Top 10 Barbell Exercises

Post Type

As with every exercise you need to warm up first. Grab an empty bar and simply practice the movement, slowly lowering and raising the bar and your body under control. Do this for 20/30 reps and check you’re nice and warm with a slight sweat.


Now the barbell is a fantastic piece of equipment that be used at home or a gym. If you’re looking to buy one they are readily available from a number of different suppliers. They are also in abundance at your local gym. Look to make sure the barbell is an Olympic bar as they weigh 20kg. One other thing, don’t forget your barbell collars and I recommend Loxley Sports. Use ‘FATHER20′ to receive 20% off your order too!

1. Barbell Bench Press (Pec Major, Triceps and Deltoids)

Form is everything, so start as you mean to go on! Lay onto the bench, ensuring three points of contact. Your shoulders, bum are against the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Ensure these stay in these positions through-out the exercise.


Quite often you will go to the gym and see guys with their feet doing an impression of Elvis and their whole lower body is lifting off the bench. Bringing their legs into play.


Take a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip with your palm against the bar with fingers and thumb wrapped tightly around it. Lower the bar to your lower chest. Keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the movement. Set yourself a sensible weight to start and look to complete sets of 8-10 reps with a rest of 1 minute to 90 seconds between sets.

2. Incline Barbell Press (Pec Major, Triceps and Deltoids)

Almost identical in terms of coaching points to the flat bench. One difference, set the bench to an incline of 45 degrees. Lower yourself onto the bench, back flat against it, feet flat on the floor and your gluts (bum) firmly on the seat/bench. Take an overhand grip, wrapping your fingers and thumbs around the bar. Lower the bar to the upper chest, just below your neck. To get the most of the exercise squeeze your chest muscles as you reach the top of the movement and as you lower the bar back to the starting point see if you can hold it with a count of 3.  Look at doing around 8-12 reps with 3 sets.

3. Standing Curl (Biceps)

It’s time to buy tickets to the gun show! That’s right lets look to build some muscle. Take hold of the bar with an underhand grip, with palms facing up and wrap your fingers and thumbs around it. See yourself with a grip wider than shoulder-width. One of the most important things is to keep those elbows as close to your sides as possible. Brace your core too!


Curl until the bar is to the top of the chest. making sure your elbows remain at the side of your body. Make sure you squeeze those biceps upon the top of the movement. When lowering try to do this with a count of 2/3 seconds, really asking the most of your biceps. Do 3/4 sets of 8-12 reps.

4.Shoulder Press (Deltoids)

A hard working move that not only asks a lot of your shoulders but your core too. This move can be performed standing or seated.


Top Tip: Make sure you press from the front. As a beginner or even experienced gym goer, if your form waivers you will ask your neck to come out of alignment if pressed behind it.


Place your hands on the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. With control press the bar up over your head, then lower to the top of your chest. At all times remain in control and don’t bounce the bar off your body (this can cause bruising and is cheating!). Make sure your elbows are forced downwards as you lower the bar and not backwards. This ensures you isolate the shoulder muscles.

5. Shrug (Traps)

This exercise is great at building those upper back muscles. The ones you use when you have been asked a question you don’t know!


Taking a shoulder-width grip, keep your arms locked with a slight bend at the elbow (very slight),  and shrug your shoulders straight up toward your ear lopes. To get the most out of the exercise, upon reaching the top of the movement hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower (try and lower with a count of 3). Look to do around 3/4 sets of sets between 8-12 reps. Find a weight you feel comfortable with.

6. Bent-Over Row (Latimussi dorsi)

This exercise can be performed with two grips, both overhand and underhand. We are going to look the underhand to begin with. Stand with your legs slightly bent and lean forward at your waist, making sure your back stays in alignment with your neck.


Top Tip: Like your looking forward and slightly down.


