Today, every exercise utilizes one of the most basic pieces of exercise equipment: the barbell. Beginners should combine the “start with” exercises to create a workout, while more advanced lifters should use the “progress to” movements. For a little more variety, mix and match!
Start with…Standing Curl, 3x12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waEumidjDuU
The curl is one of the most basic exercises you can perform in the gym, but that doesn’t make it less effective. Using a barbell for this movement is a great way to ensure that your elbows remain locked into the correct position, and it helps prevent cheating. To perform the standing barbell curl, hold a barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing away from you). Though you can vary your grip as you please, it’s probably easiest to start with your hands just outside your hips. Position yourself against something rigid – a wall works well – and curl the weight up towards your face. Make sure to keep your elbows pulled tight against your body and keep constant contact with the wall.
Progress to…Between Legs Bent Row, 4x8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anJcUFxHhPY
Now, it’s time to move to the row. This movement still trains your forearms and biceps, but also forces you to use your upper back and core. It’s also an easier to learn variation than the standard bent row. To perform the between legs barbell bent row, position one end of a barbell against a wall. Face away from the wall, walk out to the other end of the bar, and grip it with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). This is the side of the barbell that should be loaded with weight. Bend your knees and push your hips back, almost like you’re about to squat or deadlift. Maintaining this tight position, pull the weight to your chest.
Start with…Single Arm Shoulder Press, 3x8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6eHWYn65Yc
This can be a more difficult movement because of the anti-rotation demands placed on your core, but it’s a fantastic upper body barbell exercise. To perform the single arm shoulder press, position one end of a barbell against a wall, just as you did in the between legs bent row. Load this side with weight. Facing the wall, grip this end of the bar with one hand in a cocked position at the shoulder, just like you’re about to punch someone. With a shoulder-width stance and hips facing forward, press the bar up and out until your elbow is fully extended. Repeat on the opposite side. As you press, your body will want to twist – fight it.
Progress to…Push Press, 4x5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sn6PNaKCrk
The push press is easier than the single arm shoulder press in that you can use both arms, but harder because it demands you to be explosive and precise. To perform the push press, grip a barbell in front of your body, at your chest. Set your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Quickly bend your knees – you can call it a dip – and then straight your legs and drive the weight upward until your elbows are extended. Make sure to take full advantage of the momentum provided by the quick dip.
Start with…Narrow Stance Squat, 4x6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW_C1A-rejs
If there’s one lower body exercise that every single person should learn, it’s the narrow stance squat. It teaches good body control, builds quad, glute and core strength, and provides a foundation for progression to a number of even more awesome movements. To perform the narrow stance squat, position a barbell on your back just below your traps. Grip the bar on both sides of your head and lock your elbows in – this should help keep your chest puffed out. Start the movement with your hips by pushing your glutes back slightly. Now, bend your knees and continue pushing your hips and glutes backward. Pretend you’re about to sit back into a comfy chair. When you hit the 90-degree mark, explode upward by driving your feet into the floor and pushing your hips forward and up.
Progress to…Side Lunge, 3x8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyyhZvaW9co
In all honesty, the squat is a very different movement from the lunge. The side lunge, however, requires much greater coordination and strength than a simple forward lunge or split squat. To perform the side lunge, position a barbell on your back just below your traps, as you did in the squat. Start with your feet in a narrow stance. Reach out with one foot – at least a few feet – and plant it on the floor. Bend that knee and allow your hips to shift towards that side. To return to the start, drive upward off the bent leg and push yourself back to the opposite side. Your balance will be tested so be sure to start with a moderate weight.
Start with…Sumo Deadlift, 3x5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XynUSDVyd6Q
Most people prefer the traditional, narrow stance deadlift, but that’s because they’ve never tried a sumo deadlift. This variation is harder on your hamstrings, but can help reduce the chance of shredding your lower back with poor technique. To perform the sumo deadlift, stand directly in front of a barbell on the floor. Make sure you’re close enough for your shins to actually touch the bar. Your feet should be at least twice as far apart as they would be in a narrow stance. Grip the bar with a narrow grip, just inside your hips. Similar to a squat, push your hips back and bend your knees until you’re in a low enough position to grip the bar. Keep your back straight – don’t let it round forward. Drive your heels into the floor and pull the bar up until your standing in a straight line. To help this movement flow smoothly, use your glutes and hips for power.
Progress to…Snatch Grip Deadlift, 4x6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87hjft6OBiU
Once you’re comfortable with the sumo deadlift, prepare to become uncomfortable with this difficult deadlift variation. To perform the snatch grip deadlift, stand directly in front of a barbell on the floor. This time, use a narrow stance, similar to the one used during the squat. Here’s the kicker – grip the bar with a snatch grip. In other words, about twice as far apart as the grip you used on the sumo deadlift. Follow all of the same cues as you did on the sumo deadlift. It’s essentially the same movement that requires you to use a much lighter weight and seriously tests your grip strength.
Start with…Static Hold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyUnIuQ8t1I
It sounds simple because it is simple. Luckily, simple usually equals effective. To perform the barbell static hold, grip a barbell with both hands using an overhand grip (palms facing you). Stand straight, push your chest out, and pull your shoulders back. Allow the barbell to rest slightly in front of your quads, but try not to let it rest against them. Now, hold this position. To tax your grip strength, make sure to load the bar heavily. If your aim is to improve muscular endurance in the many supporting muscles, use lighter weight and longer duration.
Progress to…Modified Farmer’s Walk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v593SQVs-f0
In a way, the static hold teaches you to be loaded down with weight even though it’s hanging in front of your body. This time, your entire body will be loaded. To perform the barbell back walk, place a loaded barbell on your back as if you were about to knock out a set of squats. In an open and preferably large area, walk forward to a designated point – start with 20 yards. Slowly and carefully turn around and walk back. To make the setup for this movement easier, make sure to start with the barbell on an open rack rather than a closed power rack. As you move forward, keep a straight and rigid torso – don’t allow your spine to comp