The barbell is a thing of beauty. Simple in design but infinite in its power, the barbell is the most valuable tool in the weight room. You could throw out every other piece of equipment in the gym and still build massive size and strength with the barbell.
The barbell is good for more than getting huge. In fact, it's incredible for fat loss too. With the right exercises, you can use the barbell to achieve any fitness goal. To prove it, here are three barbell-only, full-body workouts to help you get bigger, stronger or lose fat. Take your pick.
Program 1 – Strength Focus
Traditionally, the barbell is best used for building strength. You can load a barbell much heavier than any dumbbell, kettlebell or machine, so naturally, the barbell is the weapon of choice for strength workouts.
The barbell is so effective for building strength that you only need four exercises to get brutally strong from head to toe. For this minimalist barbell workout, you need only perform the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and Bent-Over Row.
|Exercise||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|A1. Squat||5 sets of 5 reps||4 sets of 4 reps||3 sets of 3 reps|
|B1. Bench Press||5 sets of 5 reps||4 sets of 4 reps||3 sets of 3 reps|
|C1. Deadlift||5 sets of 5 reps||4 sets of 4 reps||3 sets of 3 reps|
|D1. Bent-Over Row||3 sets of 10 reps||3 sets of 8 reps||3 sets of 6 reps|
Perform the workout three days per week on non-consecutive days (e.g., Monday, Wednesday and Friday), taking at least two full days off per week to maximize recovery. Each week, try to increase the weight you use for each exercise.
You can do these workouts indefinitely, or until you're no longer able to increase the weight on the bar each session. When that happens, take a week off to rest, then start again.
Program 2 – Hypertrophy Focus
Hypertrophy, which means an increase in muscle size, should be on the minds of everyone at the gym. A bigger muscle has greater strength potential, and more muscle means an increase in metabolism, which can aid in burning fat.
Luckily, the barbell builds muscle just as well as it builds strength, so try these full-body workouts to add some mass to your frame.
Day 1 – Upper Body
|A1. Overhead Press||5 sets of 5 reps|
|A2. Bent-Over Row||5 sets of 5 reps|
|B1. Incline Bench Press||4 sets of 8 reps|
|B2. Shrug||4 sets of 8 reps|
|C1. Floor Press||3 sets of 10 reps|
|C2. Bicep Curls||3 sets of 10 reps|
Day 2 – Lower Body
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|A1. Front Squat||5 sets of 5 reps|
|B1. Romanian Deadlift||5 sets of 5 reps|
|C1. Reverse Lunge – Front Squat Grip||4 sets of 8 reps per side|
|C2. Supine Bridge||4 sets of 8 reps|
|D1. Calf Raise||3 sets of 10 reps|
|D2. Ab Rollouts||3 sets of 10 reps|
Perform each workout twice per week for a total of four workouts, alternating between Day 1 and Day 2. A Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday schedule works best.
For each exercise, use a slow tempo to make sure you feel the target muscles working. For example, during the Incline Bench Press, take three seconds to lower the bar to your chest, pause briefly and press back up, squeezing your chest at the top.
Program 3 – Fat Loss Focus
If CrossFit is any indication, barbells can be used to melt fat and get shredded. Simply string together a handful of light-weight movements for high reps with limited rest and you'll be huffing and puffing in no time. Try this barbell complex:
|Exercise||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Romanian Deadlift||8 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 4 rounds; 1 minute rest between rounds.||10 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 4 rounds; 1 minute rest between rounds.||8 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 5 rounds; 45 seconds rest between rounds.||10 reps of each exercise with no rest. Perform 5 rounds; 45 seconds rest between rounds.|
Load a light barbell (one you could easily do for 20 or more reps per exercise) and perform the 5 exercises in a row with no rest and without putting the barbell down. Put the bar down and rest between rounds. Be warned, you'll get exhausted with this workout, so make sure the bar is light enough that you can maintain proper form the whole time.
- Andrew Luck's "World's Greatest Barbell Warm-Up"
- Barbell Exercises and Techniques
- 2 Brutal Barbell Conditioning Workouts
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