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The Barbell Big Five

February 17, 2021 3 min read

The Barbell Big Five

Barbells are one of the most efficient pieces of equipment you can use to build strength and whole-body musculature. You can train a range of muscle groups with a single exercise.

Plus, thanks to the incredible overload potential, you can cause incredible mechanical tension, build a lot of muscle, and get stronger.

The best part is, using barbell exercises saves you time. Instead of doing a range of small movements for different muscle groups, you can do a handful of barbell exercises and get the job done.

Without further ado, here are five of the best barbell exercises you can do:


  1. The Squat

Primarily a quad exercise, the squat involves the whole body and helps you build strength, balance, power, and explosiveness.

Sure, the movement primarily trains your quads - the knee extensors. But the exercise also involves your calves, hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, arms, and abdominal muscles. 

The front squat is even more demanding. Because of the barbell’s position, you have to exert significantly more effort to keep your torso upright underneath the load, which further develops your core and back.

A fantastic alternative for classic squats are goblet squats, which you get to do with a dumbbell.


  1. The Deadlift

Like squats, the deadlift is another fantastic whole-body exercise. It primarily trains your posterior chain muscles but also develops your quads, stomach, shoulders, arms, and grip.

You can also overload your body with a lot of weight, which leads to great mechanical tension and develops all of these muscle groups. You can pick from many variations - conventional, sumo, deficit, rack pull deadlift, and more.

The best part is, you can also do many of the variations with a heavy kettlebell or a pair of dumbbells.


  1. The Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is primarily known as a glute-building exercise, but its benefits are far greater. Like deadlifts, the hip thrust also works on the posterior chain and emphasizes the glutes. This makes you fitter, healthier, and more capable of performing various physical tasks. It also contributes to proper spinal alignment and good posture.

Also, because you can overload it with a lot of weight, the hip thrust is an excellent movement for gaining a lot of muscle and strength, which can improve your performance in other exercises and activities.

If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can use a kettlebell for extra resistance.


  1. The Bench Press

The bench press is among the most popular gym exercises you can do. After all, what’s the first question people ask when you tell them you train? That’s right, “How much do you bench?”

This is a fantastic exercise of improving your pressing strength and developing your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Plus, because you’re using a barbell, the overloading potential is excellent, and you can eventually work up to impressive weights, upward of 300 lbs.

A fantastic alternative to the barbell bench press is the dumbbell version.


  1. The Overhead Press

Similar to the bench press, the overhead press is also fantastic for improving your pushing strength. But, because of the pressing direction, you get to emphasize your shoulders and upper chest.

When done correctly and consistently, this movement makes you stronger and more balanced. It also strengthens your core and builds up your shoulders.

An excellent alternative to the barbell press is the overhead dumbbell press.

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