What can I do with a barbell?


In our other posts, I always recommend training with a barbell and a squat rack. You may be thinking, “Well, I can’t do much with that!”, but that is actually not true at all.

Most exercises which use a barbell also require some form of support (e.g. a squat rack, power rack, squat stands, bench press station) for when the barbell is “resting”, until the user is ready to begin using it. Below is a list of exercises one can do with a barbell and squat rack, as well as a description of each one:

The Squat

Heavy Squat
Heavy Squat (Dave Draper)

This exercise is often overlooked, underestimated, replaced or ignored, when in reality it is one of THE best exercises one can do with regards to their overall health, strength or physique.

When doing the squat, your entire body is working as a single unit to control and push the weight. This requires an incredible amount of energy and uses a vast number of muscles in your body. Your calves work to stabilise your body, your quads and hamstrings (the front and back muscles of your upper legs) move the weight down and up, your buttocks and hips shift the weight, your back muscles keep your torso straight, your shoulders and upper back “cushion” the bar, while your arms hold the bar in place. All of these muscles work at the same time when doing the squat, and when done correctly, will bring great results.

The Deadlift

Heavy Deadlift
Heavy Deadlift

The deadlift is another of the “great” exercises that is often overlooked. Starting with the bar on the floor, the user holds the bar at an arms length and drives their body upwards, keeping their back straight, until standing up. This process is reversed until the bar is controlled to the ground. This exercise usually allows a larger weight to be used than with the squat, meaning an even larger amount of energy will be used. The muscles involved in this exercise are similar to that of the squat, which means you’re using your whole body!

Overhead Press (or Military Press)

Overhead Press
Overhead Press (Bill March)

When used properly, this movement also stimulates your whole body, but focuses more on your shoulders and triceps (the back of your upper arms). Believe it or not, this exercise, if done properly, works your core muscles (abdominals and lower back) a lot too! Your calves and upper legs are used for stabilisation, and the hips are sometimes used to drive the weight up.

The Bench Press

Bench Press
Bench Press

This exercise is very commonly used nowadays as people believe it shows a person’s true strength. Often people who train at a gym ask one another “How much do you bench?”, and that number is used to compare their strengths. This way of thinking leads many people to concentrate more on their bench press than on other important exercises like the squat, and can cause imbalances within their own body’s muscular system. E.g. a person with huge arms and chest with skinny legs and no back probably bench presses every day they’re in the gym. Nevertheless, when used properly, this exercise builds good strength in the upper body. The muscles used are mostly the chest, shoulders and triceps, though the upper back is used as a “platform” to push away from, and the legs can be used to drive the weight towards the head-end of the person (done correctly).

The Barbell Row

Barbell Row
Barbell Row

The barbell row is usually done incorrectly, with the user being almost upright by the end of the movement. If done correctly, they will have a flat back parallel to the ground during the entire exercise. This exercise focuses more on the upper and lower back and biceps (front part of the upper arms) as well as the forearms. The legs and calves are used to stabilise the user.

Other exercises using a barbell

Below is are some examples of other exercises which use a barbell:

  • front lunge
  • rear lunge
  • front squat
  • overhead squat
  • step-up
  • deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift
  • power clean
  • push press
  • shrugs
  • clean & jerk
  • incline bench press
  • decline bench press
  • high pull
  • tricep extension
  • bicep curl
  • calf raises

If you’ve read our “Building Your Own Gym” article, you would have seen that we recommend starting of with a barbell and squat rack as the detailed exercises above are enough to work your entire body, for whatever goals you have.

Please contact us for more information about purchasing gym equipment in Thailand.

One thought on “What can I do with a barbell?

  • May 19, 2010 at 20:38

    Nice information on Fittest solution. I really appreciate!!

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