7 Important Barbell Exercises
A classic but still one of the best training devices for many training goals: the barbell training! Barbell training is not only demanding but also effective and a lot of fun. Compared to a guided exercise machine, barbell workouts have many decisive advantages. The classic exercises such as deadlifts, bench presses, and squats are some of the best exercises in strength and fitness sports.
It’s no secret that the barbell is the main tool in weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. With the help of only one barbell, you can qualitatively work out any muscle group in your body. In this article, we look at a list of the best barbell exercises that you are sure to use to achieve good results in your workouts.
What Are the Benefits of Barbell Workouts?
Barbell exercises have the great advantage that your entire body has to work during the training. You mainly train a specific muscle that you want to strengthen specifically. Incidentally, other muscle groups that are not actively involved in the contraction process must also have a stabilizing function.
A good example is a deadlift, in which you want to specifically and mainly strengthen your back. Other muscles, such as your leg, arm, and abdominal muscles, are also involved in this exercise and must hold the barbell or support the back while performing the exercise.
Of course, you can also do barbell exercises with the barbell (such as the deadlift again) on a machine. All you have to do is guide the barbell up and down. This means that you are training the back almost completely in isolation, and no other muscles involve that have a support function.
But if you want to lift a heavy object similar to the deadlift in your everyday life, this is rarely installed on a machine as a relief. Barbell training prepares you a lot more for the daily challenges of life.
Furthermore, barbell training is intended for exercises that you can do with both hands simultaneously compared to a dumbbell. When doing dumbbell training, you usually have one dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbells also lift less weight overall than a barbell. Dumbbells are more intended for the isolated training of individual muscles (e.g., biceps). Barbell training primarily aims to strengthen the large muscle groups (legs, back, and chest).
When to Use Barbell Workouts in Your Training
We have listed all the barbell exercises below, but you shouldn’t do them at once as you will be punishing your workout routine. You should be wise when including these workouts in your fitness program to minimize the risk of injury and get the most benefits from them.
You can incorporate these workouts at the start of your training session because they include several motor units and significantly boost the central nervous system. With that, you should start with a gym warm-up, then an empty barbell as you progress, adding weights until you reach your target.
Involving the upper and lower parts of your body is also essential. This allows you to do more work within a short period because less recovery is needed. There is also improved blood circulation, which is vital for faster fat burning.
Let’s have a look at the 7 best barbell workouts in detail.
1. Bench Press
Lie up straight on a weight bench (at home on the floor, too) and make sure that your lower back always stays on the bench! Your feet should be stable on the floor or the weight bench. Grasp the barbell with your ring finger at the respective markings or a little more than shoulder-width in the clamp grip. Keep your wrists stable, and don’t move them.
With your arms locked and the bar above your chest, bring the barbell down over your chest in a controlled manner so that the bar lightly touches your chest for a brief moment. Hold the bar as straight as possible and inhale.
Push the barbell explosively upwards out of your chest to be back in the starting position above your chest. Do not stretch your elbows all the way. Stop shortly beforehand. Breathe out consciously.
Target: Chest, front shoulder, and triceps
The bench press is an absolute classic and has been an excellent basic exercise since weight training. The bench press mainly trains the muscle groups in your upper body. Your chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles are particularly stressed.
Beyond the Chest
Control your shoulder blades by ensuring they are fixed on the bench. The bench needs a lot of pushing power. This will ensure you are in a more stable position for your lifts.
Having strong chest muscles with weak shoulder stabilizers makes it difficult for you to lift the right amount of weight on the bench press. You can try an assistance exercise like the single-arm dumbbell press to ensure your shoulder joint is in the perfect state of health and give yourself room to lift a serious amount of weight. This will help you achieve a perfect balance if one part of your shoulder is stronger than the other.
Utilize Your Body
Controlling your body weight is vital in ensuring you lift a serious amount of weight. You can perform controlled bodyweight reps like close-grip pressing or dips. This will work your muscles in a slightly different movement pattern. With time, you will start adding some weight.
2. Bent-Over Row (Barbell Row)
The starting position is similar to the deadlift. You stand with the barbell in your hands and now bend your upper body forward so that you reach an angle of about 45 °. During this exercise, the barbell is about at the level of your belly button under almost straight arms away from the body and maybe a little further away from your thighs.
You pull the barbell explosively between your stomach and your chest. Make sure that your elbows are brought to the side, close to your body. Your back stays straight or slightly arched. Exhale.
Bring the bar back down in a controlled manner so that your elbows are (only) almost fully extended. You must not guide the barbell directly on your thighs but move it freely and in a controlled manner through your back muscles. Breathe in consciously.
