Back to basics barbell workout

 Hi friends! How’s the day going? I’m off to hand therapy this morning and excited to whip up a St. Patrick’s Day feast. 🙂 Would love to hear what you’re up to!

Since I started teaching BODYPUMP, I’ve rekindled my love for barbell training. Not only does it enable me to lift heavier weights than I would with dumbbells (like during squats!), but I also notice a visible change in my muscles when I change up my strength training. One downside of barbell training is that it emphasizes bilateral movements, meaning you’re working both sides at once. Essentially, you could use your stronger side and let the weaker side slack off a bit -especially when you’re feeling fatigued- so it’s something to be mindful of when you’re using barbells, or any machine that enables you to work both sides at once. 

Gina  High Res 45

Today’s new workout includes some of my favorite barbell moves. If you’ve noticed that you’ve been using the same mode of strength training for a while, this is a quick and effective way to change things up. Remember, change creates change. You need to tweak little things in your routine if you want to prevent plateaus and keep things exciting!

Here’s the workout:

Barbell strength workout

Form cues and tips:

1) Deadlift: place your feet underneath your hips with the slight bend in your knees. Hold the barbell just outside your thighs, pull back your shoulder blades to give you a straight spine, and tighten your core. As you come down, stop the barbell just below your knees, making sure to keep a flat back the entire time. Also, try to avoid swinging your hips; keep them as steady as possible. Exhale to rise back to standing. 

2) Biceps curl: keep your elbows close to your torso, a tight core, and a slight bend in your knees. Lift up through your chest as you flex at the elbow, bringing the weight all the way up (aiming towards your shoulder). As you release, try to resist the weight, and go for a nice full extension at the bottom of the movement. 

3) Squats: place your feet just under your shoulders with toes slightly angled out. Keep your chest lifted and a tight core as you sink back and down into your squat. Pretend like there is a chair behind you, and you’re going to tap your booty to the chair. The weight should remain in your heels, and try to keep your elbows just under the bar with a nice wide grip. 

4) Lunges: take one huge step forward, and keep your feet in line with your hips. Try to keep your torso perpendicular to the floor as you sink down into your lunge. As you lunge, watch the front knee to make sure it stays stacked above the front ankle. As you rise, actively think about trying to squeeze your legs together. 

5) Chest press with leg lift: start in a supine position with your shoulders pressing into the floor, a tight core and feet hip distance apart. Take a wide grip on the barbell. As you lower it down towards mid chest, your elbows will come wide (90 degree angle) and stop in line with your torso. As you exhale to press the barbell back up, lift your legs off the floor, maintaining the same 90 degree angle with your legs. Gently lower your legs down as the weight comes back down. 

6) Triceps press: stay in the supine position, but take a narrow grip on the bar with hands just above your shoulders. Bend your elbows in towards your torso (keep them super close to your body) and squeeze your triceps to bring the weight back up. 

Please let me know if you give it a try! What do you usually use for strength training? Favorite barbell exercise?

Hope you have a great day!



*If you’re looking for cardio to combine with the above workout, check out this HIIT the Hill workout and this orangetheory-inspired treadmill and rowing workout

All photos by Danny Chan 🙂

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  1. Taca @ A Side Of Dessert on March 17, 2015 at 7:13 am

    I always shy away from doing barbell exercises. I just feel like I don’t have the muscle strength to do it. I usually stick to dumbbells.

  2. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 17, 2015 at 7:23 am

    I love using barbell and cycling them through my routine. Most women don’t but I feel bad ass when I use them. I haven’t tried the bicep one. Definitely will though. Random question how much does a barbell weigh?

    • Vera on March 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

      A barbell with no weight on it usually weighs 45lbs….

  3. Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday on March 17, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Honestly, I usually stick to dumbbells because I don’t know what to “do” with barbells, so I really appreciate this workout! Thanks for the inspiration 😀

  4. Karina @ fitsickle on March 17, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Perfect! Thanks for this workout! This will give me a BodyPump-esque fix since my gym doesn’t offer it 🙂 Have a great St. Patty’s Day!

  5. Emma @ Life's A Runner on March 17, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I feel like I rotate between barbells and dumbbells pretty regularly, because my gym is so busy that I have no choice but to use what’s available! I think deadlifts are my favourite thing do to with barbells, though – it’s crazy how they can get my heart rate way up while also being such a strength move.

