Barbell Exercises: Examples, Studies, and Everything You Need to Know

Interested in learning more about barbell exercises? Maybe you already know a few and incorporate them into your fitness routine.

You could also just be starting out with barbell exercises and want to learn as many as possible. Either way, this guide will help you know the best exercises by body part 

Below we have outlined the best barbell exercises according to muscle group.

You can do exercises based on what you want to strengthen the most, or you can do a little bit of each group to target the entire body. 

The benefits of barbell exercises

The barbell is the ultimate strength training tool because it compounds lifts.

Compounds lifts are when your body uses several joints and muscles to do a movement. 

Any kind of barbell exercise will target different muscles all at the same time.

They will also stimulate thousands of nerves which also contribute to you getting stronger. Using the barbell will show you a dramatic increase in your strength and the weight you can use to lift. 

You can start with a weight that you feel comfortable using. Every week try to increase the weight little by little. Try not to overdo it.

With gradual increases, you will see large improvements in your strength training. 

The importance of compound exercises 

As mentioned briefly above, the barbell exercises are considered compound exercises.

This means you are training more than one group of muscles at the same time. It also lets you train more muscles in fewer exercises, making them a great option for people who have limited time at the gym or can’t go to the gym every day. 

Compound exercises are usually grouped into 4 main movements.

The push is what trains the muscles of the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The pull trains the muscles of the rhomboids, lower traps, the biceps, and the latissimus dorsi. 

The knee flexion trains the muscles of the quadriceps and the adductors in the leg. The hip extension trains the muscles of the glutes, the hamstrings, and the lower back. 

How and when to exercise with barbells 

This article will cover a large number of barbell exercises.

You shouldn’t hit the gym and do them all at the same time though. Doing so may exasperate your muscles and cause you to injure yourself. 

Always be smart and take caution when entering heavy barbells into your fitness routine.

Always start with a gym warmup before moving onto the real exercises. This will ensure your muscles are ready for the impact. 

Most fitness trainers will tell you to do two exercises as your main lifts for the lower body and another two exercises for your main lifts for the upper body.

This could be a squat and a deadlift and then a bench press and a barbell row. 

The upper body and lower body training can be beneficial because it will allow you to get more work done in a shorter amount of time. If you have longer hours you can spend at the gym, you can always split up the movements. 

Barbell Back Exercises

  • Good mornings
  • Stiff leg deadlift
  • Bent knees deadlift
  • Deadlift
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Snatch
  • Clean and press
  • Bent over row
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Barbell high pull


Barbell Shoulder Exercises

  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Military press
  • Behind the head shoulder press
  • Single-arm barbell press
  • Barbell front raise
  • Upright barbell row
  • Push press


Barbell Arms Exercises

  • Barbell wrist curls


Barbell triceps Exercises

  • Skull crushers
  • Standing overhead triceps extension
  • Reverse bench press

Barbell Biceps Exercises

  • Bicep curls
  • Reverse grip barbell curls

Barbell Abs Exercises

  • Leg raises
  • Side leans
  • Barbell rollouts
  • Barbell trunk twist
  • Barbell crunch


Barbell Lat Exercises

  • Bent arm pullovers
  • Straight arm pullovers
  • Deadlift
  • Bent over row
  • Landmine rows


Barbell Leg Exercises

  • Back squat
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Straddle lift
  • Overhead squat
  • Lunges
  • Hack squat
  • Deadlift
  • Calf raises
  • Suitcase squat
  • Front squat
  • Split squat
  • Box squat

Barbell Hamstring Exercises

  • Stiff leg deadlift
  • Deadlift
  • Back squat
  • Barbell hip thrusts

Barbell Glute Exercises

  • Barbell hip thrusts
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Barbell glute bridge
  • Back squat
  • Barbell step-ups
  • Lunges
  • Box squat

Barbell Chest Exercises

  • Regular Bench press
  • Wide grip bench press
  • Narrow grip bench press
  • Floor press
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press
  • Barbell pullover


Barbell Exercises Without Bench

  • Good mornings 
  • Stiff leg deadlift 
  • Bent knees deadlift
  • Regular deadlift 
  • Sumo deadlift 
  • Snatch 
  • Clean and press 
  • Bent over row 
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Barbell high pull
  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Standing military press 
  • Single-arm barbell press
  • Barbell front raise
  • Upright barbell row 
  • Push press
  • Barbell hanging wrist curls
  • Standing overhead triceps extension
  • Bicep curls 
  • Reverse grip barbell curls
  • Leg raises
  • Side leans
  • Barbell rollouts
  • Barbell crunch
  • Landmine rows
  • Meadows row
  • Pendlay row
  • Back squat 
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Straddle lift
  • Overhead squat
  • Lunges 
  • Hack squat 
  • Deadlift 
  • Calf raise 
  • Suitcase squat
  • Front squat 
  • Split squat
  • Barbell glute bridge
  • Floor press

Frequently asked questions about barbell exercises

Here are your most asked questions to help get you started with barbell exercises. 

