Training

Barbell Workouts | 16 Barbell Exercises to Build Strength & Stay Toned

Gyms might not be opening anytime soon (unfortunately), but let’s not forget the benefits of barbell exercises. If you’re lucky enough to have a barbell at home, you’ll know they’re a great way to build strength and stay toned during your home workouts.

 The below barbell exercises will provide the perfect full-body burn at home and will help you to continue to push yourself and see that all-important progression. Add a few of these barbell exercises into your workout and you’ll be ready to hit the gym hard when the time comes. 

Barbell Back Exercises

 1. Barbell Bent-Over Row

 Ready to build a bigger, stronger back? The barbell bent-over row is perfect for building strength in the back muscles that will also help you with other compound movements such as squats, chest press, and deadlifts. 

  1. Feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lean forward from your waist. 
  2. Your knees should be bent, but your back should remain straight, and your neck in line with your spine. 
  3. When you grab the bar, your hands should be just wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing downwards and your arms should be straight, with soft elbows.
  4. Brace your core and squeeze your shoulders together to row the weight up until it touches your sternum
  5. slowly lower the bar back down again, and repeat.

 

2. Deadlift

 The deadlift is the king of compound movements that everyone should be conquering regardless as to their goals or needs. If you plan to improve your strength and total body muscle, then it’s time to integrate deadlifts into your training. 

  1. Position your feet hip-width apart and grip the floor with your feet. Maintain a relatively vertical shin angle. Bring your shoulders over the bar, and hinge at the hip, driving your bum down towards the floor. 
  2. Contract your lats, pulling them back and down, using the bar to pull your body in tight and lift your chest to set you back. 
  3. Take a deep breath in, engage your core, and drive through the floor with your legs, keeping the bar tight to your body.
  4. Lock your hips out at the top, engaging your quads, glutes, and lats. 
  5. Maintaining tension in your core, hinge from your hip, and, maintaining a tight bar to the body, return to the starting position in a controlled lowering movement. 

 

3. Pendlay Row

 If you’re looking to build on strength and explosive movements, then the Pendlay row is your new best friend. This compound movement helps to increase strength and also teaches good position to help with further lifts such as snatches, cleans and deadlifts.

  1. Set up with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. This is to increase the use of your lats and widen your back in the movement.
  2. Set your hips in line with your shoulders and keep your lower back flat
  3. Leaving the barbell on the floor, pull your core tight to create tension
  4. With an explosive movement, pull the barbell to the base of your chest – ensuring your shoulders stay down and hips don’t move forward.
  5. Return the barbell to the floor with control, reset your position, and repeat the explosive movement. 

 

4. Romanian Deadlift

This deadlift variation helps build a stronger back but also targets your hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back, as well as the core. The variation is perfect for every ability level and ensures effective strength and tone development strength in the posterior chain. 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, the barbell should be just over your laces. 
  2. Bend down and grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and a slight bend at the knees.
  3. Push your hips back, keeping your knees soft, and set your back
  4. Using your hamstrings and glutes, push down through the legs, and stand upwards keeping the barbell tight to your body
  5. At the top of the movement contract the upper back, core, and glutes.
  6. Lower the barbell to start position by hinging at the hip, keeping knees soft and backset.

 

Arm Exercises

 5. Barbell Curl

Ready to add strength and size to your biceps as well as improve forearm and grip strength? Barbell curls allow you to work with heavier loads than other curl variations.  

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, pull your shoulder blades back and down and lift the chest.
  2. Squeeze the bar ensuring elbows are pulling in tight to the body.
  3. Curl the bar up and out slightly lifting to the chest, bending from the elbow
  4. Ensure the biceps stay contracted at the top of the lift
  5. Curl the bar back down controlling the eccentric stage.
  6. Note – keep the hip still without rocking to ensure all movement is made by the bicep.

 

6. Barbell Concentration Curl

If you’re looking to isolate and your biceps, in order to build strength, then the barbell concentration curl is for you. 

  1. Sitting down on a chair or bench with your arms extended down between your legs, feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Hold the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up), lean forward engaging the back muscles and so your arms touch your inner thighs.
  3. Keep your arms tight to your legs and curl the bar upwards toward our shoulders, ensuring to contract the bicep fully
  4. Hold at the top of the movement before lowering.
  5. Curl the bar back down controlling the eccentric stage.

