One feet should be place slightly in front of the other one (just like if you were preparing to do a lunge). Place the barbell in-between your legs and lift it up while maintaining a flat lower back and strong shoulders.

Overhead squat

Perform a regular squat while keeping the barbell above your head in fully extended arms. Be careful and use weight you are 100% confident you can manage.


Stand with one feet placed in front of the other. Place the barbell on your shoulders and squat down. Make sure to alternate sides.

Hack squat/deadlift

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and the bar placed behind your feet. Squat down until the barbell touches the ground, then lift yourself back up. This exercise usually puts less strain on your lower back muscles than regular back squats or deadlifts.

Barbell calf raises

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and the bar in front of you. Slowly lift yourself up on your toes. Pause and slowly lower back down. Don’t bend your knees or hips. The movement happens only in your ankles.

Suitcase squat

Hold the barbell with one hand only. Perform a squat while keeping a straight back and good posture. This is a great exercise for core muscle training.

Front squat

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and keep the barbell in front of you (resting on your chest). Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or a bit lower, pause and stand back up.

Barbell Exercises for Chest Muscles

Regular bench press

Lay down on flat bench. Grab the bar a bit wider than shoulder with apart. Slowly lower the bar until in touches your chest, pause and push the bar back up until your arms are almost fully extended.

Wide grip bench press

Perform a regular bench press with your palms placed slightly wider on the bar. This variation helps to develop a wide and strong chest as well as improve shoulder mobility and stretch your chest muscles.

Narrow grip bench press

Perform a regular bench press with your palms placed in a slightly narrower position. This variation will put more emphasis on triceps development.

Floor press

Lay down on the floor. Grab the bar a bit wider than shoulder with apart. Slowly lower the bar until in touches your chest, pause and push the bar back up until your arms are almost fully extended. In comparison to the bench press this variation offers a more limited range of motion, but at the same time eliminates any assistance from your legs or hips.

Incline bench press 30 degrees

In comparison to the regular bench press this variation puts more emphasis on the upper chest muscles and shoulders (front deltoids).

Incline bench press 45 degrees

In comparison to the regular bench press this variation puts more emphasis on the shoulders (front and side deltoids).

Barbell Exercises for Arms

Barbell wrist curl

Stand straight with the bar in front of you. While keeping your arms stiff and almost fully extended move your palms up and down. The movement should happen only in your wrists.

Reverse barbell wrist curls

Very similar to the regular barbell wrist curls. The only difference is that the reverse one uses underhand grip instead of the overhand grip.

Bicep curls

Stand straight with the bar in front of you. While keeping your upper arms at the same place, bend your elbows and bring the bar close to your chest, pause and slowly bring it back down.

Upper and Lower Back Barbell Exercises

Good morning

Place the bar behind your neck and keep your feet shoulder with apart. While keeping your knees locked and lower back straight, slowly lean forward until your upper body is parallel to the ground. Pause and slowly bring yourself back to the starting position. Be very careful with the amount of weight you are using.

Stiff leg deadlift

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and the bar in front of you. While keeping your knees locked and lower back straight, lean forward until the barbell is at the same level with your knees. Pause and bring yourself back up.

Bent knees deadlift

Very similar to the stiff leg deadlift with the only difference that your legs can be slightly bent. Suitable for people with limited flexibility/joint mobility and lower back issues.

Regular deadlift

Keep your feet shoulder with apart and your palms a bit wider than shoulder with apart. Squat down while keeping your back straight, pause and bring yourself back up.

Sumo deadlift

Place your feet in a very wide stance. Perform a deadlift using a rather narrow grip.

High pulls

Stand straight with the barbell in front of you. Use your shoulders and upper back to pull the bar up as high as you can. The aim is to touch your chin with the bar.

Assume a deadlift position. With an explosive movement from your hips, lift yourself up and bring the barbell above your head. Make sure to keep a strong and straight back. Start with a light weight and progress slowly.

Clean and press

Very similar to snatch, but instead of bringing the bar straight up, you will first bring it to your chest. After you have stabilized, use your shoulders to push the bar up.

One arm clean and press

Very similar to the regular clean and press. A great exercise to develop hand/wrist strength as well as improve your core muscles.

Bent over row

Grab the bar and bend over until your upper body is almost parallel to the ground. While keeping your knees and hips slightly bent, pull the bar towards your chest in controlled manner. Pause and bring it back down.

Barbell Exercises for Shoulders

Shoulder shrugs

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and bar in front of you. While keeping a strong posture, pull your shoulders up towards your ears.

Military press

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and the barbell placed on your chest. While keeping your hips and lower back strong and stiff, push the bar above your head.

