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barbell exercises

5 Best Barbell Exercises To Build Muscle

When it comes to building strength and size, a barbell is one of the most vital bits of training equipment imaginable. Every gym should have them and every home gym should make them a priority.

Whether loaded up in the squat rack, sitting ready on the floor or being thrust over your head, barbell training offers a full range of workouts that will build your physique and punch up your power.

Here are 10 of the best barbell exercises for building some serious size and strength. Combining 3-4 of these can create a single day of workout programming. Mix and match and build a routine that works for you.


The king of all lifting exercises, deadlifts train virtually every muscle in your body and make you feel like a beast whenever you do them.

A simple, functional movement with a high skill ceiling, the deadlift is easy to start with but difficult to master. It’s also not to be trifled with, as poorly executed lifts can damage your back.

Approach with caution, but be ready to feel the strongest you ever have.

How to do them: Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart with a loaded barbell (weights on each side) resting on the ground.

Bend at the knees and keep your back straight, looking forwards as your hands come down to grasp the bar. Use an overhand grip so that your palms are facing towards you.

Bring the bar up by lifting with your legs and hips. Keep your back straight throughout the movement. Bring the barbell to your waist so that you’re standing upright. From here, keep your arms straight and lower the bar back down by pushing your hips back, bending at your legs and keeping your lower back straight.

Muscles Worked:

Back, glutes, legs, forearms and shoulders.

Recommended Workout

  • 1 set of 10-12 warm up deadlifts
  • 3 x 6-8 deadlifts at a heavy weight


Another famed compound lift, the barbell squat is a mass-builder that sees you build some immense lower body strength and power.

As a compound movement that uses lots of different muscles in your legs, they also promote a greater hormone response which helps increase muscle gain.

Stepping up to the squat rack can be intimidating, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll be pushing more weight than ever and packing on size.

How to do them: Approach a loaded barbell on a squat rack. Position yourself so the bar is resting on your shoulders, held in place with your hands.

Lift the bar off the rack. You’ll immediately tell whether you’ve got the balance right. If correct, take a few steps away from the rack.

Squat downwards, keeping your back straight at all times. Bend at the knees to around 90 degrees. Don’t go deeper until you get the technique right.

Your back should be straight enough that someone could draw a line down from your shoulder to your feet at all times.

To complete the squat, power back up to standing.

Muscles worked 

Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abductors and calves.

Recommended workout

  • 1 set of 10-12 warm up squats
  • 3 x 6-8 squats at a heavier weight

Bench Press

Probably the most famous of all lifts, the bench press is a great mass builder for gaining size in your upper body. A fairly simple movement, the bench recruits lots of muscles in your arms and chest to help pack on mass.

How to do them:Either from a bench or from the floor, lie under a barbell and grasp it with both hands, approximately shoulder width apart.

Lower the bar by dropping your arms, flexing your chest as you do so. Let the bar lightly touch your chest or hover just above it and then press the barbell back up so that your arms are fully extended.

Muscles worked 

Pectoral muscles, deltoids and triceps.

Recommended workout

  • 3 x 10 bench press (60-70% of max, increasing weight every set)

Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are a terrific lift which you can perform with a barbell, helping build a huge back and great pulling strength. While they can be done with dumbbells, you’ll see the best gains from heavier barbell rows.

How to do them: Grip a barbell like you would the top part of a deadlift. Bend over at the knees and keep your back straight while angling it slightly forward.

Keep your head up and your spine straight. Pull the weight up and into your lower chest. Lower it back to just over your knees.

Muscles worked

Back – specifically your traps, lats and deltoids.

Recommended workout

3 x 12 bent over rows (50% max)

Overhead Press

Want to build some fearsome shoulders? Stop shrugging and get ready for the overhead press. This is another lift that seems very basic but can help you build awesome power. It’s also a great raw test of strength as you heft the barbell overhead.

How to do them:Grab a barbell from a rack or the floor. From here, bring it to your chest with your arms holding the bar and also being bent, along with your palms facing outwards. From here, thrust your arms up straight so that the barbell is overhead. Try not to round your back. Lower the bar back under your chin and repeat. Don’t thrust with your knees unless you’re struggling.

Muscles worked

Shoulders (traps, deltoids) and lats.

Recommended workout

  • 3 x 10 overhead press

So, now you know a bit more about some of the best workouts you are able to do with a barbell. But what if you are missing the right outfit for the gym? That is where we come in make sure to check out our collection here.

Previous article Mastering the Deadlift

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