The classic barbell is a mainstay in fitness and human performance. Its beauty is in its simplicity and effectiveness, which makes it the best piece of training equipment you can own.
In fact, it’s all you need.
You don’t even have to have many exercise to get an insane workout. Here are the 12 top barbell exercises to do, and simple variations to help spice up your routine.
The article covers:
- How to use the barbell for muscle growth and strength development
- Benefits of barbell training
- 12 best barbell exercises and variations
- 4-day barbell workout plan
- Nutrition tips for optimal training and results
What Is A Barbell?
We first need to clarify what a barbell is. Barbells are comprised of a long, solid piece of metal with two thicker pieces on the end known as collars to load the barbell.
Over the years, barbells have evolved in size and function. Today, there are a few common styles, including Olympic barbells, squat barbells, and power barbells.
Generally speaking, the Olympic barbell is the most common style in a typical gym. These come in two sizes:
- Men’s Olympic Barbell: 7.2 Feet Long and 44 pounds with a 1.1-inch diameter
- Women’s Olympic Barbell: 6.5 ft Long and 33 pounds with a 0.98-inch diameter
Benefits Of Barbell Exercises
There’s a reason barbell training is the primary method for anyone serious about building strength and gaining muscle mass. You need to include more barbell exercises in your training program, and here’s why.
1. Barbells Are Highly Versatile:
The barbell is simply a tool to create an artificial load. Being so, there are very few limitations on how you can use one to perform an exercise.
This means that you can train the entire body with just a barbell. Every muscle group can be hit with this one piece of equipment, and all of the best compound exercises can incorporate a barbell.
Therefore, you need just a barbell paired with chin-ups to train the entire body.
2. Barbell Training Is Cost Effective:
Due to barbells being so versatile, they are easily the most cost-effective means if you want to train at home. The only other pieces of equipment you would need to buy are:
- Weight plates for loading
- A squat rack or power rack
- Weight bench
You can buy all that for the price of one machine that only trains one movement pattern.
3. You Use More Muscle Mass:
The majority of barbell exercises consist of multi-joint movements, as that’s what they are designed to do. In other words, they’re designed to train multiple large muscle groups at once.
While machines allow compound movements, barbells do a better job of strengthening stabilizer muscle groups. These are muscles that support our primary muscles and provide balance.
4. Barbell Exercises Are More Functional:
Barbells are free weights that allow you to replicate the basic movement patterns one sees in real life, such as pushing, pulling, standing up, and kneeling.
Further, barbell training requires balance and higher activation in the stabilizer muscles because the barbell is a free weight. This more realistically mimics real life.
5. Easy To Use Progressive Load:
Progressive overload is the key to building strength and muscle mass. Because barbells are loaded with plates and use a definite weight, it’s easy to monitor your progress and apply heavier loads.
Advanced lifters can even get microplates, which are weight plates that weigh a fraction of a pound. These are essential to providing a minimal increase in weight.
6. Barbell Exercises Stimulate Higher Increase In Hormones:
Resistance training, in general, is going to improve your hormone levels. In fact, just being physically active will have a positive effect when compared to being sedentary.
That said, using heavy compound lifts is superior and creates a larger secretion of hormones. And recent research shows that when comparing barbell movements to a similar machine movement (i.e., squat vs. leg press), the barbell releases a greater amount¹.
7. You burn More Calories With Barbell Training:
We firmly believe that the primary purpose for weight lifting falls under a few categories:
- Stimulating muscle growth or building strength
- Maintaining muscle mass or strength
- Improving performance variables such as power output
In other words, you do not choose an exercise for weight loss. Creating a caloric deficit, like through a cutting workout and diet plan, along with eating the best foods for muscles is your primary means of controlling your weight.
That said, weight training does burn calories, and because barbells allow heavy loads and use so much muscle mass, it burns more calories. Don’t think of this as the reason to use barbell training; rather, it’s more like a sweet little bonus.
Main Muscle Groups
Your body has a lot of muscles, and each one is hit with barbell training. Because we cover a lot in this article, we will briefly review them with basic descriptions. However, we encourage you to take the time to learn anatomy more in-depth.