Behind the head shoulder press

The same as the military press, but instead of lowering the bar to your chest, you will place it behind your head.

Single arm barbell push press

Rest one end of the barbell I the middle of a weight plate. Grab the other end with one of your hands. Use your legs, hips and shoulders to push the barbell up until your hand is fully extended.

Core Muscle Barbell Exercises

Leg raises

Lay flat on the ground with the barbell in fully extended arms. Without bending your knees lift your legs up until they are in 90 degrees towards the floor. Pause and bring them back down.

Side leans

Keep the barbell in on hand. Slowly lean to one side (towards the hand holding the bar) in very controlled manner. Pause and bring yourself back up. Try to use the full range of motion.

Side bends

Just like side leans, but instead of having the barbell in one hand you will place it on your shoulders.

Barbell rollouts

Get on your knees with barbell in front of you. Grab the bar and slowly start pushing it forward. Try to bring it as far forward as you can. The ultimate goal is to get your arms fully extended and in a line with your upper body. Make sure to always keep your abs strong and newer let your lower back sink in.

Barbell Tunk Twist

Hold one end of the barbell while the other end is place on the floor in the middle of a weight plate. You will need to have a wide stance for extra stability. While keeping your abs tight and your arms almost fully extended, start swinging them from one side to the other. This is a phenomenal exercise for core muscle development. Just make sure that you have properly warmed up before performing it. If not, you might injure your back.

The 10 Best Barbell Exercises

Barbells are used for some of the biggest and best weight training exercises out there. No matter what you are training towards, there’s a place for them in at least one of your workouts. They are so versatile, and they can really change the game when it comes to strength training.

Selecting which barbell exercise would be best for you is another story. It’s always tough to build up the perfect workout, especially when there’s so much choice out there. To try and make things that little bit easier for you, we’ve compiled our top ten! All of these will hit different muscles so that you can keep your training varied, but they aren’t easy! The benefits, however, are worth the effort.

Bench Press

We will start the list with the most popular barbell exercise, the bench press. It’s one of the kings of exercise in general. The bench press is a huge compound exercise that trains most of your upper body, and it really is essential to improving your strength and performance across the board. If you struggle with it, make sure you use a spotter or a friend to guide you along the way!


Squats are squats. As incredibly effective lower body-builders, they focus on your quads more than anything else. Using a barbell means that you have the choice of a front or a back squat, depending on your preferences and how much weight you want to use. Make sure your form is perfect, and you’re good to go!

Shoulder press

Shoulder presses are another essential upper body exercise. They do things for your deltoid muscles that a bench press just can’t quite manage. Your delts are made up of three sections, and this is one of the very few exercises that manages to hit all three of these in one exercise. It’s efficient, effective, and a great way to use your barbell. You can use a smith machine if you’re not confident, but it’ll improve your balance in your shoulders and your arms too which is always useful. Keep your core tight and keep the bar in front of you!


Another incredible lower body-builder, possibly even better than the squat, is the deadlift. It’s easily one of the most effective strength-building compound exercises that there are. Instead of just your legs, it uses your whole posterior chain, which means that almost every muscle on the back of your body has a big part to play in it. This is why you can lift so much weight doing them. There’s a lot of variety too, even just using a barbell, so your possibilities are limitless. This one is crucial for you to get right though. Back injuries are not something you need!

Good mornings

To keep with the back exercises theme, good mornings certainly aren’t one to forget about. They are pretty much barbell specific, but you should use a lower weight until you know that you’ve got them nailed and that you know what you can handle. They focus on your lower back uniquely, and this is something that’s often overlooked in any training plan.

Bent rows

Moving further up the back still, we can’t forget about the upper back. Your lats and mid back are huge muscles, and they need to be trained like it too. Barbell exercises are an easy way for you to get your fix for any large muscle group, and this isn’t an exception. Bent rows force your lats to do an awesome contraction, using your biceps and core as stabilisers too. Just don’t get them confused with upright rows!


So now you’ve hit most muscle groups in some ways, it’s always a good idea to throw in some seriously strong compound exercises in there too. Barbell exercises are vast, and you can use ones like the snatch to work your whole body. It’s mostly just a huge squat, but it uses your upper body to keep you stable as you hold the barbell above your head. It’s tough, but it pays off.

Clean and jerk

Things get even worse here! This is essentially a cross between a deadlift, a squat, and a shoulder press. This will really put your whole body to the test and push your limits. You’ll burn serious calories both in and out of the workout, and build muscle, all with a barbell. What more could you ask for!