What exercises can I do with a barbell?

The exercises you can do with barbells are basically endless.

As you can see from the comprehensive lists and instructions covered above, barbell exercises can target the whole body or one specific body part.

Feel free to change your routine up depending on the day to get the most out of barbell exercises.   

How many barbell exercises are there?

It’s hard to say exactly how many barbell exercises there are. However, we have included 54 in this article.

Each barbell exercise targets a different body part, and some might even focus on the whole body. 

If you look online or on YouTube, you might even find more barbell exercises.

We have included the most popular one in this guide though. 

What are the 5 major lifts?

As with any exercise, there are always some lifts that people like to focus on. The 5 major lifts that will incorporate the entire body are:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench press
  • Barbell row
  • Military press

What are the best barbell exercises?

This depends on your fitness goals and what area of the body you are trying to focus the most on.

However, according to various trainers and forums where people discuss the best barbell exercises for the entire body, they have mentioned these:

  • Bent over row
  • Deadlift 
  • Military press
  • Skull crushers
  • Bicep curls
  • Barbell rollouts
  • Landmine rows
  • Back squat
  • Lunges
  • Barbell hip thrusts 
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Regular Bench press 

Should I do stretching after doing barbell exercises?

Yes. Anytime you exercise and work your muscles, you should do stretching and a cool down to ensure that you don’t injure your muscles.

Depending on what muscles you worked will change how you should stretch. 

However, after doing most barbell exercises, you should incorporate some stretching that targets the following:

  • Upper body
  • Abdominal 
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings 

After stretching, make sure your heart rate has slowed down and that you don’t feel pain anywhere. Do stretching as part of a workout cool down. 

How should I train with the barbells?

Training with barbells can be done once a week or a few times a week depending on how much time you have or what your fitness plans entail. 

Once a week plan 

Here’s an example of a once-a-week plan for barbell exercises:

  1. Barbell back squat, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  2. Barbell stiff-legged deadlift, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  3. Barbell bench press with a medium grip, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  4. Barbell Row, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  5. Military press, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  6. Barbell shrug, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  7. Barbell curl, 4 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  8. Behind the head skull crusher, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  9. Good morning, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  10. Seated bar twist, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 

Twice a week plan 

If you want to work out with barbells twice a week, you will do many of the same exercises but with fewer sets and fewer reps.

Follow this plan:

Day One:

  1. Barbell back squat, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds
  2. Barbell still legged deadlift, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  3. Barbell bench press, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds
  4. Barbell Row, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  5. Military press, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  6. Barbell shrug, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  7. Barbell curl, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  8. Close-grip bench press, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  9. Seated bar twist, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  10. Crunches with a barbell in an overhead position, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 

Day Two:

  1. Barbell forward lunge, 3 sets, 16-24 reps alternating sides than 90-second rest 
  2. Standing barbell calf raise, 3 sets, 12-15 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  3. Wide-grip bench press, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  4. Bent-arm barbell pull-over, 3 sets, -12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  5. Reverse-grip bent-over row, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  6. Barbell front raise, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  7. Barbell upright row, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  8. Reverse-grip barbell curl, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  9. Behind-the-head skull crusher, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 
  10. Good morning, 3 sets, 8-12 reps, rest for 90 seconds 

The two above plans can also be used with adding in the third day. If you are planning to 3 days a week of barbell training, you will need to take a day of rest between each workout day. So, never do the barbell exercises 3 days in a row. 

What plan should I follow if I want to do advanced training? 

The workout plans mentioned in the plan above are more for beginners and intermediate levels. If you feel like those plans are getting too easy for you and you want more of a challenge, you can do the advanced barbell training program. 

Superset 

Perform these exercises in order with no rest between exercises.

Rest one minute between sets. 

Set 1:

  • Barbell back squat, 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell stiff-legged deadlift, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 2:

  • Barbell bench press with a medium grip, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell Row, 3 sets, 8-12 reps

Set 3:

  • Military press, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell shrug, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 4:

  • Behind-the-head skull crusher, 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell curl, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 5:

  • Good morning, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Crunches with the barbell in an overhead position, 3 sets, 8-12 reps 

Giant Set 

Perform all these exercises in order with no rest between exercises.

Rest between each set for 90 seconds. 

Set 1:

  • Barbell back squat, 2 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell stiff-legged deadlift, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell forward lunge, 2 sets, 16-24 reps alternating sides 
  • Standing barbell calf raise, 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Set 2:

  • Barbell bench press with a medium grip, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Wide-grip bench press, 2 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Bent-arm barbell pull-over, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 3:

  • Barbell row with a wide grip, 2 sets, 10-12 reps 
  • Reverse-grip bent-over row, 2 sets, 10-12 reps
  • Barbell row with a narrow grip, 2 sets, 10-12 reps 

Set 4:

  • Military press, 2 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell front raise, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell upright row, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 5:

  • Behind-the-head skull crusher, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell curl, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Standing barbell overhead triceps extension, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Barbell Row, 2 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Seated palms, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 

Set 6:

  • Good morning, 2 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Crunches with the barbell in an overhead position, 2 sets, 8-12 reps 
  • Seated bar twist, 2 sets, 16-24 reps 

Make sure to rest for one minute to 90 seconds between each set. 

