For many people, a barbell is the most intimidating piece of equipment in the gym. It certainly was that way for me when I first started working out. I did everything I could to avoid the barbells and stuck to machines as long as I could before I started educating myself more on fitness. Even then, when I first finally got the courage to accept the fact that I may look silly when I first grab it, that the barbell was going to change my life. Sure it is heavier than typical dumbbells, you can’t hold it in one hand, and you certainly can’t turn with it without checking out a 6-foot radius around you, but the barbell is one of my favorite pieces of equipment now. It can be simple if you need it, yet complex if you need that too and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in making your muscles burn no matter how you use it.
If you are intimidated by a barbell or still that you are new to using the barbell, try these 4 beginner barbell exercises, that are effective and lay a great foundation to incorporating more barbell exercises into your routine. For all of the exercises below, start with a weight that feels like you’re giving an effort level of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. It is okay if this feels light at first, the important part is to learn the movements and get more comfortable with them before you worry about making the weight feel heavy.
3 Barbell Exercises for Beginners
Make sure that before you start trying of these exercises to make sure that you don’t have any pain or major mobility restrictions with each movement and of course consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Barbell Back Squat
The barbell back squat if a very effective functional exercise. There aren’t many other exercises that can measure up to how effective a back squat can be for your lower body. This exercise can be very technical, so it is important to take the time to learn this exercise well before trying to lift heavy weight with it.
- To begin with, start with the barbell racked in a squat rack. It should be racked a little lower than shoulder height. Grab the bar, walk towards it and dunk your head under to situate the bar behind your head on your shoulders.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a muscular “shelf” for the bar to rest on.
- Stand up tall and walk yourself backwards, a few steps away from the squat rack.
- Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and turn your feet out slightly.
- With your chest lifted, push your hips back while bending your knees to lower into a squat.
- Don’t allow your knees to go in front of your toes and push your knees slightly out to the sides as you lower your butt back and down.
- Try to descend until your hip crease goes below your knees remembering to only squat as deeply as your mobility allows.
- Push through the heels of your feet to stand back up straight.
- That’s 1 rep.
Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is great at strengthening your upper body through a push type motion.
- Rack a barbell on a rack with the bar racked at about wrist height when your arms are fully extended toward the ceiling.
- Lie on your back and position your body so that barbell is directly above your mouth/throat area.
- Grab the barbell just a touch outside of shoulder width and pinch your shoulder blades down and back together while arching your chest up toward the ceiling, with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Straighten your arms to unrack the bar and slowly lower the barbell towards your chest while keeping your shoulder blades down and your midsection and lower body engaged. it to your chest while keeping your shoulder blades down and back and your lower body engaged.
- As you are lowing the barbell down towards your chest your arms will start to bend. You will want to make sure that your elbows don’t point directly outwards but more so tucked in at a 45-degree angle.
- The barbell should hit the lower part of your chest.
- As soon as it hits, press the barbell up toward the ceiling until your arms are straight while making sure to keep your wrists and elbows and shoulders are stacked on top of one another.
- That’s 1 rep.
Barbell Sumo Deadlift
The barbell sumo deadlift is a very technical and effective movement for the lower body. The sumo deadlift can be considered a modification for a deadlift but is a better one to start with before moving on to a traditional deadlift.
- Typically the barbell would have some weight on each end which lifts the barbell off of the ground some. Since we are just beginning here, we are going to walk you through this without any weight on it, therefore to begin your barbell will be directly on the ground or it can be lifted off of the ground by actually stacking weights underneath each end of the barbell to bring it off the ground about 6″.
- Begin by standing behind a barbell with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet turned out about 45 degrees.
- Before you grab the bar, you need to get your body into the proper lifting position by sitting your hips back, bending your knees and pressing them out to the sides slightly like you did in the squat. Now lean your torso forward to reach for the bar by maintaining a tight core and flat back.
- Your grip on the bar should be about shoulder-width apart if not slightly narrower.
- To start to lift the bar off of the ground you are going to push your feet into the floor through your heels and stand up tall pulling the weight with you all while making sure you keeping your arms straight.
- As you press through the feet to straighten your legs you are going to bring your hips forward by squeezing glutes.
- This is 1 rep.
- Slowly reverse the movement by bending your knees first and pushing your butt back to lower the weight back to the floor while your chest still stays lifted and arms straight. Make sure you keep the bar close to your body the entire time and maintain a flat back if your bar starts to drift away from your body you can put a lot of tension on parts of your body that could lead to injury.