Ab rollout

Instead of just lifting the barbell, you can use its unique shape and nature for a range of core exercises too, like the ab rollout. It takes a lot of core strength not to fall, but their efficiency can’t be argued with. Keep the plates loose enough to turn like wheels and let yourself stretch across the floor and back again, using your abs as the powerhouse of the movement.

Landmine abs

Finally, we’ll keep this unique usage going. Landmine exercises are another incredible way to change the game and keep you on your toes. This one is more of a cross over between wood chops and Russian twists, and it’s incredible for your upper, lower and your oblique abdominal muscles. It’s rare to see an exercise that crosses multiple ab muscles, but this is by far one of the best.

That’s the list, and it’s an intense one at that. Barbells have more uses than you first think of, and they are often one of the best ways to do big lifts like some of these exercises are. Use a spotter if you need to, and even keep the bar weight free until you find your feet or if you’re not looking to build too much muscle. Whatever your needs are, the barbell can help you out!

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.

10 Best Barbell Exercises to Build Muscle

Building Strength and Size With The 10 Best Barbell Exercises

When it comes to building strength and size, a barbell is one of the most vital bits of training equipment imaginable. Every gym should have them and every home gym should make them a priority.

Whether loaded up in the squat rack, sitting ready on the floor or being thrust over your head, barbell training offers a full range of workouts that will build your physique and punch up your power.

Here are 10 of the best barbell exercises for building some serious size and strength. Combining 3-4 of these can create a single day of workout programming. Mix and match and build a routine that works for you.


The king of all lifting exercises, deadlifts train virtually every muscle in your body and make you feel like a beast whenever you do them.

A simple, functional movement with a high skill ceiling, the deadlift is easy to start with but difficult to master. It’s also not to be trifled with, as poorly executed lifts can damage your back.

Approach with caution, but be ready to feel the strongest you ever have.

How to do them: Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart with a loaded barbell (weights on each side) resting on the ground.

Bend at the knees and keep your back straight, looking forwards as your hands come down to grasp the bar. Use an overhand grip so that your palms are facing towards you.

Bring the bar up by lifting with your legs and hips. Keep your back straight throughout the movement. Bring the barbell to your waist so that you’re standing upright. From here, keep your arms straight and lower the bar back down by pushing your hips back, bending at your legs and keeping your lower back straight.

Muscles worked:

Back, glutes, legs, forearms and shoulders.

Recommended workout

  • 1 set of 10-12 warm up deadlifts
  • 3 x 6-8 deadlifts at a heavy weight


Another famed compound lift, the barbell squat is a mass-builder that sees you build some immense lower body strength and power.

As a compound movement that uses lots of different muscles in your legs, they also promote a greater hormone response which helps increase muscle gain.

Stepping up to the squat rack can be intimidating, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll be pushing more weight than ever and packing on size.

How to do them: Approach a loaded barbell on a squat rack. Position yourself so the bar is resting on your shoulders, held in place with your hands.

Lift the bar off the rack. You’ll immediately tell whether you’ve got the balance right. If correct, take a few steps away from the rack.

Squat downwards, keeping your back straight at all times. Bend at the knees to around 90 degrees. Don’t go deeper until you get the technique right.

Your back should be straight enough that someone could draw a line down from your shoulder to your feet at all times.

To complete the squat, power back up to standing.

Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abductors and calves.

Recommended workout

  • 1 set of 10-12 warm up squats
  • 3 x 6-8 squats at a heavier weight

Probably the most famous of all lifts, the bench press is a great mass builder for gaining size in your upper body. A fairly simple movement, the bench recruits lots of muscles in your arms and chest to help pack on mass.

How to do them:Either from a bench or from the floor, lie under a barbell and grasp it with both hands, approximately shoulder width apart.

Lower the bar by dropping your arms, flexing your chest as you do so. Let the bar lightly touch your chest or hover just above it and then press the barbell back up so that your arms are fully extended.

Muscles worked: Pectoral muscles, deltoids and triceps.

Recommended workout

  • 3 x 10 bench press (60-70% of max, increasing weight every set)

Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are a terrific lift which you can perform with a barbell, helping build a huge back and great pulling strength. While they can be done with dumbbells, you’ll see the best gains from heavier barbell rows.

How to do them: Grip a barbell like you would the top part of a deadlift. Bend over at the knees and keep your back straight while angling it slightly forward.

Keep your head up and your spine straight. Pull the weight up and into your lower chest. Lower it back to just over your knees.

Muscles worked: Back – specifically your traps, lats and deltoids.