Have there been any studies on barbell exercises and their health benefits? 

There have been numerous studies done on the effects of barbell exercises.

People have always been interested to see how these exercises can change your body composition and the way they affect your fitness levels. 

Barbell Bench Press Studies 

The Effects of Superset Configuration on Kinetic, Kinematic, and Perceived Exertion in the Barbell Bench Press from 2020. 

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of agonist-antagonist (A-A), alternate peripheral (A-P), and similar biomechanical (SB) superset configurations on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), kinetic and kinematic changes during the bench press. 

Major results

  • Reductions in mean velocity and power were almost certainly greater in the SB protocol, with differences between the A-A and A-P protocols being unclear.
  • Protocols showed likely greater decreases in SB peak forces when compared to A-A, with all other superset comparisons being unclear.
  • This study demonstrates the importance of exercise selection when incorporating supersets into a training routine.
  • It is suggested that the practitioner uses A-A supersets when aiming to improve training efficiency and minimize reductions in the kinetic and kinematic output of the agonist musculature while completing the barbell bench press.

Barbell Bench press and Dumbbell Flyes 

A Comparison of Muscle Activation between Barbell Bench Press and Dumbbell Flyes in Resistance-Trained Males from 2020. 

The purpose of the study was to compare the muscle activity in the prime movers and antagonists between the barbell bench press (BBP) and the dumbbell flyes (DF).

The surface electromyographic activation was measured in four different muscles (pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps brachii, and biceps brachii) during six repetition maximum loads in both exercises. 

Major results

  • The results showed a higher muscle activation in the whole movement and the majority of the lifting phases for pectoralis major, deltoids anterior, and triceps brachii for the BBP compared to the DF (8-81 %, p ≤ 0.05),
  • However, the antagonist biceps brachii showed a higher muscle activation (57-86 %, p ≤ 0.05) in the DF compared to the BBP.
  • In conclusion, both exercises could be included in training programs, but the BBP should be emphasized because of the higher muscle activation overall. 

Unilateral Barbell Exercises 

Muscle Activation in Unilateral Barbell Exercises: Implications for Strength Training and Rehabilitation from 2019. 

The purpose of the study was to assess lower-body muscle activity and hamstrings-to-quadriceps (HQ) activation ratios during the performance of the split squat (SS), single-leg squat (SLS), and rear foot elevated split squat (RFESS), while using the same relative load and performing the exercises to muscular failure. 

Major results

  • The results show that there were no significant differences in EMG peak activity of the gluteus maximus and vastus lateralis between any of the exercises. 
  • During the SLS and the SS, HQ activation ratios increased significantly during the repetition maximum set.
  • In conclusion, although absolute loading differs between exercises, similar training stimuli of the gluteus maximus and quadriceps femoris can be expected for all exercises.

Barbell Hip Thrusts 

A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises from 2014. 

The purpose of this study was to compare the surface electromyographic (EMG) activity of the upper and lower gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis between the back squat and barbell hip thrust. 

Major results

  • The barbell hip thrust elicited significantly greater mean (69.5% vs 29.4%) and peak (172% vs 84.9%) upper gluteus maximus, mean (86.8% vs 45.4%) and peak (216% vs 130%) lower gluteus maximus, and mean (40.8% vs 14.9%) and peak (86.9% vs 37.5%) biceps femoris EMG activity than the back squat.
  • There were no significant differences in mean (99.5% vs 110%) or peak (216% vs 244%) vastus lateralis EMG activity.
  • The barbell hip thrust activates the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris to a greater degree than the back squat when using estimated 10RM loads.

Barbell Squats 

Effects of a Back Squat Training Program on Leg Power, Jump, and Sprint Performances in Junior Soccer Players from 2009. 

The present study aimed to investigate the effects of voluntary maximal leg strength training on peak power output, vertical jump performance, and field performances in junior soccer players.

Major results

  • Both typical force-velocity relationships and mechanical parabolic curves between power and velocity increased after the strength training program.
  • Leg and thigh muscle volume and CSA of RTG remained unchanged after strength training
  • Back half-squat exercises, including adapted heavy loads and only 2 training sessions per week, improved athletic performance in junior soccer players.

Final Thoughts 

The list of barbell exercises in this guide can surely help you with your next workout plan and help you to build the strength and muscles that you want.

The best part about barbell exercises is that you can do them in large variations to keep your workout plan fun and creative. 

Try to target each muscle group so that you get a full-body workout and so that all your muscles are trained equally. 

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