  6. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on March 17, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I never did any barbell work until I started CF 2 years ago and now it’s my favorite!

  7. Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries on March 17, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Looks awesome! You know I love my BODYPUMP! 😉 My favorite barbell strength exercise is probably the clean & press. I feel so strong when I do them, and I love that it works the entire body!

  8. Elle on March 17, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I mix it up between dumbbells and barbells. I usually use barbells for things like bench press, upright rows and deadlifts and dumbbells for the rest.

  9. Kaila at Healthy Helper Blog on March 17, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Barbells are my favorite fitness modality to use! Love working out with them.

  10. Sara on March 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I’ve never seen a deadlift with both palms facing forward. Is that how you do it in bodypump?

  11. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 17, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Because I teach BODYPUMP, I always use dumbbells, cables or kettlebells for my own resistance workouts to get some single-side action. Love these classic moves with the barbell, Gina! 🙂

  12. Jamie on March 17, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I have never seen both palms facing forward in the deadlift either. I’ve only seen overhand & mixed grip. Just wondering if there’s a better grip or if it’s more just a personal preference?

    Also, is that more of a Romanian deadlift or conventional deadlift?

    I use both dumbbells & a barbell pretty evenly. My favorite barbell excercise is the front squat. Thanks for the workout!

    • Fitnessista on March 17, 2015 at 10:14 am

      hi jamie!
      this is a romanian deadlift. you can hold it either way -it’s a comfort or preference thing- and my hand was bothering me that day.

  13. Alex @ True Femme on March 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I know Pure Barre isn’t really conventional strength training, but I do feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger from it and I definitely have muscle definition in places I never thought I would. However, I’ve been doing plyometric exercises in circuit training and it’s a whole other level of challenge for me. It’s definitely not as fun as PB, but I like the feeling of getting stronger and fitter and challenging myself in a different way (even if they are the longest 28 minutes of my life!)

  14. Sam @ Grapefruit & Granola on March 17, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Just wanted to say how much I am loving the new photographs. They look great!

  15. Georgie on March 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

    This looks awesome. I really love barbells which is why BodyPump is one of my favorite group fitness classes. I love getting back to basics! Totally pinning this.

  16. Sherri @ fun fit flavor on March 17, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Love this – the workout and the layout of the post. Simple and effective. Thanks!

  17. Erin @ Erin's Inside Job on March 17, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I always feel bad ass when working with barbells so I try and use them when I can. Some exercises in my class use body bars and I like to grab a barbell instead to up the weight. Thanks for the workout!

  18. Livi @ Eat, Pray, Work It Out on March 17, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I love a good barbell workout! This one looks awesome!

  19. Lindsey @ Simply Lindsey on March 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I’ve never used barbells before! I think I’ve been intimidated and I’ve never learned the proper form. I usually stick to body weight exercises and free weights. I might have to give this workout a try soon to check it out!

  20. Tracy on March 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I only do Body Pump for strength training! The truth is I am not a fan of the gym floor and only do group classes!! 😉 What would you suggest as far as changing up my strength routine without being bored??

  21. Stacy @ SweatingTulipz on March 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I definitely use more dumbbells than barbells. Thank you for this reminder to change it up! 🙂

  22. Britt@MyOwnBalance on March 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I’ve definitely noticed on occasion that I’m working one side more than the other. I try to correct it but it is not always easy.

  23. Kate on March 17, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Just completed this workout! It was awesome and a great way to mix things up since I don’t usually use a barbell.

  24. Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork on March 18, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I’m loving these workouts lately (Bosu! Kettlebells!) because I’m in desperate need of some new moves to mix up my weekly workouts! I get bored easily, so these are perfect timing! In fact, planning on doing your recent kettlebell workout this afternoon! Thanks for sharing!

  25. jenna @ just j.faye on March 19, 2015 at 5:52 am

    Love this! I tend to do more moves with dumbbells than barbells, but I am thinking I should switch it up and give this routine a try.

  26. Shawn Wise on October 16, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Well, I hadn’t used them for many months but now it’s so good to get back into barbells. I actually did something and surprised myself….I actually went up to 140 kilos which I haven’t done before. I was pretty intimidated by it at first but got through four squat reps. I find barbells fantastic to do and fit it into your workouts. It’s great for your stability and uses so many muscles in your body….it’s a great compound exercise.

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