Did you know you can do a lot more with a barbell than just the basic chest press? This versatile tool is great for performing multijoint movements that target a large amount of muscle tissue. Plus, exercises like squats, deadlifts and presses help to strengthen functional movements that we use everyday. Here is an effective total-body workout that will enhance both strength and flexibility.
Exercise: Front Squat to Military Press
Muscle Targeted: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Core, Deltoids, Triceps
Movement: Hold the barbell on the front of your shoulders with your feet shoulder width apart. Position your arms so your elbows and upper arms are parallel to the floor, fingers hooked slightly under the bar. Press your hips back and proceed to squat, keeping your chest up and knees behind your toes. Continue your squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press through your heels and squeeze your glutes to stand back up. Once standing, allow the barbell to roll into your palms, and press the barbell overhead until your arms are by your ears with the barbell overhead. Lower the bar back down to rest on your shoulders and repeat 10 to 15 repetitions.
Variations: For beginners, master each of these moves individually before attempting them together. If you lack mobility in your calves and ankles, try standing with your heels on a 1 to 2-inch raised surface, such as a 10-lb. weight plate, to allow for a deeper squat.
Exercise: Straight Leg Deadlift
Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Glutes, Core, Lower Back
Movement: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and hold the barbell in an overhand position, bar resting on the front of your thighs. Bend at your hips and press them back behind you, keeping your back in neutral position or slightly arched. Keep the bar close to your shins during the entire movement. Slowly lower the bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Squeeze your glutes and press your hips forward to stand back up.
Variations: For heavier weight for strength improvements, start with the barbell on the floor to begin your deadlift, with your hands in a switch grip position (one overhand, one underhand). For variations, widen or narrow your stance to place emphasis on different parts of your hamstrings and glutes.
Exercise: Bent over Row
Muscles Targeted: Core, Lower Back, Upper Back (Rhomboids, Lats, Traps), Deltoids (rear), Biceps
Movement: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and hold the barbell with and overhand grip hanging in front of your thighs. Similar to a deadlift movement, bend your knees slightly and press your hips back until your torso is almost parallel or about 45 to 90 degrees from vertical, bar hanging close to or slightly below your knees. Bend your arms and pull the bar up to your ribcage, holding that contraction for a second, then slowly lower back down. Keep checking your posture so that your back remains neutral and core tight during the entire set. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Variations: Vary the width of your arms. A wide grip places a greater emphasis on your lats, where a narrower grip places a greater emphasis on your rhomboids. An overhand grip is great at isolating the large muscles of your back, whereas an underhand grip will add more biceps action to the movement. Your torso angle also makes a difference. The closer to horizontal you are, the emphasis is placed on your mid and lower back. If you are closer to vertical, the emphasis shifts to shoulders and upper traps.
Exercise: Split Squat with Single Arm Press
Muscles Targeted: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Deltoids (frontal and medical), Triceps, Chest, Core
Movement: Place one end of the barbell against a sturdy wall or corner. The corner of a squat rack works as well. Stand back and hold the other end of the barbell in your left hand, resting on your shoulder. Place your feet about shoulder width apart, and move your right foot forward about 2 feet, and left foot back about 2 feet so you are in a split squat position. Bend both knees lower yourself toward the ground, keeping your chest up and core tight. Press both legs to stand up, while simultaneously pressing up on the end of the barbell. Squeeze your core to avoid torso rotation. Do 10 to 15 repetitions then switch arms and legs. Make sure if your left leg is in front, you are lifting the barbell with your right arm, and vice-versa.
Variations: The farther back you stand from the base of the barbell, the more you will utilize your chest muscles, whereas the closer you stand to the base, the more your shoulders come into play. You can vary your position to target both muscle groups according to your goals. For added intensity, add a 10 to 25 lb. weight plate to the end of the barbell.
Exercise: Arch Chop
Muscles Targeted: Most of the muscles between your knees and your neck, but specifically the Obliques, Abs, Lower Back, Glutes, Deltoids
Movement: Similar to the split squat position, start with one end of the barbell on the floor against a wall or sturdy base, and grasp the free end with both hands. Extend your arms up so that the barbell is positioned over and slightly in front of your head. In a controlled motion, bring the barbell down to your left knee, turning your torso to face the barbell. Squeezing all the muscles in your core, swing the barbell in an arch overhead, keeping arms straight, and down to your right knee, rotating your torso along with it. Make the motion fast, but controlled so you don’t hit your knee. Avoid bending over at the waist to reach your knee, rather bend your knees slightly and keep your chest up. This motion works your core both concentrically, when you contract to lift the barbell overhead, and eccentrically, when you slow your movement on the downward swing to avoid hitting your leg.
Variations: For a dynamic element to challenge your cardiovascular system and increase the intensity, try adding a squat on the downward motion, and a jump on the upward motion. Only attempt this if you have mastered the movement.