Recommended workout

  • 3 x 12 bent over rows (50% max)

    Overhead Press

    Want to build some fearsome shoulders? Stop shrugging and get ready for the overhead press. This is another lift that seems very basic but can help you build awesome power. It’s also a great raw test of strength as you heft the barbell overhead.

    How to do them:Grab a barbell from a rack or the floor. From here, bring it to your chest with your arms holding the bar and also being bent, along with your palms facing outwards. From here, thrust your arms up straight so that the barbell is overhead. Try not to round your back. Lower the bar back under your chin and repeat. Don’t thrust with your knees unless you’re struggling.

    Muscles worked: Shoulders (traps, deltoids) and lats.

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 10 overhead press

    Clean and Press

    Combining the pulling force of the deadlift with the shoulder-strengthening push of the overhead press, the clean and press is an Olympic-style lift that you should master to help build mass all over the body. Look at the physique on any Olympic lifter and you’ll understand the value of this lift.

    How to do them: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip. Quickly pull it as you would a deadlift, then press your hips forward and throw the weight up into an overhead press style grip.

    Muscles worked: Traps, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, triceps and deltoids.

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 8 clean and press (60-70% max)

    Reverse Barbell Bicep Curls

    An underutilized but awesome exercise that blasts your biceps and forearms, reverse curls are great for building thick, muscular arms. With little explanation needed, they’re a must-have for those doing barbell exercises who want to put on mass.

    How to do them: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip. Pull it up as you would a standard bicep curl, keeping your elbows at your sides and avoiding ‘cheating’ with your back.

    Squeeze the lift tight by pulling your hands as close to your shoulders as you can during the curling motion, then lower it back down and repeat.

    Muscles worked: Traps, biceps, deltoid, triceps and forearms extensors.

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 10 reverse barbell curls

    Front Squats

    Front squats shift the focus of a standard squat to better target your quads and also your core. They’re a great way to switch up a routine and to build some power in your abs whilst you’re working a leg routine.

    How to do them: Front squats can be tricky if you lack flexibility in your elbows and shoulders – but persevere. They’re the same as a back squat but this time the bar will be in front of you, resting on your deltoids. Your arms should support the bar to stop it rolling forwards.

    Muscles worked:Quads, glutes and abs

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 8 front squats at the start of any squat workout

    Zercher Squats

    A somewhat underrated and rare squat, the Zercher is a great way to blast your traps, abs and it even trains the biceps. They’re tough, bordering on brutal, but totally worth it. They also avoid putting pressure on the spine, which can be useful for people with back problems.

    How to do them: Hold the barbell in the crook of your arms and cross your arms upwards over the bar. From here, squat as you would in a front squat. These will be difficult, so take your time and nail the technique.

    Muscles worked: Traps, quads and abs

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 10 Zercher squats (Use a relatively light weight and get the reps in)

    An Olympic weightlifting move you’ve probably seen elite lifters do in the Games, the snatch is a tricky move but one that’s worth mastering. A compound lift that works virtually all of your body, the snatch is a great way to build explosive power and size.

    How to do them: Grab the bar from the floor with a wide grip and begin with your hips lowered. Explode upwards as you pull up and keep your arms straight, throwing the bar overhead. You’ll end up squatted down with the weight overhead. From here, thrust upwards and keep your arms straight.

    A difficult move, this is one best practiced with a trainer.

    Muscles worked: Virtually all of them except for biceps and pecs.

    Recommended workout

    • 3 x 6 snatches
  • Barbell workouts

    Despite the name, there’s nothing especially hard to understand about a barbell complex. It’s a workout in which you do several moves in a row without putting the bar down. Before you close this page because that sounds too hard, bear in mind that as the time your muscles spend under tension goes up, the amount of weight you should use goes down. You should start out using light weights or an unweighted Olympic bar. However, it’s still unwise to take a barbell complex lightly, because despite the relatively low weight you can be pretty sure that after working through one you’ll be a sweaty mess.

    The main reason is that you’re taking almost no rest during a barbell complex and racking up a lot of reps in a short space of time as you work through the exercises. “Think of a 30-rep circuit versus a 12-rep set. Because of the lack of rest, each round becomes more challenging,” ssays expert Tom Eastham, who provided the first of our workouts. “Throw in the additional load from the barbell and you have a huge fat-burning potential from these loaded compound movements.”

    If you’ve not tried a barbell complex before, you’ll find five cracking options below to get you started. Just remember to keep the weight very light for your first attempt – what seems fine on rep one of your first exercise can quickly becomes torturous as you cycle through the circuit.

    Barbell Complex 1

    Do the exercises in order, performing 12 reps of each without resting or putting the bar down between moves. At the end of the last exercise rest for two minutes, then repeat the circuit. Do four to six circuits in total.