Target: biceps, core, and lats
Bent over rowing is an exercise designed to strengthen all of your back muscles. This mainly addresses the latissimus, which is responsible for the popular V-shape of the body. The rear shoulder muscles and neck are also trained.
Engage Your Shoulder Blades
Setting your shoulder blades is essential to initiate a row. Your starting position is essential if you want to lift a decent weight and activate specific muscle groups. Pull your shoulders back by squeezing the muscles between them and expanding your chest.
Use the Correct Muscles
Get the muscle you want to use active before moving through the full range. You can quickly lose form and lower your movement range by loading the bar with excess weight. Regulate your weight and heap tension on the muscles.
Once you know how to make a move perfectly, you can start playing with variations to get a different barbell training effect. If you want to build your armor – your large back muscles – in particular, try using a tight hand grip because this will target your armor and lower back. Rows are more effective at making your lats than even pulling out lats.
Include Dumbbell Rows
Assistance barbell exercises can help you improve at rows. The best assistance exercise is the dumbbell row. With one hand on a bench, maintain a wide posture with your feet, pressing through your trunk.
The dumbbell should hang down before you pull it back and up through a curved line to the bottom of your ribcage. Swinging with one arm creates room for improved range movement and is vital in building your obliques and core.
Like the squat, your feet should be more than shoulder-width apart, and your feet are rotated slightly outward. The bar lies directly in front of your legs and is also about shoulder-width apart in the clamp or comb grip. With your back straight, lift the barbell off the floor or remove it from its device.
Your knees should be slightly bent. Bring the barbell down your body slowly and in a controlled manner. To do this, bend your upper body forward (your back is tense and straight or slightly arched). The barbell slowly descends on your thighs or lower legs until it is just in front of the floor. Breathe in as you do this.
Now bring your upper body back up a little faster by moving the barbell along your legs as well. When you reach the top, pull your shoulder blades together and stretch your chest forward. You should still keep your knees slightly bent. Exhale on the first upward movement.
Target: Whole Body
The deadlift is a barbell training option for many muscle groups in your body. Accordingly, arm, leg, shoulder, and abdominal muscles are used. However, the largest muscles that are trained here are the entire back and hamstring muscles.
Brains and Muscles
Deadlifting requires serious strength and sound technique. Poor technique can result in serious injury. Always pull your shoulders back and chest out to lock down your shoulder blades for this kind of exercise. This lowers the chances of having your hips come back too fast or rounding your lower back by creating enough tension.
Hard and Fast
Rack pulls are essential if you are having a difficult time performing a deadlift with a serious technique. It’s all about setting the bar up at a distance of about 30cm off the floor. You will gain strength in a small range of movement. Kettlebell swings can also help you improve your deadlift speed.
4. Back Squat
The correct execution of movements naturally plays a significant role. In the starting position, the barbell is behind your head. Your hands grip the barbell as far outside as possible in the clamp grip. Your feet are a little more than shoulder-width apart and rotate slightly outward.
Bring the weight down slowly and in a controlled manner by pressing your buttocks backward. Actively tense your legs and back! Make sure that your knees do not protrude above your toes as much as possible.
To protect your knee joints, you shouldn’t go more than 90 ° in depth. Always keep your feet completely on the ground (never lift your heels!) And keep your knees rigid (never rotate inwards!). Inhale.
Now push the weight up again at increased speed, mainly using the strength of your legs for this. Make sure that your feet are stable and do not move too much on the ground. Do not fully bend your knees at the top, but check the weight shortly beforehand. Exhale on the first upward movement.
Target: Quads, hamstrings, and glutes
Back squats or Barbell squats work all of your leg muscles and lower back. The so-called quadriceps, i.e., the front of your thigh, are particularly stressed here. Incidentally, the quadriceps are the largest and most powerful muscle in our body.
No Half Measures
Chances are you have seen people loading the before doing half reps in the squat rack if you have visited any gym. This is quite a waste of time. The best squat should have the hips come down to a level with your knees.
Failure to go deep will not help you achieve bigger and stronger muscles. Perfect your mobility for a few minutes before any squat session to avoid injury and get the best results.
Complete Body Benefits
Squats may be seen as a legs exercise, but it also benefits the upper part of your body, which is highly involved. The upper part of your body is essential during these exercises, especially if you include more weight. Always ensure your chest is high and your back is tight to improve your squat.
Include Bulgarian Split Squats
The lack of balance between your right and left sides can lead to poor movement patterns and injury in the long run. You should involve yourself in an exercise that will help you develop uniform strength to prevent that from happening.
