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Barbell Workout Plan For Beginners

The humble barbell is often overlooked in favor of flashier and more trendy workout equipment. But don’t be fooled—the barbell is a versatile and incredibly effective tool for strength training, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete.

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If you’re just getting started with strength training, this barbell workout plan for beginners is the perfect way to get started. With just a few basic exercises, you can build strength, gain muscle, and improve your overall fitness.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of a barbell-only full body workout plan, let’s go through a quick review of the most important exercises you’ll be doing.

Which Barbell Exercises Can You Do To Build Strength And Muscle?

There are two fundamental types of exercises you can do with a barbell:

Compound Exercises

Compound movements are multi-joint exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These exercises are incredibly effective for building strength and muscle because they allow you to move heavy weights and recruit more muscles than isolation exercises.

Furthermore, they are functional in nature meaning they transfer well to everyday activities.

The most common compound exercises are variations of the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. These exercises should form the foundation of any barbell workout plan.

Isolation Exercises

Isolation exercises are single-joint movements that target a specific muscle group. They are often used as a way to finish off a workout by targeting muscles that may have been under-stimulated by the compound exercises.

Common isolation exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, and lateral raises.

Read More: Grip Strength Workout For Maximal Hand And Forearm Strength

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How To Use This Workout Plan

This workout plan is designed for beginners who are just getting started with strength training. It uses a 3-day split, meaning that you will train different muscle groups on different days.

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On day 1, you’ll train your lower body. On day 2, you’ll  train your upper body  On day 3, you’ll do a full-body workout.

You’ll perform each exercise for 3 sets of 8-10 reps. This is a great starting point for beginners, but feel free to adjust the volume and intensity as you see fit.

Day 1: Lower Body Workout

  • Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Lunges: 3 sets of 8-10 reps (each leg)
  • Glute Bridges: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Day 2: Upper Body Workout

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bent over rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Pullups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Day 3: Full Body Workout

  • Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bent over rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Pullups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

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barbell workout plan

Choosing Your Starting Weight

Use the following steps to help you choose an appropriate starting weight for your new workout routine:

Step 1: Master Proper Form

Maintaining proper form throughout your workout prevents injury and ensures that you’re getting the most out of your exercises (1). Before adding weight to any movement, use bodyweight exercises to perfect your form. 

You can also perfect your form using “zero weight” or “empty bar” exercises. These exercises are performed using a barbell with no weight added.

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Step 2: Determine Your Base Weight

Start by finding a weight that you can safely and effectively perform 12-15 reps with, without breaking form. This is typically referred to as your base weight.

Step 3: Determine Your Starting Weight

If you can easily do 15 reps in good form, that weight is too light to stimulate muscle growth. Add 5-10 pounds at a time until you find a weight that is challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form

The idea is to push your muscles to failure, meaning you can’t do another rep without breaking form. Your starting weight will be the one you can perform 8-10 reps with. 

Step 4: Progressively Overload

Once you’ve found a starting weight that works for you, it’s important to progressively overload your muscles by gradually increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting. This will help you see results and avoid plateaus.

Each time you hit your max rep range for an exercise (12-15 reps), increase the weight by 5-10 pounds the next time you do that exercise. For example, if you’re currently lifting 50 pounds for 12-15 reps on the bench press, your next workout should be 54-60 pounds for 8-10 reps.

Progressively overload gradually; take at least 1-2 weeks in between weights so that your muscles are capable of handling more stress.

Read More: Why Am I Not Hungry After Working Out?

barbell workout plan

How To Execute Aa Safe And Effective Workout

Here’s how to safely execute the barbell exercises detailed in the beginner workout plan:

Back Squat

The back squat works the biggest muscles in your body (the quads, glutes, and hamstrings), making it a great exercise for beginners.

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How to do it:

  1. Go under the bar and place it across the back of your shoulders. It should rest it on your traps (these are the muscles between your neck and shoulders). 
  2. Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Both hands should face forward and elbows should point outwards.
  3. Unrack the bar by straightening your legs. 
  4. Take a step back with each foot and position them shoulder-width apart.
  5. Bend your knees and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive up through your heels to return to the starting position.
  6. Keep your spine straight and core braced throughout the movement. 

Deadlift

The deadlift is a great exercise for working the posterior chain (the muscles on the backside of your body), making it essential for beginners.

How to do it:

  1. Approach the bar so that it’s centered over your feet. 
  2. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  3. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, drive your heels into the ground and lift your torso until you’re standing upright. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and arch your lower back.
  5. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift.
  6. Reverse the motion and lower the bar to the floor.

Bench Press

The bench press is a great exercise for working the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie back on a flat bench with feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Arch your back and grip the bar with hands shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Pull the bar out of the rack and lower it to your sternum, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides. 
  4. When the bar touches your body, drive your feet hard into the floor and press the bar back up.
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barbell workout plan

Bent-Over Barbell Row

The bent-over row is a great exercise for working the lats, traps, and biceps.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a barbell with an overhand grip and bend at the hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. 
  2. Allow your knees to bend slightly as you do this.
  3. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, drive your heels into the floor and lift your torso until you’re standing upright. 
  4. Pull the bar up to your upper abdomen, leading with your elbows.
  5. Reverse the motion and lower the bar to the floor.

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Overhead Press

The overhead press is a great exercise for working the shoulders, triceps, and core.

How to do it: 

  1. Start with the barbell in the rack at about shoulder height. 
  2. Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. 
  3. Unrack the bar and lower it to your collarbone, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides. 
  4. From here, press the bar overhead, extending your elbows and locking out your arms. 
  5. Reverse the motion and lower the bar back to your collarbone.

Barbell Glute Bridges

The barbell glute bridge is a great exercise for working the glutes, hamstrings, and core.

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back with feet flat on the floor and a barbell across your hips. 
  2. Bend your knees and drive your heels into the floor to raise your hips and lower back off the ground. 
  3. Pause at the top of the lift, then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
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barbell workout plan

Safety Tips For Your Barbell Workout

Now that you know some of the best exercises to include in your barbell workout, it’s important to review some safety tips to help prevent injury.

Use A Spotter

A spotter is someone who stands nearby to help you with the barbell if you start to lose control of it. When lifting heavy weights, it’s always best to have a spotter on hand in case you need help.

Warm Up

Before starting your workout, it’s important to warm up your muscles. A simple way to do this is to perform the exercises with lighter weights before moving on to the heavier weights.

This will help your muscles gradually adjust to the increased workload and prevent injury.

Stretching

After your muscles are warm, it’s important to stretch. Stretching helps improve range of motion and can prevent injury. Dynamic stretching is especially beneficial before a workout (2).

The Bottom Line

Barbell workouts are a great way to build muscle and strength. They can be performed at home or in the gym and are suitable for all fitness levels.

When starting a barbell workout, it’s important to use proper form and technique. It’s also important to warm up your muscles and stretch before starting your workout. Following these tips will help you stay safe and prevent injury.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Resistance training – preventing injury (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
  2. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk (2005, nih.gov)
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