- Pectoralis Major: The pectoralis major consists of the upper chest (clavicular head) and lower chest (sternocostal head). These are the primary movers for upper body pushing motions.
- Pectoralis Minor: A smaller muscle that lays underneath the pectoralis major near the upper chest and connects the arm.
- Intercostal: A group of several muscles that run between the ribs and allow respiration.
The back muscles are responsible for pulling, extending the spine, and providing structure to the torso, always working in unison. In other words, basically any compound back exercise is going to train every back muscle.
The major back muscles are:
- Lats: This is the largest muscle of the upper body. The lats run down the spine and pull the shoulders down and back, like in the lat pull-down exercise.
- Traps: The traps consist of three parts. In totality, the traps connect to the base of the skull and run down approximately 1/3 of the back. They then fan out to the shoulders. These 4 points give them an appearance of a trapezoid hence their name.
- Rhomboids: Comprised of two muscles, rhomboid major and rhomboid minor, they are responsible for retracting, elevating, and rotating the shoulder blades. The two muscles form a rhomboid shape on the upper-middle back.
- Erector Spinae: The erector spinae begins near the end of the spine and runs up about 2/3 of the way. As it travels up, it branches off into three “fingers” on each side.
The shoulder muscles, also known as the deltoids, consist of three muscle heads. Together, these three muscles fully manipulate the arms. Different shoulder exercises target separate parts of the shoulder, but a few stand-out moves, like the overhead press, hit all the muscle heads at once.
The shoulder muscles include:
- Anterior Deltoid (front shoulder muscles)
- Lateral Deltoid (middle shoulder muscles on the outside of the shoulder)
- Posterior Deltoid (rear shoulder muscles)
The arms consist of two sections: the upper arms and lower arms.
Together, there are basically three different muscle groupings:
- Biceps: These upper arm muscles flex the elbow and manipulate the forearm.
- Triceps: These upper arm muscles are responsible for extending the elbow.
- Forearm Muscles: They manipulate the hand and are responsible for grip strength.
The glutes are a set of three muscles that sit on the buttocks. Together, these muscles are the strongest in the human body and are primarily responsible for hip extension. They also play a role in virtually every movement the human body makes. And as a bonus, they can also make your jeans look phenomenal, which is probably why butt-lifting exercises are so popular.
- Gluteus Maximus: The largest and strongest of the 3 muscles, it acts as the primary hip extensor.
- Gluteus Medius: The gluteus medius sits on the outside of the leg and is responsible for hip abduction. Further, it plays a large role in balance, especially on one leg.
- Gluteus Minimus: The gluteus minimus sits under the gluteus minimus and has virtually the same roles.
The hamstrings sit on the posterior of the upper leg and consist of 3 muscles. Together, they are the primary knee flexors and play a role in hip extension. You’ll see one or both of these movements in the best hamstring exercises.
- Biceps Femoris
The quadriceps contain four muscles that sit on the front of the upper thigh. Together, these muscles work together in quad exercises and in daily life as the primary knee extender.
- Rectus Femoris
- Vastus Lateralis
- Vastus Intermedius
- Vastus Medialis
The rectus femoris is the only quadricep muscle involved in hip flexion.
The Best Barbell Movements
When we look at the human body, there are several primary movements that we want to try to replicate, making pulling exercises, pushing workouts, squatting, lunging, and hinging crucial for any routine.
We’re starting with the only movement impossible to replicate with a barbell, and that’s vertical pulling. Vertical pulling refers to exercises in which the arms grab an object from overhead and pull it toward the body.
Horizontal pulling is when you pull an object toward your body. All of the back muscles and biceps are involved in horizontal pulling.
Vertical pushing occurs when you have an object overhead such as in the overhead press when you press the barbell overhead. The muscle trained are the shoulders, chest, and triceps.
