top 5 barbell exercises

The benefits of barbell training

A barbell is one of the most popular tools for strength and fitness. Often overlooked or perceived as a “man only” tool it is especially good for women whose goals are toning and weight loss. It’s a simple piece of equipment so learning basic moves is easy. It’s very stable so users can progress quickly and lift reasonably heavy amounts in a safe way. Progression is simple – just add more weight. It can also provide a varied workout as there are lots of different types of lifts or moves that you can do. Despite some claims that the barbell is one dimensional, it can also be used in many different planes, including rotation.

A barbell is a tool, not a system

Remember that the barbell is a tool, not a system, even though it is often used as the latter. It’s a great part of any fitness routine, but should be used in a system of periodisation with other tools. So 6-8 weeks of barbell training before moving on to something else for another 6-8 weeks (and on throughout the year) would be perfect to avoid plateaus. It will also provide variety and keep your interest up.

What sort of barbell?

We would recommend a 6 or 7 ft Olympic barbell, although a cheap standard barbell will do. Add some plates with a quick-release locking mechanism and you are all set. An Olympic barbell on its own weighs 20kg (a 7ft one) so for some this will be enough to get started. Some of the exercises here are landmine based. A landmine is a type of socket into which the barbell goes, fixing one end on the ground while allowing movement in all planes. At home, a towel or exercise mat folded up and placed where a wall joins the floor will work perfectly. The corner of a room will work too.

Top 5 barbell exercises

It’s no coincidence that our top 5 barbell exercises happen to cover all the principle human muscle movements – pushing, pulling, legs and core stability. So not only are these the top 5 barbell exercises, put them together and you have a balanced and complete strength training routine. The compound (multiple joint) nature of these exercises also means that you will get an elevated heart rate so there’s a cardio-vascular component too!

1 – Barbell chest press. Ideally use a bench for this, although a swiss ball is great too. You can even do it on the ground with a slight bridge. You may need a rack for this or a training partner, although with a lighter barbell you should be able to get the weight into position on your own. Keep the tempo slow (2 seconds up, 2 seconds down). Only lower the bar to 90 degrees at the elbow and keep the bar in line with the nipples, not the upper chest or shoulders. Muscles worked – chest, shoulders and triceps.  

top 5 barbell exercises

2 – Barbell deadlift. Keep a neutral spine, keep the tempo slow, ensure fully warmed up! Muscles worked – legs, back, core and forearms.  

top 5 barbell exercises


3 – Barbell bent-over row. Of all the exercises here, this is the most technical. Keeping a neutral spine is very important throughout so if it’s your first time begin with a standard barbell bent over row using a mirror, spotter or trainer to ensure that your back is in a stable, safe position. As with all the moves in our top 5, this one is a “super compound” working many large muscle groups at once. Works lats, triceps. biceps and posterior deltoid as well as core, back and legs.

top 5 barbell exercises

4 – Barbell landmine squat to press. Again a super compound exercise working multiple muscles at once so providing great effectiveness. Proper form on the squat is important with a neutral spine and solid base. Works – nearly everything!

top 5 barbell exercises


5 – Barbell landmine rotations. One of the best all-around core exercises there is – ditch your crunches and try this instead – it works far more muscles and is both more functional and challenging. Seldom seen in the gym or home workout but it should be! Keep the core braced against the barbell rotation. Keep the knees soft and go at a controlled pace. Works – arms, core, back and abs.

top 5 barbell exercises
 If you would like a full introduction along with personal coaching and professional help, contact us for a free consultation.