In our last post we looked at the benefits of barbell training and why a barbell can be such a great tool – especially for women whose goals are toning and weight loss. It’s a simple tool so learning basic moves is easy; it’s very stable so users can progress quickly and lift reasonably heavy amounts is a safe way; progression is simple – just add more weight; it can 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.
But what sort of moves should you be doing with a barbell? 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 also get an elevated heart rate so there’s a cardio-vascular component too!
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, provide variety and keep your interest up.
Top 5 barbell exercises
We would recommend a 6 or 7 ft olympic barbell, although even a cheap standard barbell will do. Add some plates with a quick release locking mechanism and you’re good to go. Many 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!
1 – Barbell chest press. 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.
2 – Barbell deadlift. Keep a neutral spine, keep the tempo slow, ensure fully warmed up! Muscles worked – legs, back, core and forearms.
3 – Barbell landmine one arm 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 super compound, working many large muscle groups at once.
4 – Barbell landmine squat to press. Again a super compound exercise woking multiple muscles at once so providing great effectiveness. Proper form on the squat is important with a neutral spine and solid base.
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.