 

7. Palm-up Wrist Curl

Stronger forearms mean stronger grip which in turn means you can lift and carry more weight allowing you to build strength and power in bigger lifts.  

  1. Sitting down on a chair or bench with legs shoulder-width and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Hold the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up), forearms against your thighs.
  3. Lean forward and ensure your wrists over the top of your knees. 
  4. Lower the bar towards the floor bending only from the wrist as far and you can go.
  5. Curl the bar back up as far the wrist can go towards you ensuring to squeeze through the forearm.

 

8. EZ Overhead Tricep Extension

 This move targets all three heads of the tricep to build strength and muscle as well as strength the core and lower back.  

  1. Holding an EZ bar, lie flat on your back on a bench. Extend arms straight up over shoulders. This is your starting position.
  2. Now bend elbows and slowly lower the bar down. The bar should come down close to your forehead or slightly over the head until elbows are bend 90 degrees or less.
  3. Now Straighten arms back to the starting position, keeping elbows shoulder-width apart to perform one rep.

 

9. EZ Bar Bicep Curl

Add in an EZ bar to reduce the pressure through your wrists, elbows and even shoulders but still build strength and size in your biceps.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, pull your shoulder blades back and down and lift the chest.
  2. Squeeze the bar ensuring elbows are pulling in tight to the body.
  3. Curl the bar up and out slightly lifting to the chest, bending from the elbow
  4. Ensure the biceps stay contracted at the top of the lift
  5. Curl the bar back down controlling the eccentric stage.
  6. Note – keep the hip still without rocking to ensure all movement is made by the bicep.

 

10. Decline EZ Bar Tricep Extension

Build bigger and stronger triceps with a wider range of motion and greater stretch and activation on all three heads.  

 

  1. Start by laying on your back on a decline bench holding the EZ bar with an overhand grip. 
  2. Extend your arms up so they are straight up and perpendicular to your chest with your elbows tucked in.
  3. Start to lower the bar towards your face, bending at the elbow.  
  4. Control the movement till you feel the stretch in your tricep, hold the movement for a second.
  5. Return to the starting position by reversing the movement by extending the elbows and locking out the triceps.

 

Chest Exercises

11. Bench Press

The weightlifting classic is popular amongst most gym-goers, the barbell bench press is a staple chest exercise that builds strength and size in your pectorals.  

  1. Lie flat on your back on a bench and set your hand’s shoulder-width apart on the bar. 
  2. Set your back by pinching your shoulder blades together driving them into the bench.
  3. Take a deep breath lifting the bar up above the chest arms extended.  
  4. Keeping tension in the back slowly lower the bar to the base of your sternum bending at the elbow.
  5. Just before the bar touches your chest drive it back up by extending the elbows, squeezing your pectorals and driving your feet into the ground.

 

12. Incline Bench Press

A variation of the classic movement the inclined bench press allows you to target the upper portion of the chest muscles.   

 

  1. Lie flat on your back on an incline bench and set your hand’s shoulder-width apart on the bar. 
  2. Set your back by pinching your shoulder blades together driving them into the bench.
  3. Take a deep breath lifting the bar up above the chest arms extended.  
  4. Keeping tension in the back slowly lower the bar to the base of your sternum bending at the elbow.
  5. Just before the bar touches your chest, drive it back up by extending the elbows, squeezing your pectorals and driving your feet into the ground.

 

Leg Exercises

 

13. Barbell Hip Thrust

One of the best moves for strengthening and building the glutes, but it’s not only your glutes that benefit from this exercise your hamstrings and quads are also utilised, which will help to build speed and power in your legs alongside strength.   

 

  1. Sit on the ground with your back against a bench or chair and the barbell over your hips, your knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lean back so that your shoulders are on the bench, and drive your hips up towards the sky, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Your knees should be at 90 degrees and your body forming a straight line between your shoulders and knees.  
  4. Squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement, hold for a second.
  5. Slowly lower your hips down controlling the movement to return to start position.

 

14. Barbell Bulgarian Squat

The exercise you love to hate, the barbell Bulgarian squat helps with overall strength and size in the muscle and also works the core, upper and lower back to maintain stability and positioning.