Horizontal pushing occurs when you push an object away from the body, such as in the bench press. The muscle trained are the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Many people confuse squats and hip-hinges. The main distinguishing factor is movement and flexion of the knee. When the knee comes forward and involves more knee extension (quadriceps activation), it’s a squat.
Compared to the squat, in a true hip-hinge, the knee stays stationary and the shin vertical. The primary joint is the hips, with the posterior muscles being the primary movers.
The main muscles worked are the glutes and hamstrings. However, the erector spinae often plays a role in many hip-hinge movements.
A lunge is a movement in which a person takes a step forward with one foot and then lowers the body. Lunge exercises train every muscle in the lower body as well as improve balance.
There are also several types of lunges, such as the reverse lunge, which will hit the muscles differently.
The Best Barbell Exercises For Upper and Lower Body Training
We will break down the best barbell exercises into the upper and lower body to keep things organized.
Top Upper Body Barbell Exercises
First on the list are the best barbell exercises for the upper body. These barbell exercises will train the muscles that make up the chest, shoulders, back, and arms.
1. Overhead Press:
The standing barbell overhead press is probably the most underused barbell movement on this list, likely due to its difficulty. It involves pressing a loaded barbell straight overhead from the chest, and locking out the arms.
A cool fact about the overhead press is that it was actually an original movement in Olympic weightlifting. It was eventually taken out due to difficulty keeping standards for correct form (athletes began bending the back to extremes), but its legacy remains.
The overhead press might be the most challenging barbell exercise there is, but it will cause your upper body strength to blow up. Worth it!
How to do the Overhead Press:
- Set up an empty barbell on a rack. The bar should be placed lower than shoulder height around the middle pecs. You do not want to get on your tippy toes, so if you have to choose, set the bar so it’s near your lower pec muscles rather than your upper chest.
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Get under the barbell with your elbows pushed in front of the barbell.
- Your thumbs should be touching the outside of the shoulder with the barbell resting on the clavicle and deltoids. Extend your legs, unrack the barbell, and take 2 steps back.
- At this point, be sure the barbell is resting on your body. Many new lifters will hold the barbell off the chest, which eats up energy.
- Tighten the core muscles and glutes to create a firm base. When ready, drive the straight barbell overhead.
- As the bar reaches the head, tuck it back until the bar passes and then pop it back in place. This allows the barbell to travel in a straight line.
- Finish driving the bar straight above the head until your elbows are extended with the weight overhead.
2. Barbell Bench Press:
Let’s get into the horizontal press now. Perhaps the most popular barbell exercise, the barbell bench press is also one of the most misunderstood.
It is an amazing movement to improve the pushing strength and the upper body’s overall musculature. However, it’s not necessarily the greatest chest movement as many make it out to be.
The flat barbell bench press does train the chest, but it’s actually more effective in increasing the size and strength of the triceps. Still, it remains one of the best barbell exercises because it is fundamental in providing a solid base to work from. You can also adjust your hand position, changing your barbell bench press grip to target different upper body muscles during the exercise.
We will also include several variations after our how-to, along with any modifications you need to make.
How to do the Barbell Bench Press:
- Set up a bench and load the barbell. Lay down on the bench with your eyes directly beneath the barbell.
- Grab the barbell wider slightly than shoulder-width apart. The barbell should sit in the crease of the thumb. To do this, reach your hand around the barbell. This will help keep your wrist straight during the movement.
- Before unracking the barbell, dig your shoulder blades into the mat. Next, tuck your feet back. This doesn’t need to be extreme, but you should have minimal tuck. This position causes your body to become much more stable and solid.
- Unrack the barbell and bring it forward, so your arms are straight. This places it above your upper chest. Slowly lower the barbell down toward your lower chest. This means the barbell bench press is one of the few exercises in which the barbell does not travel straight.
- As the barbell lowers, keep your elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle. Let the barbell touch your chest and then drive it back up.
- As you drive the barbell up, it makes a “J” as it travels up and back.
Incline Barbell Bench Press Variation:
Most will put the bench at 45-degree angle. However, play around with smaller angles as well. The only difference is the barbell will come down higher on your chest, and the incline will hit the upper chest more.
