7 Barbell Exercises for Building Strength at Home

barbell exercises

The barbell. An amazing bit of kit that can help you build full-body strength.

There’s an endless amount of exercises you can perform with the barbell.

We’ve highlighted 7 barbell exercises that should be a staple in your training program.  

Best Barbell Exercises

1. Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is the king of lower body lifts. It helps build power and strength in your legs. 

How to Perform 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on your upper back. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Send your hips back and bend your knees to come into the squat position. 
  8. Your hips should be below your knees.
  9. Drive through your midfoot and push your hips forward to stand tall. 

Muscles Targeted 

Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and lower back. 

Technique Tips 

  • Push your knees out. 
  • Keep your back in a neutral position. 
  • Think about pushing the floor away, rather than standing tall. 
  • Push your elbows forward to create a stronger position. 

Recommended Workout 

5 sets x 5 reps @ 80% 1RM


2. Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is an upper-body-focused lift helping you develop pushing power and strength in your chest. 

How to Perform 

  1. Set the barbell approximately 2” below arm height at full extension. 
  2. Lay on the bench with your chin directly below the barbell. 
  3. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core.
  5. Drive your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes.
  6. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it over your chest.
  7. Bend your arms to lower the barbell to your chest.
  8. Pause for a second then push the barbell up to full extension. 

Muscles Targeted

Triceps brachii, pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, traps, and back. 

Technique Tips

  • Keep your elbows close to your body.  
  • Push through your feet to initiate leg drive. 
  • Keep your shoulder blades pulled together throughout. 
  • Don’t “bounce” the barbell off your chest. 

Recommended Workout

5 sets x 3 reps @ 85% 1RM


3. Barbell Deadlift

The deadlift involves lifting a weight from the ground to your hips. It’s a great exercise for building lower body strength and enforcing good posture. 

How to Perform 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart underneath the barbell. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell. 
  4. Grip the bar with an overhand grip just outside shoulder-width.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. At full extension pause briefly before slowly lowering back to the floor. 

Muscles Targeted

Gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and erector spinae. 

Technique Tips 

  • Push through the floor and keep your toes down. 
  • Maintain full-body tightness throughout the lift. 
  • Take the slack out of the barbell before performing the lift. 
  • Keep your back in a neutral position and shoulder blades pulled back – we don’t want to see any round backs. 

Recommended Workout

4 sets x 2 reps @ 95% 1RM


4. Barbell Clean

The barbell clean involves the athlete moving the barbell from to floor to their shoulders in one continuous movement. It requires full-body strength and mobility as well as good technique.

How to Perform 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart underneath the barbell. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell. 
  4. Grip the bar with a hook grip just outside shoulder-width.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. After the bar has passed the knees, rapidly extend your hips.
  8. Extend onto your toes then shrug your shoulders to pull the bar up your torso. 
  9. Pull yourself under the barbell into a front squat position.
  10. Drive through your midfoot to return to standing.

Muscles Targeted

Core, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, traps, and shoulders. 

Technique Tips 

  • During extension, jump your feet slightly out to the side. 
  • During the pull, imagine you’re trying to pull your t-shirt off with the barbell. 
  • Push your knees out during the squat. 
  • Keep your elbows high during the squat. 

Recommended Workout

Work up to a 1RM


5. Barbell Snatch

The barbell snatch is an Olympic lift whereby the athlete moves the barbell from to floor to overhead in one continuous movement. It requires full-body strength and mobility as well as good technique.

How to Perform 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart underneath the barbell.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell.
  4. Grip the bar with a wide hook grip.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. After the bar has passed the knees, rapidly extend your hips.
  8. Extend onto your toes then shrug your shoulders to pull the bar up your torso. 
  9. Pull yourself under the barbell into an overhead squat position.
  10. Your arms should be fully extended and in line with your ears. 
  11. Drive through your midfoot to return to standing. 

Muscles Targeted

Core, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, traps, and shoulders. 

Technique Tips 

  • During the set up rotate your arms inwards to engage the lats.
  • Keep the bar close to your body during the pull. 
  • Drive your knees out and maintain a neutral position in your spine. 
  • Keep your torso upright during the catch. 

Recommended Workout

Work up to a 1RM


6. Barbell Thruster

The thruster is a full-body exercise combining the front squat and overhead press. The thruster will also jack up your heart rate, making them a great cardio exercise too. 

How to Perform 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on the front of your shoulders. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Send your hips back and bend your knees to come into the squat position. 
  8. Your hips should be below your knees.
  9. Drive through your midfoot and push your hips forward to stand tall. 
  10. As you stand up, push the barbell overhead. 
  11. Pause briefly, then slowly lower back the shoulders.

Muscles Targeted

Glutes, core, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and triceps. 

Technique Tips 

  • Use the momentum from the squat to help push the barbell overhead. 
  • The thruster is one continuous movement, don’t take any pauses during the squat and press. 
  • If you need to rest, do so at the top of the lift. 
  • Come onto your toes during extension to generate a little bit more power.

Recommended Workout

3 sets x 4 reps @ 87.5% 1RM


7. Barbell Overhead Press 

The barbell overhead press is an upper-body focused lift helping you develop pushing power and strength in your shoulders. 

How to Perform 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on the front of your shoulders. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Push the barbell overhead to full extension. 
  8. Pause briefly, then slowly lower back the shoulders. 

Muscles Targeted

Triceps, shoulders, core, and chest. 

Technique Tips 

  • Keep the barbell over your midfoot throughout the lift.
  • Your legs and core should remain tight. 
  • Push your head through the barbell during the lift. 
  • Bend your knees slightly when returning the barbell to your shoulders, this will help absorb some of the impact. 

Recommended Workout

3 sets x 8 reps @ 70% 1RM


Barbell Exercises FAQs

best barbell exercises

Are Barbell Exercises Good for Beginners?

Barbells can be used by a range of abilities, including beginners. Start with the basic lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift) to help you develop good movement patterns before taking on the advanced lifts.

To begin with, don’t add any weight, just use the barbell. If that’s too much of a struggle use a broomstick to get comfortable with the movement. 

Do I Need to Warm up Before Doing Barbell Exercises?

Yes, warming up before exercise is essential. It helps prepare your body for exercise so your risk of injury decreases and your performance increases. A popular barbell warm-up is the Burgener warm-up: 

  • Down and Up
  • Elbows High and Outside
  • Muscle Snatch
  • Snatch Land
  • Snatch Drop
  • Hang Power Snatch

How to Combine Barbell Exercises for a Full-Body Workout?

The best way to ensure you’re getting a full-body workout is to include a pull, push, and lower body lift. Hitting these three areas guarantees all the major muscle groups are being hit.

best barbell exercises

Key Takeaways

The barbell is a one of the most versatile and effective pieces of gym equipment for building full-body strength.

Although there’s an endless amount of exercises you can perform with the barbell, we recommend the 7 barbell exercises above as training program staples.

Happy Lifting!

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