Training

Barbell Workout For Women | Tone Up With These Seven Exercises

It can be a mission to decide on new exercises to add to your workout, but it’s important to switch up your routine even if just for some variation. It can help to avoid plateaus and keep exercise interesting. Not to mention it can be difficult to stay motivated for the same workout day in, day out.

When the gym is busy sometimes there’s nothing better than grabbing a barbell and staying in your corner of the gym. No waiting around for machines, no waiting for the dumbbells you want and no trying to speak to people with headphones on to ask how many more sets they have. Bliss.

With a simple barbell you can reduce bodyfat, lose weight, tone up, build strength and muscle and improve your overall fitness.

The benefits of exercising with a barbell

Can aid weight loss

With any exercise, you will burn calories and weightlifting is no different.

Whole body workouts

There are 4 fundamental ‘big lifts’ performed with a barbell that cover the majority of your body.  Squats, Deadlifts, Shoulder Press and Bench Press. So, within one workout, you can complete a full body workout and save time doing so.

Increased strength & muscle

If you perform any resistance training with even the slightest progressive overload, you will get stronger.  In the long term, this is simply going to benefit your everyday life. Who doesn’t want to carry the shopping in with no return trips?

Toning

In reducing your bodyfat and gaining some muscle, you will, in time, see a more toned physique.

 

Getting started with a barbell

  • Quality over quantity. Start light and get heavier as you get stronger.
  • Aim for a rep range of 8-12. If you drop below 8, you’re lifting to heavy. If, however you lift more than 12, you’re lifting too light.
  • Always try out your technique before weight. Get this right and you reduce the risk of injury.

 

1. Deadlift

Target muscles: The deadlift is one of few movements that work all major muscle groups in the body and, depending on the variation and stance, can work your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads and even your upper back and arms, with major emphasis on the traps, spinal erectors, hips, glutes, and hamstrings.

  • Step up to and under a barbell with your feet angled slightly outward, at hip-width apart.
  • Bend over and grip the barbell with both hands at shoulder width.
  • Bend your knees until the bar almost touches your shins.
  • Hold a neutral spine, engage the core and glutes.
  • Pick the bar up off the ground.  Concentrate on pushing the floor away with your legs rather than thinking of it as pulling the bar.
  • Continue pressing down with your legs until the barbell passes your knees and you are upright.
  • Control the release of the movement towards the ground.

Tip: Pin your shoulders back and stick your bum out to help gain a straight back.

 

2. Bentover Row

  • Hold a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down). Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees and bring your torso forward slightly. Your back should be straight and almost parallel to the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Lift the barbell up towards your sternum, keeping your elbows tucked in and close to the body.
  • Pause and hold at the top of the movement, squeezing your back muscles.
  • Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Tip: Pushing your hips back will help you to keep your back straight throughout the exercise

 

3. Glute Bridge

Target muscles: The glute bridge is an exercise which targets the glutes but also activates the hamstrings and your lower back.

  1. Lay on your back with your feet flat against the floor and knees bent.
  2. Pull the loaded bar over your legs to hip level.
  3. Engage your glutes by squeezing them and lift your hips off of the floor driving them up towards the ceiling.
  4. At the top of the movement make sure your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  5. At the top of the movement pause at the top and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, hold for 1-2 seconds, and then lower back down slowly to the starting position.

Tip: Pushing your hips back will help you to keep your back straight throughout the exercise

 

4. Back Squat

Target muscles: Your entire body will play in part in this lift but particularly your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

  • First, start with your feet shoulder-width apart and take a firm grip of the bar.
  • Rest the bar on your upper back around midway down your traps. Keep your chest puffed out and very slightly turn your feet out (around 40 degrees).
  • Take a deep breath, retract your shoulder blades and brace your core. Lowering yourself down by bending your knees until they are parallel to the floor. Keep your heels glued to the ground throughout.
  • Your quads do a lot of the work towards the top end of the squat, so power up on the ascent from your mid-foot to heel while exhaling.
  • Remember, your spine should remain neutral throughout. At no point should there be any bending or curving of the back.
  • Either re-rack or repeat.

Tip: It sounds simple, but warm up properly. Take a few sets to squat just the bar and then gradually work up to your max weight for the day.

 

5. Overhead Press

Target muscles: The Deltoids are the main muscle group to be hit with the medial, posterior and lateral deltoid.  Your triceps will play a supporting role along with your core to keep you stable.

  • First, start with your feet shoulder-width apart and take a firm grip of the bar.
  • Rest the bar on your upper back around midway down your traps. Keep your chest puffed out and very slightly turn your feet out (around 40 degrees).
  • Take a deep breath, retract your shoulder blades and brace your core. Lowering yourself down by bending your knees until they are parallel to the floor. Keep your heels glued to the ground throughout.
  • Your quads do a lot of the work towards the top end of the squat, so power up on the ascent from your mid-foot to heel while exhaling.
  • Remember, your spine should remain neutral throughout. At no point should there be any bending or curving of the back.
  • Either re-rack or repeat.

Tip: Don’t lock out your elbows. Keep a slight bend to protect the joint.

 

6. Upright Row

Target muscles: A fantastic muscle-building exercise for the upper back and shoulders, which can help to shape your upper arms and torso.

  • Starting with the barbell at your feet, grip the bar with your hands, slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes
  • Raise your elbows and lift the barbell until your elbows are level with your shoulders.
  • During the movement, it’s important to keep the barbell under control.
  • Pause at the top before lowering the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Tip: Keeping the barbell close to your body help to reduce the chance of swinging the barbell forwards.

 

7. Hang Clean

Target muscles: Several joint actions are involved and some of the primary muscles activated include the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, erector spinae, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, gastrocnemius, and soleus

  • Stand with your feet between hip and shoulder-width apart, weight in your heels. Think Deadlift position.
  • Keep shoulders back, chest forward with an embraced core.
  • Maintain a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, fully extended elbows, and keep feet flat on the floor.
  • From the floor, push through the floor away from you.
  • Bend slightly at the hips, push your bum back, maintain a neutral spine
  • Keep the bar close to your hips with your elbows straight, and forcefully elevate the shoulders pushing your hips forward.
  • Pull the bar upwards to shoulder height and tuck the elbows underneath to receive the bar.
  • You can catch the bar on the front of your shoulders or hold in a starting position for a shoulder press but, for this, keep the weight manageable to protect the wrists.
  • Reset feet for each rep.

Tip: Keep the back straight throughout and rather than pulling the bar, push the floor away as you pick it up.

 

Take Home Message

You can target your whole body with just a barbell. Say goodbye to complicated dumbbell movements and lengthy machine queues. Sometimes simplicity is key.

 

 

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Chris Appleton

Chris Appleton

Writer and expert

Chris is an editor and a level 3 qualified Personal Trainer, with a BA honours degree in Sports Coaching and Development, and a level 3 qualification in Sports Nutrition. He has experience providing fitness classes and programs for beginners and advanced levels of clients and sports athletes. Chris is also a qualified football coach, delivering high-level goalkeeping and fitness training at a semi-professional level, with nutritional advice to help maintain optimal performance. His experience in the sports and fitness industry spans 15 years and is continuously looking to improve. In his spare time, Chris likes to dedicate it to his family while training in the gym.


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