    1 Squat

    Reps 12 Rest 0sec

    Stand tall with your chest up, holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders with a tight grip. Squat down as low as you can, then push through your heels to stand back up.

    2 Good morning

    Reps 12 Rest 0sec

    Stand tall with the barbell across the back of your shoulders. Lean forwards from the hips until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then stand back up.

    3 Push press

    Reps 12 Rest 0sec

    Stand tall, holding the barbell across the front of your shoulders. Bend your knees, then stand up quickly and push the bar directly overhead. Lower it slowly back to the start.

    4 Floor press

    Reps 12 Rest 0sec

    Lie flat on your back with knees bent holding the bar with a shoulder-width grip and arms straight. Bend your elbows to lower the bar down towards your chest then press it back up powerfully.

    5 Upright row

    Reps 12 Rest 0sec

    Stand tall with your chest up holding the bar with an overhand shoulder-width grip. Row it upwards towards your chin, leading with your elbows. Lower it slowly back to the start.

    6 Biceps curl

    Reps 12 Rest 2min

    Hold the bar with an underhand grip. Keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the move. Curl the bar up to shoulder height. Pause and squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower it back to the start.

    Barbell Complex 2

    Do six reps of each move without putting the bar down to complete one set. Rest for two minutes between sets. Choose a load that allows you to complete the reps fairly comfortably for your weakest lift, which, in this case, will probably be the overhead press. Complete six sets in total.

    1 Romanian deadlift

    Reps 6

    Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip just outside your thighs. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, bend forwards from the hips – not the waist – and lower the bar down the front of your shins until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Reverse the move back to the start by pushing your hips forwards.

    2 Bent-over row

    Reps 6

    Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, bending your knees slightly. Bend at the hips until your torso is at a roughly 45˚ angle to the floor. Pull the bar up to touch your sternum and then lower under control. If you’re moving your upper body to shift the bar, the weight’s too heavy.

    Expert Tip “Every guy wants big arms and a strong core, and this exercise will help you towards both those goals,” says Eastham. “Stabilising yourself for the row will pay off in the long run for your core.”

    3 Hang clean

    Reps 6

    Stand holding the bar with a shoulder-width grip in front of your thighs. Bend your knees, then drive through your heels to explode upwards, using the momentum to help pull the bar up to chest height as you lower into a squat. Catch it on your front shoulders, pause for a second, and then stand up lower the bar back to the start position.

    Expert Tip “Olympic lifting improves power and explosiveness, and the clean is the easiest Olympic lift to learn. By putting it in complexes or circuits, you’ll get better faster.”

    RECOMMENDED: How to Start Olympic Weightlifting Training

    4 Front squat

    Reps 6

    Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders with your palms facing upwards and your elbows high. Squat down, keeping your chest up, then drive up through your heels to stand.

    Expert Tip “This is far more accessible than its more popular big brother the back squat. It will also help your clean, because both lifts demand the same mobility. Not quite there yet? Cross your arms and grip the bar from the top to save your wrists.”

    5 Overhead press

    Reps 6

    With your feet shoulder-width apart, position a bar on your upper chest, gripping it with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs, glutes and quads as you press the bar straight upwards. Pause at the top, then lower. You might find you can lift more weight by wrapping your thumbs around the same side as your fingers, to keep your forearms in a more favourable position.

    Expert Tip “This move will maximise your upper-body strength by demanding increased thoracic muscle stability while building a strong core and boulder shoulders.”

    Barbell Complex 3

    At the end of this complex, rest for 90sec-2min. Do five rounds in total. To progress, add a rep to each set or reduce the amount of rest you take between rounds. Once you’re at 15 reps, add another round.

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How With knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips to send the bar down your legs until you feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings.

    Expert tip “Keep your back straight as possible while keeping your head in a neutral position,” says Grant.

    Progression To really focus the effort on your hamstrings, do the stiff-legged version, where you don’t bend your knees.

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Bend at the hips and let the bar hang down. Pull your elbows back to bring the bar up to your stomach.

    Expert tip “Initiate the movement with a shoulder blade retraction, then row the bar up, leading with your elbows,” says Grant.

    Progression To make the move even more effective, squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top and hold that position for a second.

    3 High pull

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Lead with your elbows to raise the bar in front of you until it reaches chest level, then lower back to the start.

    Expert tip “To initiate the movement, keep your core tight and perform a jumping and shrugging movement,” says Grant. “Drive through your calves using lots of momentum, keeping in mind that you want high-speed bar movement.”