Decline Bench Press Variation:
Again, experiment with various angles but the max should be 45-degrees. The barbell will come down on your lower chest, and the decline will target the lower chest to a higher degree.
Close Grip Bench Press Variation:
Grab the barbell slightly narrower than shoulder width apart. As the barbell comes down, be sure to tuck your elbows. This creates greater flexion of the elbow while lessening the activity of the chest.
Wide Grip Bench Press Variation:
Place your hands wider than a traditional grip. This will cause less flexion in the elbow and greater activation in the chest.
3. Barbell Bent Over Row:
Let’s hit those back muscles now, shall we? The barbell bent over row should be your primary exercise for building your back muscles. It’s really that simple.
This single movement is going to hit every single muscle in your entire back. If that’s not enough, the bent-over row does a lot more, including training your biceps, particularly with an underhand grip, requires an intense isometric contraction in your posterior chain (erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings), and needs total core activation to support being bent over.
There are several barbell bent over row grips, and utilizing all of them will help you target each of the major back muscles differently.
Pay attention to the starting position for the bent-over row. It tends to be very difficult for some people, so take your time when first training.
How to do the Barbell Bent Over Row:
- Load a barbell on the ground and stand in the middle with a comfortable stance. Your feet should be somewhere between shoulder width apart and hip width stance.
- Bend down and use and grab the barbell with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and an overhand grip. This prep portion should look similar to a deadlift. Stand up erect.
- Now time for the starting position. Push the hips back slightly and lean your torso forward while bending your knees slightly. Pull your shoulder blades back to maintain a straight, ridged back.
- Keep coming down while keeping a slight bend in your knee. You must drop the torso forward enough that the arms hang freely in front of your knees.
- Try to get your torso as parallel to the ground as possible. The more parallel you get, the more emphasis you place on the back. When ready, brace and pull the barbell up to the belly.
- As you pull, have your elbows bent at a 45-degree angle. Think about pulling your elbows to the ceiling rather than pulling the barbell up. This will encourage proper form and maximal use of the back muscles.
- Pull all the way up and then slowly lower the barbell.
Use an underhand grip shoulder width apart, which is more narrow than the traditional grip. Your arms should slide against your body straight back, creating greater flexion in the elbows (greater bicep activation) and increasing your range of motion.
Top Lower Body Barbell Exercises
Now, it’s time for the lower half. When using a barbell to train the lower body, you will hit every muscle in every movement. However, we still have more than one exercise due to how different movements activate the muscles differently.
1. Barbell Back Squat:
The barbell back squat is the king of lower body exercise. It trains the entire lower body while placing huge stress on the core (in a good way). The barbell back squat is the best exercise to create strength in the lower body.
Often seen as a competition with the deadlift, these two are separate, but equally awesome, exercises. That said, we rank it as the No. 1 lower body exercise simply because of the much larger range of motion seen in the knees and hips.
Further, the back squat also requires significantly more mobility in your lower body joints.
How to do the Barbell Back Squat:
- Set up a barbell on either a squat rack or power rack slightly lower than shoulder height. Again, you don’t want to have to get on your tippy toes to unrack the barbell.
- Place hands wider than shoulder-width apart with an overhand grip. Get under the barbell and place it on the upper portion of your back at shoulder level. It should lay across your traps.
- Unrack the barbell and take two steps back. Brace your core and push your hips back to begin the movement.
- As you lower, aim to have the bar drop straight down. Maintain a tight core and straight back the whole time.
- Continue dropping your hips back but allow your knees to travel forward, ensuring they always track over your toes. Continue until the top of your thigh breaks parallel, and drive back up by pushing your feet down.
2. Barbell Deadlift:
If the barbell back squat is the king of lower body exercises, that would mean the deadlift is the king of all exercises. While there’s definitely room for debate on this, the deadlift is arguably the best of the best barbell exercises. Implementing the deadlift into your regular program will greatly strengthen and develop a ton of your major muscle groups.
Generally listed as a lower body exercise, the deadlift really stresses the entire body, primarily the lower body and back.