Bulgarian split squats are the best option after doing your squats. Assume a split posture while holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you and the other behind before placing your back foot on a surface like a bench.
Lower your back knee to perform a split squat as you ensure your front knee remains vertical. This will ensure you develop leg strength, balance, and it is a perfect move for back squats.
5. Overhead Press
Putting your feet and shoulder wide apart, keep the bar in a position next to the upper part of your chest as you grip it with your hands shoulder-width apart. Your hands must be shoulder-width apart, and the bar is under your head at the level of the upper chest muscles. Take a slight lunge forward with your legs.
Your back stays straight again. Support your glutes, abs, and quads while pressing the bar straight up. Hold on slightly at the top before lowering gently. Lower the barbell back down in a controlled manner.
Deliberately stop the barbell briefly so that you don’t just push back up while swinging. As you do this, inhale to prepare for the next concentric movement. You will find yourself lifting more weight by tying up your thumbs almost the same side as your fingers to keep your forearms in the best position.
Target: Shoulders and triceps
The overhead press is an exercise for the entire shoulder muscles. The core muscles are also trained, as they have to stabilize the barbell during the movement.
The Only Way is Up
If you want to go heavy, you should press the weight overhead directly instead of slightly in front of you. Make sure it is over your center of gravity, going through your head, hips, top of the spine, and ankles. Squeeze your abs and glutes in line before pushing your head through after the bar is past your nose. Keeping your core tight adds about 10% to your weight lift. Remember to squeeze those glutes.
Keep Your Neck Protected
Start the move with the weight behind your neck for the best mobility in your overhead press. It is also applicable when you start the exercise with the bar behind your back. This move is vital for your back and rear delts, but you have to take a slightly wider grip and reduce the weight by around 30%.
Include the Landmine Press
Performing the landmine press after your overhead exercise is essential in improving shoulder stability. Squeeze one end of a bar in the corner of a room before doing the single-arm shoulder press. Stay firm and let your shoulder blades move as your abs remain firm.
The starting position is the same as for the squat. Your bar should be behind your head and your hands as far apart as possible in the clamp grip around the barbell for stabilization. Take a backward lunge so that you reach an angle of 90 ° with your front leg. Your back knee should touch the floor briefly.
The knee of your front leg shouldn’t protrude above the tip of your foot. Your upper body stays straight, and your lower back, in particular, is tense throughout the exercise. Inhale throughout the phase. Push the barbell explosively back up to the starting position. Use the strength of your bent leg for this. Exhale on the first upward movement.
Target: quads, glutes, and hamstrings
Lunges or lunges are primarily aimed at strengthening the entire leg muscles. In particular, your gluteal muscles are stressed here. You can also use lunges to train your core, i.e., your abdominal and lower back muscles.
Weight on your back heaps forces on the trunk despite the lunge being a lower body exercise. You should keep your trunk tight to become more powerful and feel more stable. Make yourself as tall as you can by pulling shoulders back and abs in.
Reverse to Progress
Making this move in reverse can benefit you in so many ways. You will develop balance, improve your body’s ability to feel one position, and harmonize movements. The reverse lunge is an excellent progression if you struggle with lunges due to flexors and tight hips.
Take a Long Lunge
There are multiple ways to perform lunges and get top-level benefits. Longer lunges are essential for developing power and speed. You should also engage your glutes by driving up through your front heel.
7. Power Clean
With your barbell on the floor, hold it as you maintain a shoulder-width grip. Lift your heels off the floor and lift the bar to your knees to your chest level. Hold on for a second before gently lowering the barbell for the next rep.
Target area: Whole body
Power clean is one of the best barbell exercises to increase your speed and power. It is highly preferred by athletes to improve their field performance. To build power, you have to improve speed against resistance. Power clean combines hang clean and deadlift, which allows you to develop full-body strength.
Warm Up Correctly
Always ensure you have perfectly warmed up and your lats and shoulders are mobile for smooth lifting.
If you are used to putting on tracksuit bottoms and are not worried about getting trunk-tree legs, you can opt for the hang clean version of this move. Here, you have to begin the move while holding the bar.
This move boosts your grip strength, which is vital for your squat clean ability and power. The version where the bar originates from the hips instead of the floor is the best if your main focus is on the upper body.
Power clean barbell exercises impose a high energy demand on your body, which shouldn’t be a reason to slow down after getting to your final set. Thrusters and box jumps are the best movements to use in a single session.
Box jumps enhance your power and speed, while thrusters are like a continuation of the movement because you switch from a front squat to a shoulder press. They help strengthen the link between the upper and lower body.