Working on strength training at the gym? If you’re comfortable using strength machines, dumbbells and kettlebells, you might be ready to start training with the barbell.

The barbell is an advanced tool used to perform compound movements that work your entire body. It’s important to pay close attention to your form when working with barbells to avoid injury and to set yourself up for efficient reps that will help you grow stronger.

In this blog post, we cover everything you need to know about getting started with barbell training, including barbell safety and etiquette tips, how to perform the big three lifts and a barbell workout that you can try on your own at the gym.

Barbell Safety and Etiquette

Before you start working with the barbell and squat rack, there are a few important safety tips to go over.

  1. There are two types of weight plates: hexagon and round bumper plates. The hex plates are great for squatting and bench pressing. If you are deadlifting, you’ll want to use the bumper plates. Bumper plates roll easily and will help you get into proper position to perform a deadlift.
  2. When setting up the squat rack, make sure that the barbell is resting evenly on the barbell holders. There are numbers along the side of the rack to help you orient and align the holders in the correct spot on each side.
  3. When maneuvering the barbell, if you are moving to another area of the club, hold the bar vertically.
  4. Always make sure to use the weight clips when you have weights on the barbell to lock the plates into place.

Related: New to the barbell? Get comfortable with kettlebells first!

How To Perform The Back Squat

The first exercise in our barbell workout is the back squat. Before you perform a back squat, make sure that your rack is set up at the proper height for you and that the safety bars are in an appropriate spot.

Once your rack is set up, you’ll approach the bar. Grab the bar with your hands just outside of shoulder and then walk underneath the bar. The bar should be resting on the meatiest part of your trapezius – not too high on the neck or too low that it feels like it’s sliding off your back. Before you step back from the squat rack, activate your lats by pulling in opposite directions on the bar and keep your grip strong with a straight wrist. Stand up tall, take two steps back from the rack and then adjust your feet to hip width.

Take a big breath in, hold the air as your descend, and then exhale as your drive back up to standing. That’s one rep!

How To Deadlift

First, remember that you’ll want to use bumper plates for the deadlift. For a traditional deadlift, feet should be at hip-width or a bit wider and you’ll hinge down to “double over” grip the bar – about shoulder width. Activate the lats again like we did with the squat, brace your core and pull the slack out of the bar by sitting back so your hips are below your shoulders.

You’ll inhale as you lift the bar, keeping it close to your shins. Exhale and lower the bar back down nice and controlled. That’s one rep!

You can also use a hex bar for a deadlift for a bit of an easier set-up. With the hex bar, you’ll step inside the bar, feet hip width apart, hinge back and grab the handles with a vertical grip. Brace the core, inhale and drive through the hips and exhale to stand. That’s one rep!

How To Perform The Bench Press

Before you bench press, you’ll want to check that the bar is at an appropriate height for your body. To check this, you’ll lay down on the bench and reach up with your arms to make sure you can properly grip the bar in its current position.

Once you’ve got the bar at an appropriate height, sit down on the forward edge of the bench to ensure you do not hit your head on the bar as you lay down. Reach up with your arms slightly wider than shoulder width to find proper placement for your grip on the bar.

Feet should be driving into the ground. Head should stay down on the bench, and upper back/shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench.

When you feel properly set up, re-grip the bar and press the bar straight up. Pull the bar toward your belly button so your wrists, elbows and shoulders align. Then, inhale and pull the bar down as if you’re performing a row. Breathe in and exhale as you press up. That’s one rep!

15 Minute Barbell Workout

RelatedLooking for more workouts? Try this total body dumbbell workout.

This barbell workout consists of three sections with 3 rounds each. Complete the full 3 rounds before moving on to the next set. This workout should take you between 15-20 minutes.

3 rounds:

  • 8 back squat reps
  • 30 seconds bear plank squat
  • 30 seconds to 1 min of rest between rounds

3 rounds:

  • 8 deadlift reps
  • 8 push-ups
  • 30 seconds to 1 min of rest between rounds

3 rounds:

  • 8 bench press reps
  • 8 dead bugs
  • 30 seconds to 1 min of rest between rounds

Have questions about these movements? Flag down one of our personal trainers on the fitness floor and they will be happy to help you with proper set-up and execution.

Contact us for a free training session

Post written by FFC Contributor Natalie Casper. Video and workout courtesy of FFC Fitness Director Mario Dato.