How to do the Barbell Deadlift:
- Load a barbell on the ground. Stand next to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Most people stand too wide so pay attention to this.
- The barbell should be over your midfoot and an inch or so away from your shin. Push your hips back to lower your body.
- As you lower, your shins will come forward slightly and make contact with the barbell. However, they should be relatively vertical.
- Continue dropping your body so your shoulders drop straight down until you can grab the barbell. Grab the barbell, so your hands are just outside your legs.
- Pull your shoulder blades back and push your chest forward. Your back should be tight and straight. Be sure to have your feet flat on the ground with your weight spread evenly across your feet.
- Your arms should parallel your shins and all your joints “tight.” This is the starting position. When ready, brace your core and drive your feet down to the ground to pull the bar straight up your legs to the knee. At this point, your back should be at the same angle.
- Once the barbell passes your knees, you begin to drive your hips forward until your body is erect.
- Slowly lower the weight going down. Using a big weight, you can do a controlled drop. You let the bar drop but give some guidance and resistance. This is to minimize bounce or the bar getting away. There are very few situations in which dropping the bar is acceptable.
Snatch Grip Deadlift Variation:
An effective and easy variation is widening your bar grip and using a snatch grip. This is roughly 1.5 times your normal grip. It doesn’t need to be exact, so an easy method is to place your index or middle finger on the outermost ring. From here, everything else remains the same.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust:
Interestingly, the barbell hip thrust is the only single joint exercise on this list. However, that joint is the hip and utilizes the strongest muscles in the human body, the glutes.
This means the load can be placed directly on the joint in the hip crease providing a direct force. In fact, this is the only exercise that does this. That said, it is basically universally agreed that it is the best glute exercise.
How to do the Barbell Hip Thrust:
- Set up a steady bench. Sit in front with your knees bent and upper back digging in the bench.
- Place a barbell in your hip crease and place your hands on the barbell for balance.
- When ready, drive your heels into the ground and drive your hips up. Continue until your torso is 100% extended. Slowly lower and repeat.
4. Barbell Forward Lunge:
The barbell lunge will switch things up a bit as it’s the only unilateral exercise on this list. While both legs are involved, the primary muscles activated only occur in one leg.
Other than giving you the ability to identify muscular imbalances, the lunge is perfect for improving balance and moving a weight under motion.
How to do the Barbell Forward Lunge:
- Place a barbell on your back or front, similarly to either the front squat or back squat, depending on your preference. Hold the barbell at least wider than shoulder-width apart to help balance.
- Stand with a neutral stance. Take one big step forward. You may need to play around to get the right distance.
- Keeping your toes straight, lower your body straight down.
- As you lower to the ground, your knees should begin to form a 90-degree angle, and the front shin and rear thigh should be vertical as the rear knee hits the floor.
- Push off the forward leg, returning it back to standing. Repeat on the opposite side.
5. Barbell Front Squat:
Don’t be confused. When it comes to front squats vs. back squats, both may be barbell squats but are rather different in biomechanics and muscle activation.
The front squat gets its name as the barbell is placed on the front of the body rather than on the back (which makes sense). Even though this may only mean the bar placement differs by a few inches, those inches cross the body’s center of gravity.
As a result, the body’s biomechanics are drastically altered as the body lowers to keep the bar over the ankle straight. For this to occur, the torso remains much more vertical with less hip flexion.
This should create higher activation in the quadriceps but the data actually isn’t that clear. However, one major benefit is there’s less force on the spine². Plus, there’s also serious activation of the core muscles and upper back to prevent it from flopping over. In fact, studies even show it generates more muscle activity in the shoulder muscles compared to an overhead squat³!
How to do the Barbell Front Squat:
- Rack a barbell so that it sits at about mid-chest level. Walk up to the barbell and bend down to get under it.
- Lift your arms out straight in front of you. This will cause your anterior deltoid to cause a lump. The barbell will sit behind this lump. Flex your elbows and reach back to balance the barbell with your hands.