 

  1. Stand with the barbell across your shoulders with your back towards your bench. 
  2. One leg should be resting on the bench with your foot flat (laces falling down) so your knee is bent in a 90-degree angle.
  3. Start the movement by squatting with your leg that is standing hinging at the hip and bending the knee, while also driving the back knee towards the floor.   
  4. Keeping your core tight throughout the entire movement, when your back knee touches the floor pause.
  5. Drive through your front foot to straighten the leg and return to starting position.

 

15. Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Working the entire posterior chain this exercise grows and targets your hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back, as well as the core. The perfect accessory movement for the deadlift.

 

  1. Stand with the barbell across the laces of your shoes with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Hinge at the hip, pushing your bum back so your back is flat and parallel to the floor (knees should be soft but not bent).
  3. Reach down with straight arms and with an overhand grip hold the bar at the shoulder width, tension your core and set your back pulling all your muscles tight (ensure your hips are in line with your shoulders and your back is flat).   
  4. Take a deep breath keeping tension in the torso, drive your hips forward and push through your feet as if to push the floor away.
  5. Keeping the bar tight to the body as you stand up straight, squeezing your glutes and locking out the hip at the top.
  6. Reserve the movement by hinging forward from the hip, keeping the core tight and set the bar back onto the floor. 

 

16. Barbell Lunge

Another staple exercise to have in any workout, the barbell lunge is a strength exercise that works the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, but will also improve hip and core stability. 

 

  1. Set the barbell on your back across your shoulders and your hands should have a wider grip on the bar to stabilise, and feet should be hip-width apart. 
  2. Step forward with one leg, brace your core and set your back pulling your shoulder blades back and down.
  3. Start the movement by squatting down through your hips. Keep your upper body straight and head up. Make sure to not let your knee to track out over your toes’.   
  4. When both knees are at a 90-degree angle hold for a second before pushing yourself back to the starting position driving through the heels of your feet.
  5. Return to starting position and repeat ensure to switch legs.

 


Can you build muscle with just a barbell?

If you’re looking to build muscle, a barbell could be your answer. The ability to perform such a variety of full-body exercises, which can target your chest, back, lower body and abdominals means you can gain mass all over your body with only one piece of equipment. The use of compound movements can also help to increase your strength and the total amount of weight you can lift over time.

 

How often should you do barbell complexes?

Barbell complexes are a great blend of strength and cardio. You should work constantly without pulling the barbell down throughout. The frequency of use depends on your current training levels.

If you’re a beginner or barbell complexes are new for you, try adding them into your routines 1-2 times a week to allow for muscle soreness. However, as you begin to increase your training, complexes can be included more regularly, about 4-5 times per week

 

Can you get a full-body workout with just a barbell?

 

The Barbell is one of the most used pieces of equipment because you can work the entire body with it. The variety of exercises that can be performed with a barbell mean you can cut fat, grow muscle and increase strength anywhere on the body without having the need for much space while you’re still stuck at home.

 

How can I make my barbell exercises more difficult?

 The simplest way to make Barbell exercises more difficult is to load weight onto it as you become stronger. However, in the current climate, with additional weight not being readily available, you can make exercises more difficult by slowing the movement down, adding in complexes, or trying variants of standard barbell movements.

 

Take Home Message

 So, whether you’re looking to start lifting heavier weights or for a change of pace to your home workouts, it might be time to add some of these barbell workouts into your weekly routine. These barbell movements are a good place to start and will have you building lean muscle and strength in no time.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Amy Golby

Amy Golby

Personal Trainer & Exercise Nutritionist

Amy has been a sportswoman for over 18 years playing rugby and netball up to a national level, she has been a qualified personal trainer for 5 years and further her nutritional knowledge with a diploma in sports and exercise nutrition as well a psychology degree. She has been training in a gym and weightlifting for over 10 years and continues to learn and improve her training in order to reach her goals. She believes in both the physical and mental advantages of sport and fitness as well as a balanced diet and lifestyle. Amy has created programs around sport and fitness for Red Bull, Look magazine, Spartan UK, as well as Mental Movement UK around how fitness can help improve your mental health. In her spare time, Amy enjoys playing sport, socialising with friends, and fuelling her shopping addiction to gym wear. She can be found here - https://www.instagram.com/dreams_and_dumbbells/?hl=en


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