    Progression Make it a power move by explosively going up onto your toes as you raise the bar to chest height.

    4 Overhead press

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Press the bar directly overhead, then lower it. When you lower, don’t go beyond chin height to avoid stressing the shoulders.

    Expert tip “Your arms should finish in line with your ears,” says Grant. If you struggle with that, work on shoulder mobility.

    Progression Use the same movement but take longer to lower the bar so you maximise the time under tension.

    5 Lunge

    Reps 10 Rest 90sec-2min

    How With the bar on your back, take a step forwards and lower until your knees are bent at 90°, then press back up to the start.

    Expert tip “For the movement pattern, think escalator not elevator – forwards then down, not up and down,” says Grant.

    Progression Do a reverse lunge where you take a step backwards and bend both knees to 90° before standing back up.

    Barbell Workout 4

    This workout has five moves which are performed in a circuit. Do all the reps of move 1 then go straight on to move 2 and complete those reps without resting. Follow this pattern for the rest of the circuit and only rest once you have completed all the reps of the fifth and final move, and for no longer than two minutes. The first and last exercise are 20-rep sets, and the three lifts in between them are ten-rep sets. You’ll do five circuits in total.

    Do this circuit with just a barbell. Once that’s too easy, add a 2.5kg weight plate to each side, then continue to go up in 2.5kg increments.

    1 Deadlift

    Reps 20 Rest 10sec

    How Squat down to pick the bar off the floor with an overhand grip, then stand up tall.

    Why Doing deadlifts with an empty bar will improve your form and work multiple muscle groups.

    Progression If 20 reps doesn’t get your heart rate high and breathing hard, add five more reps per circuit.

    2 Romanian Deadlift

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Bend forwards from the hips with arms straight to lower the bar down your shins.

    Why This move will work your glutes and hamstrings and keep your heart rate elevated.

    Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.

    3 Bent-over row

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Hinge forward from the hips with legs and arms straight. Row the bar up to your stomach.

    Why It works all the major muscles of your upper back as well as your core and forearms.

    Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.

    Reps 10 Rest 0sec

    How Stand tall holding the bar across the front of your shoulders. Press the bar straight overhead.

    Why It’s one of the best moves to work your shoulders and your triceps.

    Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.

    5 Squat

    Reps 20 Rest 2min

    How Stand tall with the bar across the back of your shoulders. Squat down as deep as you can. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so you never pause at the top or bottom, but don’t “bounce” at the bottom either.

    Why This final move of the circuit works your legs and core and again elevates your heart rate.

    Progression Increase the number of reps you do per circuit to 25 if you have more left in the tank.

    Barbell Complex 5

    Do the five moves here in order, performing 15 reps of a lift then moving on to the next one without rest. After the final move, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat. Do six circuits in total. If you want to make the circuit harder you can add weight to the bar, starting with 2.5kg each side.

    Stand tall holding the bar with a wide, overhand grip. Bend forwards, hingeing from the hips, to lower the bar to knee level. Push your hips forwards to stand up straight.

    2 Hang clean

    From the bottom of the deadlift, push your hips forward and raise the bar, rotating your elbows to “catch” it at shoulder height. Reverse the move to the start.

    Starting from the bottom of the clean, let your arms hang then, leading with your elbows, row the bar in towards your lower chest. Return to the start.

    4 Push Press

    Clean the bar up to the front of your shoulders then, initiating the move with a knee bend, push the bar straight up over your head. Lower it back down to your shoulders.

    After the last push press rep, lower the bar behind your head to rest on the backs of your shoulders. Squat down, then stand back up.

    3 Barbell-Only, Full-Body Workout Programs for Any Fitness Goal


    The barbell is a thing of beauty. Simple in design but infinite in its power, the barbell is the most valuable tool in the weight room. You could throw out every other piece of equipment in the gym and still build massive size and strength with the barbell.

    The barbell is good for more than getting huge. In fact, it’s incredible for fat loss too. With the right exercises, you can use the barbell to achieve any fitness goal. To prove it, here are three barbell-only, full-body workouts to help you get bigger, stronger or lose fat. Take your pick.

    Program 1 – Strength Focus

    Traditionally, the barbell is best used for building strength. You can load a barbell much heavier than any dumbbell, kettlebell or machine, so naturally, the barbell is the weapon of choice for strength workouts.

    The barbell is so effective for building strength that you only need four exercises to get brutally strong from head to toe. For this minimalist barbell workout, you need only perform the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and Bent-Over Row.