- Stand up, keeping your elbows pointing out straight. This is called the front rack position. Step back with feet flat and hip-width apart.
- Push your hips back to squat. Your torso will remain upright during the front squat to keep the barbell over your feet. Continue dropping until the top of your thigh hits parallel. Power back up.
- As you rise, focus on driving your elbows up. This will help maintain an erect torso.
6. Barbell Romanian Deadlift:
The last lower body exercise is the Romanian deadlift. This hip hinge movement has a similar movement pattern as the deadlift and uses the same muscles. There are a few major differences, however, including that the starting position begins with standing, the hips have greater flexion, and the knees are slightly bent. And finally, the loaded barbell never touches the ground.
As a result, the Romanian deadlift is a much more effective exercise to hit the posterior chain.
How to do the Barbell Romanian Deadlift:
- Load a barbell and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower down and grab the bar with an overhand shoulder-width grip or slightly wider.
- Stand up with a form similar to a deadlift. This is the starting position.
- Take a deep breath, and push your hips back, keeping a minimal bend in the knees. Pull your shoulder blades back to maintain an erect and ridged back.
- Start to slowly lower the barbell in a straight line down your body. It doesn’t need to touch your body but should remain close. As you lower, think about building tension in the glutes and hamstring.
- Continue lowering but keep the knees slightly bent. The goal is not to reach the ground but to build tension in the posterior chain. Lower until you at least pass the knees slightly. From here, continue but once your form begins to break, stop. The easiest sign is your back will begin to round, and your shoulder blades will come forward. Once this starts to happen, stop.
- Begin coming back up but concentrate on driving your hips forward. We like to do the concentric portion explosively.
- Push your hips forward until you’re erect back in the starting position.
You can also use the snatch grip with the Romanian deadlift.
Power Barbell Exercises
Every athlete needs some power in their training. Here are two of our favorites.
1. Power Clean And Jerk:
The clean and jerk is an amazing power exercise, combining two movements into one of the most challenging barbell exercises. While it can take some time to learn, it would benefit any athlete who puts in the time and wants to improve their strength and lean body mass. The power clean is easier to perform compared to a full clean as you don’t need to drop into a squat.
How to do the Power Clean and Jerk:
- Set up similar to a deadlift but use a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Push your chest up farther so it’s more vertical.
- You may need to sink your hips more. Begin the movement by driving your feet into the ground and driving up.
- Your back will remain at the same angle until the barbell passes the knees. At this point, perform triple extension and forcefully push your hips forwards to extend your joints.
- Immediately perform a power shrug by shrugging and allowing the barbell to travel up your body. Be sure to bring your elbows up high.
- As the bar travels up, drop into a 1/4 squat and pull your body under the bar. Flip your elbows up and catch the barbell in the front rack position. Fully extend your knees.
- Now, drop slightly (no more than 1/4 squat) and then forcefully extend your hips to drive the barbell up. Use your arms to help drive the bar completely overhead as you split your legs so one is in front of the other.
- Make sure the front leg is fully extended, while the back leg is flexed slightly. Fully straighten your arms, fully locking the bar overhead.
2. Snatch Grip High Pull:
The snatch grip high pulls a highly effective power movement. Also, it will build a crazy strong upper back.
We like it because it’s much simpler to perform than other Olympic movements. At the end of the day, it’s a clean without actually catching the bar.
How to do the Snatch Grip High Pull:
- Grab the barbell in a similar manner to the snatch grip deadlift. You can move the grip slightly narrower if needed.
- One difference is you want to try to get your chest up higher, so you may need to sink your hips lower. Begin driving up by driving your feet into the ground. Your upper body will remain the same until the barbell hits your knees.
- At this point, you will forcefully implement triple extension driving your hips forward. As soon as you hit extension, you are performing a power shrug and pulling the barbell high. Be sure to keep your elbows elevated high.
- Instead of catching the barbell, you will simply let it fall to the ground using a controlled drop.