Place your grip on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width and bring the weight up into your midsection and your making sure your arms go back. During this movement make sure your back remains leaning forward in alignment with your neck and legs stay slightly bent. Again look at holding the move on the upward phase for 2 seconds and squeeze your shoulder blades together. On the way down, lower the weight back to the starting position just above the floor of the gym! 
 You can also do this move with an overhand grip. Again, another variation could be to take a really wide grip. Practice and experiment with grips and grip widths. You should get different areas of the muscle being worked. Look at doing 8-12 reps with 3 sets.

7. Upright Row (Traps)

So you think traps are something you set for mice? Uprights will build a thick wall of muscle above your shoulders.


Take a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keep the bar close to your body and raise it up to about chin level, making sure to elevate your shoulders. This will make the traps do the lion’s share of the work. Lower the bar under control until your arms are fully extended. Do 3 sets of 9-15 reps.


Mass Tip: The closer the grip, the more directly the traps seem to be worked. Conversely, the wider the grip, the more you’ll feel it in the deltoids.

8. Deadlift (Erector Spinae, Quads, Gluts & hamstrings)

A huge move that will work your lower back, glutes and both anterior and posterior leg muscles. Take a grip either shoulder width or slightly wider (whatever you feel comfortable with), place your hands one overhand and one underhand. This will make sure the bar doesn’t slip from your grasp and will remain more secure. You can take a grip both under or both over, but my advice would be one of each. Stand with both feet slightly bent, this means a slight bend not completely bent.


Lower your body, squatting down so that your legs are parallel to the floor. Your chest should be over the bar with you looking forward and down. Maintain tension in your lower back, straighten your legs and at the same time your head and chest should come up. As your legs straighten, make sure your back straightens too. As your legs get closer to full extension, straighten your back to the upright position.


Top Tip: Practice the movement with an empty bar before you attempt the movement. See if you can get someone to watch you perform it and ensure your form is correct. 

9. Squat (Quads, Hamstrings & Glutes)

If your serious about adding muscle and working out, do not neglect your legs!


Squats are the real deal and will work your body like never before. A fantastic conditioning exercise, not just for the pins but for the core as well.


Stand at a squat rack and rest the bar at the top of the back slightly below the upper traps (there should be a natural spot). Set yourself with your feet slightly turned out and wider than shoulder width (as you get more confident you can play with stance and width). Make sure you are looking straight ahead and up.


Lower yourself down until your upper legs are parallel to the floor or as close to as you are able to get them. Aim for about 90 degrees. Then slowly raise. On the downward phase, look to Stick your bum slightly out which will cause a small arch in your back, hold the squat for several seconds then rise slowly.


Other progressions are squatting further down, past the knee. I would recommend to do this slowly and if possible use a spotter whenever you squat. If you don’t have a training partner learn how to bail or maybe use a smith machine.


Experiment with reps and sets. Maybe start slow with 3 sets of about 8-10 reps.


Top Tip: As you squat make sure knees bend and stay inline with your big toe. 

10. Hack Squat (Quads, Glutes)

This is exercise will separate the men from the boys. A fantastic exercise that personally is my number 1!


Same principles as the dead lift. Take hold of the bar in a squat position with an overhand grip and upper legs parallel to the floor. Stand to the crease where the hamstrings meet the glutes. Don’t lock your legs out, maintain a slight bent. Repeat this movement. Play about with speed/intensity of the movement. Try non stop reps and also holding the upward phase for a few seconds. Look at practicing the exercise first as it may feel a bit funny to start with. Once you are use to it, it will definitely be one you return to again and again.


Thanks for reading,


About The Author

Following the birth of his son in 2009, Paul was unfit and sluggish. Since then he's been training using a range of exercise techniques and gained some valuable information over the years. Events he has completed to date are Total Warrior, Pier To Pier, Bamburgh 10k, Hamsterley 10k, Blaydon Races, Newcastle Stampede and over 50 parkruns. In 2012 he created his own challenge called the '12 Days of Christmas.' He raised over £1000 for Percy Hedley by running 60 miles to celebrate their 60 years. In 2013 he ran the '12 parkruns of Christmas' with friend Lee Nyland. The pair raised over £1400 for the Tiny Lives Fund.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *