The 10 Best Exercises with a Weighted Bar

The Best Exercises with a Weighted Bar

The weighted barbell is one of the oldest and most basic forms of resistance training equipment that exists. Despite the advent of all manner of new machines and training modalities, the old-fashioned weighted bar remains as popular as ever. There’s something about lifting a bar that is unique. The experience cannot be replicated with a weight machine. In this article, I lay out ten of the best exercises with a weighted bar to work your entire body.

1. Barbell Squat

Muscles Worked: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings

How To Do a Barbell Squat:

  1. Load an Olympic barbell onto a squat rack at shoulder level.
  2. Stand under the bar and unrack it, with the weight resting across your trapezius.
  3. Take a step back and set your feet shoulder-width apart with feet pointing slightly outward. 
  4. Hinge at the hips as you descend into a parallel squat.
  5. Push through the heels to return to the start position.

Training Tips: Lookup throughout the movement. Do not round your back. Stop just short of lockout to keep tension on the quads. 

2. Barbell Lunge

Muscles Worked: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes

How To Do a Barbell Lunge

  1. Load an Olympic barbell onto a squat rack at shoulder level.
  2. Stand under the bar and unrack it, with the weight resting across your trapezius.
  3. Take 3 steps back and palace your feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Take a large step forward with your right foot and drop your left knee toward the floor. Stop just short of touching the floor.
  5. Push through the front thigh to return to the start position. 
  6. Repeat with the other leg.

Training Tips: Do not go too heavy or you will have a tendency not to go down low enough. 

3. Deadlift

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Erector Spinae, Glutes, Latissimus Dorsi

How To Do a Deaflift:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor and stand in front of it with your mid feet under the bar. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Drop your hips as you come down to grab the bar just outside your knees with an overhand grip.
  3. Pull the bar directly up to full arm extension.
  4. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Maintain an arched lower back position. Keep the bar close to your body on the way up. 

4. Bench Press

Muscles Worked: Pectorals, Triceps, Front Deltoids

How To Do a Bench Press:

  1. Lie on a loaded bench press bench and set your feet firmly on the floor. Reach up to grab the bar just slightly wider than shoulder-width with an overhand grip.
  2. Unrack the bar and lift it over your mid-chest level.
  3. Lower the bar to touch your chest.
  4. Power the weight back up to the start position.

Training Tips: Arch your lower back but keep your shoulders down and hips down on the bench. Push into the floor as you power back up.

5. Bent Over Row

Muscles Worked: Latissimus Dorsi, Middle Trapezius

How To Do a Bent Over Row:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor and stand behind it.
  2. Hinge at the hips and bend down to grab the bar at shoulder width with an overhand grip. 
  3. Lift the bar just off the floor and arch your back. In this position, your knees should be bent and your back at a 30-degree angle.
  4. Pull the bar up to your ribs.
  5. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Fully contract your lats in the top position. Lower the bar under control. 

6. Military Press

Muscles Worked: Front DEltoids

How To Do a Military Press:

  1. Load an Olympic barbell onto a power rack at shoulder level.
  2. Stand in front of the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab the bar at shoulder level. 
  3. Unrack the bar and rest it across your clavicles.
  4. Push the bar overhead to full arm extension.
  5. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Maintain a neutral lower back position. Push directly up rather than laterally. Lower just short of lockout to maintain tension on the front deltoids. 

7. Barbell Curl

Muscles Worked: Triceps

How To Do a Barbell Curl:

  1. Stand with a barbell held in your hands in an underhand grip and arms at your sides. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Curl the bar up to shoulder level.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Do not swing from your hips or otherwise use momentum to get the bar up. The only movement should be through the forearms. Contract the biceps tightly in the top position. 

8. Lying Triceps Extension

Muscles Worked: Triceps

How To Do a Lying Tricep Extension:

  1. Lie on a flat bench with your feet on the floor and a barbell held at arm’s length above your chest.
  2. Bend at the elbows to lower the bar to your forehead. 
  3. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Training Tips: Keep your elbows in as you lower the bar to your forehead. Go all the way down until the bar touches your forehead. Extend all the way back to full extension. 

9. Upright Row

Muscles Worked: Trapezius

How To Do It an Upright Row:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a bar held at arm’s length in front of your body with an overhand grip and your hands about six inches apart. 
  2. Pull the bar directly up your body to your chin.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Do not round your back; keep it naturally arched throughout your back. Keep your shoulders pulled back throughout the movement. Lower the bar under control. 

10. Reverse Curl

Muscles Worked: Forearms

How To Do a Reverse Curl:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a bar held at arm’s length in front of your body in an overhand grip. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Curl the bar up to your shoulder level.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Training Tips: Do not round your back; maintain a neutral lower back position. Keep your elbows in at your sides throughout the entire movement.

Wrap Up

The ten weighted bar exercises described above will work your entire body. They can be used in a workout program by dividing them into 2 workouts.

On Day One do the following workout:

  • Squats – 4 x 15/12/10/8
  • Lunges  – 3 x 12/12/12
  • Deadlifts – 4 x 15/12/10/8
  • Upright Row – 3 x 10
  • Reverse Curl – 3 x 10

On Day Two, do the following workout:

  • Bench Press – 4 x 15/12/10/8
  • Bent-Over Row – 3 x 12
  • Military Press – 4 x 15/12/10/8
  • Barbell Curls – 4 x 15/12/10/8
  • Lying Tricep Extension – 4 x 15/12/10/8

This article was last updated on September 9, 2021 .

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Categorized as Exercise

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.