The Best Barbell Core Exercise
You probably weren’t expecting to see a core exercise on here, but – surprise! Most barbell exercises people speak about are those performed for the upper and lower body. However, this single barbell exercise is likely the only core exercise you’ll need to do.
That’s why there’s only one.
1. The Barbell Rollout:
Who needs dumbbell ab exercises when you have the barbell rollout? The barbell rollout is a rollout done on a barbell rather than one of those little plastic toys. While those would work, using the barbell has two unique advantages: 1) You can add weight plates to load the barbell and increase the intensity, and 2) The barbell allows wider hand placement for those who lack shoulder mobility.
How to do the Barbell Rollout:
- Load a barbell and place it on the ground. Kneel behind it and place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. If your shoulder joints have poor mobility, use a wider grip.
- Get your entire body over the barbell with your arms straight. Keep your core tight and begin to let the barbell roll out in front of you.
- As you lower, begin to push the barbell out in front of the body. Continue moving down until your body is erect. You should be very close to the ground.
- Using your core, pull yourself back up.
Barbell Rollout Tips:
A few things to keep in mind: You can not perform this with an empty barbell. You can only use full-sized plates with a metal ring. And, eventually, you want to progress to doing them standing.
Barbell Training Tips
The above barbell exercises are all you need to get an awesome workout in, especially when you manipulate your training variables, switching up things like hand grips. Below are some workout tips to help you make the most of your barbell training, whether you’re focusing on barbell leg exercises or barbell back exercises.
1. Include Both Strength And Hypertrophy:
The general public often tries to combine strength and hypertrophy, but they’re two different physiological adaptations.
When discussing strength training vs. hypertrophy, strength training refers to improving the intramuscular system and making the existing muscles function better together. As a result, you become stronger. This is best done with loads of 85-95% 1RM and reps of 5-1. For average lifters, 85% is generally heavy enough.
Hypertrophy training refers to the actual muscle getting larger. This may or may not include strength gains. The primary driver for muscle hypertrophy is volume and is best done with loads of 70-80% 1RM (or less) with loads of 8-12, or more.
2. Hit Each Muscle Group Twice A Week:
During your training, train each muscle group twice per week. To be clear, this doesn’t mean two exercises but two days a week. This allows you to get in the most amount of quality volume while still allowing time for rest.
Recovery And Diet For Barbell Training
Because barbell training allows for large loads and uses so many major muscle groups, it can be taxing. This is why serious barbell training requires adequate muscle recovery and calories. The easiest fix for improving your recovery is to focus on the importance of sleep. Get a minimum of 6 hours but allow up to 9 if needed.
- Use a caloric calculator to find your daily intake.
- Protein: 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of body weight. Stay on the upper end during cutting, perhaps even higher.
- Fats: 30% total calories.
- Carbs: Fill in the rest of your remaining calories.
While you can get in a caloric deficit for cutting, it should be minimal (300-500 caloric deficit, max).
4-Day Upper Lower Barbell Training Split
There are many ways to run a barbell training program. Here’s how a 4-day upper-lower split may work.
Barbell Session 1 Lower:
- Deadlift: 5×5
- Front Squat: 4×6
- Romanian Deadlift: 4×8
- Lunges: 4×10
Barbell Session 2 Upper:
- Clean And Jerk: 6×3
- Incline Bench Press: 4×6
- Bent Over Row (Underhand): 4×8
- Decline Bench Press: 3×12
- Barbell Rollout: 5×5
Barbell Session 3 Lower:
- Back Squat: 5×5
- Snatch Grip High Pull: 6×3
- Hip Thrust: 4×8
- Wide Grip Romanian Deadlift: 3×12
Barbell Session 4 Upper:
- Bench Press: 5×5
- Bent Over Row Underhand: 4×6
- Overhead Press: 4×8
- Close Grip Bench Press: 4×12
- Barbell Rollout: 5×5
Barbell Training: Parting Thoughts
That’s it. At the root of it, barbell training is simple. You take a bar, put some weights on, and follow the challenging barbell exercises we listed above. Put in the work and build up time under the barbell, and you will achieve whatever goal you may have.