    Exercise Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
    A1. Squat 5 sets of 5 reps 4 sets of 4 reps 3 sets of 3 reps
    B1. Bench Press 5 sets of 5 reps 4 sets of 4 reps 3 sets of 3 reps
    C1. Deadlift 5 sets of 5 reps 4 sets of 4 reps 3 sets of 3 reps
    D1. Bent-Over Row 3 sets of 10 reps 3 sets of 8 reps 3 sets of 6 reps

    Perform the workout three days per week on non-consecutive days (e.g., Monday, Wednesday and Friday), taking at least two full days off per week to maximize recovery. Each week, try to increase the weight you use for each exercise.

    You can do these workouts indefinitely, or until you’re no longer able to increase the weight on the bar each session. When that happens, take a week off to rest, then start again.

    Program 2 – Hypertrophy Focus

    Hypertrophy, which means an increase in muscle size, should be on the minds of everyone at the gym. A bigger muscle has greater strength potential, and more muscle means an increase in metabolism, which can aid in burning fat.

    Luckily, the barbell builds muscle just as well as it builds strength, so try these full-body workouts to add some mass to your frame.

    Day 1 – Upper Body

    Exercise Sets/Reps
    A1. Overhead Press 5 sets of 5 reps
    A2. Bent-Over Row 5 sets of 5 reps
    B1. Incline Bench Press 4 sets of 8 reps
    B2. Shrug 4 sets of 8 reps
    C1. Floor Press 3 sets of 10 reps
    C2. Bicep Curls 3 sets of 10 reps

    Day 2 – Lower Body

    Exercise Sets x Reps
    A1. Front Squat 5 sets of 5 reps
    B1. Romanian Deadlift 5 sets of 5 reps
    C1. Reverse Lunge – Front Squat Grip 4 sets of 8 reps per side
    C2. Supine Bridge 4 sets of 8 reps
    D1. Calf Raise 3 sets of 10 reps
    D2. Ab Rollouts 3 sets of 10 reps

    Perform each workout twice per week for a total of four workouts, alternating between Day 1 and Day 2. A Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday schedule works best.

    For each exercise, use a slow tempo to make sure you feel the target muscles working. For example, during the Incline Bench Press, take three seconds to lower the bar to your chest, pause briefly and press back up, squeezing your chest at the top.

    Program 3 – Fat Loss Focus

    If CrossFit is any indication, barbells can be used to melt fat and get shredded. Simply string together a handful of light-weight movements for high reps with limited rest and you’ll be huffing and puffing in no time. Try this barbell complex:

    Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
    Romanian Deadlift 8 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 4 rounds; 1 minute rest between rounds. 10 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 4 rounds; 1 minute rest between rounds. 8 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 5 rounds; 45 seconds rest between rounds. 10 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 5 rounds; 45 seconds rest between rounds.
    Bent-Over Row
    High Pull
    Push Press

    Load a light barbell (one you could easily do for 20 or more reps per exercise) and perform the 5 exercises in a row with no rest and without putting the barbell down. Put the bar down and rest between rounds. Be warned, you’ll get exhausted with this workout, so make sure the bar is light enough that you can maintain proper form the whole time.


    • Andrew Luck’s “World’s Greatest Barbell Warm-Up”
    • Barbell Exercises and Techniques
    • 2 Brutal Barbell Conditioning Workouts

    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).

    Olympic Barbell CAP Barbell $139.95

    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.


    Barbell Mobility

    Start your workout with a stretch.

    • Pec Stretch – 8 to 12 reps each side
    • Lat Stretch – 8 to 12 reps each side
    • T-Spine Mobility – 8 to 12 reps each side

    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.

    Barbell Goodmornings

    Try 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of this exercise on leg day—just make sure to keep the load manageable.

    Tempo Squat

    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.

    Full Body

    Barbell Jerk

    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.

    Barbell Rollout

    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.

    Barbell Workouts

    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.

    • Barbell Front Squat – 10 reps
    • Barbell Military Press – 10 reps
    • Barbell Biceps Curl – 10 reps
    • Spiderman Plank – 20 reps

    Barbell Blast

    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.

    • Jump Over
    • Pushup
    • Barbell Row
    • Barbell Military Press
    • Barbell Squat

    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.

    • Landmine Thruster
    • Sumo Deadlift
    • Landmine Thruster
    • Split Kneeling Press (L)
    • Landmine Thruster
    • Split Kneeling Press (R)
    • Landmine Thruster
    • Towel T-Bar Row
    • Landmine Thruster
    • Hot Potato Press

    Brett Williams Brett Williams, an associate fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.

    101 Best Workouts Of All Time is the ultimate answer to the question “What workout should I do?” No matter what equipment you have available, from a fully stocked supergym to a pair of mismatched dumbbells in your garage, or nothing but your bodyweight alone, you can build muscle, lose fat, and sculpt the physique you’ve always wanted.

    If you train at home or anywhere else that provides only a barbell and a small amount of weight, you can make the most of it by speeding or slowing your reps and performing your exercises circuit-style.

    How it works

    The barbell was invented to carry balanced loads, but works just as well out of balance. The following exercises can be performed with one end wedged between two walls while you lift the other end like a lever. You may find that pressing the bar like a lever feels less stressful to your shoulders, plus it activates your core to a greater degree.


    Perform the exercises as a circuit, completing one set of each in turn without rest. If an exercise feels easy using the load you have available, perform your reps slower and with more control. (Or, if you have extra weight, load it.) Another option is to choke down on the bar. Gripping it lower will decrease your mechanical advantage and make the exercise harder. After the last exercise, rest two minutes and then repeat the entire circuit. Continue for 20 minutes. You can repeat the workout up to four times per week, resting a day between sessions.

    Option 1

    1. Split squat to press
    Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
    Wedge the end of the barbell into a corner of the room (to avoid damage to the walls, you may have to wrap a towel around it). Load the opposite end with a weight plate and grasp it toward the end. Get into a lunge position with your left leg in front, bent to where your thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee nearly touches the floor. Stand up explosively and press the bar straight up.

    2. Single-arm row with partial lunge
    Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
    Hold the barbell behind the sleeve (where you load the weights) with your left hand. Get into a lunge position but not deep—keep both legs slightly extended so that the bar and plate don’t brush the floor. Draw your shoulder blade back and row the bar to your ribs.

    3. Barbell Russian twist
    Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
    Grasp the bar near the very end again—this time with both hands. Stand with feet shoulder-width. Swing the bar to your left, pivoting your feet as needed, and then swing to your right.

    4. Lever floor press
    Lie on your back on the floor and grasp the end of the bar again behind the sleeve with your left hand. Hold it just above your shoulder, and extend your right arm out to your side for support. Press the bar over your chest.

    Option B

    Call this one the “No Excuses Workout,” because we have yet to hear a compelling reason why someone can’t succeed with it. First of all, it takes only six minutes to complete. Second, it requires just a barbell and a pair of plates. Load the bar once and you’re ready to go. Think you can handle that?

    The workout is a barbell complex—a series of exercises that flow. The finish position of the hang clean sets you up perfectly for the front squat, which then allows you to move right into the overhead press, and so on. Choose one weight, which will be determined by the exercise you can lift the least amount on (in this case, the overhead lunge), and go for it. The pace will be so intense that you’ll be grateful the workout is over in six minutes. Fortunately, your metabolism will remain accelerated for 48 hours afterward.

    Perform the exercises as a circuit, completing one set of each in turn without rest. Complete three reps for each move. Time your circuit. After the last exercise, check your timer and rest as long as it took you to perform the circuit. Repeat for three total circuits. Choose a load you could use for 10 reps on a normal overhead press, and keep that same weight for all the exercises.

    1. Romanian deadlift
    Reps: 3 Rest: 0 sec.
    Hold the bar at shoulder-width and stand with feet hip-width. Bend your hips back as far as you can. Allow your knees to bend as needed while you lower the bar along your shins until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your lower back arched throughout. Squeeze your glutes as you come back up.

    2. Hang clean
    Reps: 3 Rest: 0 sec.
    With the bar in front of your thighs, bend your hips and knees so that the bar lowers to just above your knees. Now explosively extend your hips as if jumping while at the same time shrugging your shoulders and pulling the bar straight up in front of your torso. As the bar reaches chest level, bend your elbows so that your palms face the ceiling and catch the bar at shoulder-level. Bend your hips and knees as you catch the bar to absorb the impact.

    3. Front squat
    Reps: 3 Rest: 0 sec.
    From the catch position of the hang clean, squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.

    4. Overhead press
    Reps: 3 Rest: 0 sec.
    From standing, press the bar overhead, pushing your head forward and shrugging your traps as the bar passes your face.

    5. Overhead lunge
    Reps: 3 (each side) Rest: See directions
    Hold the bar overhead and step forward with your left leg. Lower yourself until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

    Men’s Fitness training director Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., assembled a team of the best trainers in the world to create boredom-beating, plateau-busting routines that cover any amount of time you have to exercise and whatever tools you have available to do it. Programs cover every body part, every implement (barbells, dumbbells, bands, etc.), and cardio. There’s a nutrition plan, too.

    Pick up what Arnold Schwarzenegger called “a fantastic collection of workouts” at

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    Full body workout with barbell

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