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Barbell Exercises Guide – Your Definitive List of Lifts

Expand your knowledge.

This extensive barbell exercises guide will give you a full overview of all the exercises that utilise a barbell.

To start it contains the lower body exercises. The Upper body and Olympic Weightlifting sections will be added soon.

CrossFit Barbell Exercises Guide -Source: CrossFit Inc.
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It will be constantly updated and added to, in order to provide the most comprehensive list possible.

For the sake of structure, the barbell exercises have been organised into the following categories.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Contents

  • Lower Body Barbell Exercises
    • Deadlift Movements
    • Squat Movements
    • Lunge Movements
  • Upper Body Barbell Exercises
    • Bench Press Movements
    • Row Movements
    • Overhead Pressing Movements
    • Other Barbell Movements
  • Olympic Weightlifting Barbell Exercises
    • Snatch Movements
    • Clean Movements
    • Jerk Movements

Note on the structure: Of course, many barbell exercises cannot simply be lumped into one of these three categories.

The Good Morning for example improves both the upper and lower body whilst hammering the posterior chain. The humble Deadlift builds full body strength and so on.

I have organised according to the primary muscle group that is worked. Exercises that still do not fit within any category will be located in the “other barbell movements” section.

Lower Body Barbell Exercises

Let’s start with the Deadlift.

Deadlift-techniqueSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc
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Barbell Exercises Guide – Conventional Deadlift

“There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do deadlift.”

Jón Páll

This famous phrase was bellowed by Jón Páll during the Deadlift event at the World’s Strongest Man competition where he won with a record lift of 523 kg (1,153 lb) off a rectangular handled bar from knee height.

The Conventional Deadlift requires that the athlete lifts the barbell from a dead position on the ground to a standing position with the hips fully extended.

Arms are wider than legs and feet.

A mixed or pronated grip may be used.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Sumo Deadlift

To perform the Sumo Deadlift, the athlete adopts a wide leg position with the toes pointed outwards. The load must be lifted to the standing position with the hips fully extended.

Legs are wider than arms.

A mixed or pronated grip can be used.

It will significantly improve pulling power because it allows you to lift more weight (in most cases) than other types of Deadlift. Shifting higher loads will, of course, make you stronger.

When you change back to conventional Deadlift you will notice how useful this new strength will be, especially in the top lock out portion of the lift.

The Sumo Deadlift works the following muscles:

  • Lower Back (Erector Spinae)
  • Back Muscles and Traps
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Glutes

Barbell Exercises Guide – Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is a form of the Conventional Deadlift that differs in multiple ways.

It starts from the standing position whereas the Conventional Deadlift starts from the ground.

According to Powerlifting Technique “the Deadlift is taught as a ‘push’ off the floor with the knees, whereas the Romanian Deadlift is taught as a ‘pull’ from the hips.”

It teaches athletes to lift from the hips rather than the lower back.

It places the shoulders much further in front of the Barbell.

Romanian Deadlifts target and work the glutes and hamstrings much more whilst the Conventional Deadlift attacks the quads more.

Arms are wider than arms.

A mixed or pronated grip can be used.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The Stiff Leg Deadlift is a variation that primarily targets the hamstrings muscle group.

It is performed with almost straight legs and requires excellent control and strength throughout the full range of motion.

Similar to the Romanian Deadlift, it starts from the standing position with the barbell at waist level. The athlete then lowers the bar to start the rep.

The Stiff Leg Deadlift also has a shorter range of motion than the Conventional Deadlift.

Snatch Grip Deadlift

The Snatch Grip Deadlift is a variation that utilises a wide grip akin to the starting position of a Snatch.

It will pack size onto your traps, upper back, hamstrings, and glutes.

The Snatch Grip Deadlift works as a deficit pull because the lifter must start lower. You get all the benefits of deficit work but you still start from the ground.

This variation will also help you to improve your pulling strength off the floor with the Conventional Deadlift.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Back Squat

The Back Squat is the quintessential strength and muscle building exercise.

We will let Mark Rippetoe introduce this exercise, “There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.”

It is a tremendously useful exercise for life in general and when it comes to functionality it cannot be beaten.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Front Squat

Generally, people tend to lift more weight with the Back Squat and often find holding the bar in the front rack position difficult.

As a result, Front Squats are often neglected.

With the Back Squat you can hide weaknesses, with the Front Squat you cannot. Any imbalances, strength deficiencies and mobility issues will be promptly brought to the light with the Front Squat.

It is a great exercise for identifying the following issues:

  • Problems with thoracic extension (the ability to keep your chest up)
  • Overdeveloped pic minor, biceps or triceps that can lead to a hunched forward position
  • Imbalances in the shoulder girdle
  • Weaknesses in the core
  • Front rack mobility issues
  • Poor strength in the glutes and quads
  • Hip mobility issues
  • Lack of ankle flexibility

Front Squats are also a staple exercise in Olympic weightlifting programs as they serve as the base for the catch position in the clean.

Front Squats will improve your glutes, quads, core and hamstrings.

Overhead Squat

The Overhead Squat demands that the barbell be held overhead with fully extended arms.

It will strengthen your shoulders, arms, core, hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings. It is one of the best core and abs exercises you can add into your training.

Make sure you have a solid squat foundation first, then try a couple of overhead squats with a training bar as you will likely discover additional mobility issues.

The Overhead Squat requires extreme flexibility in your:

  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Adductors

It’s unlikely that you are highly mobile in all of these areas—which is why the overhead squat is often avoided by so many athletes.

You must invest the time into sufficiently mobilising the above muscle groups in order to externally rotate your hips and become comfortable squatting with the bar overhead.

The wider the grip, the more likely a lifter is to over rotate and drop the bar behind. Additionally, as the grip gets wider, it becomes more difficult to extend the elbows forcefully to enter the overhead squat position. Different grips make muscles work in different ways.

A narrow-hand grip allows for much more shoulder mobility and flexibility, which is crucial for powerful overhead squats.

Suitcase Squat

This barbell exercise gets its name from the similarity to carrying the load like a suitcase.

Hold a barbell in one hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly out. Make sure to brace your core, abs and grip.

Push your hips back and squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to floor, keeping your heels flat on the ground, chest up, and knees out. Keep the weight at your side.

Alongside the usual benefits of Squatting, this exercise will help to enhance your forearms and grip strength.

Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat is a lesser-known type of squat that involves holding the barbell in the crook of the arms, out in front of the body.

It is popular with Strong(wo)men and it can be performed without a squat rack.

The Zercher Squat tests and improves the quads, upper back, and core.

The Zercher Squat works all the following muscles:

  • Quadriceps
  • Upper Back
  • Glutes
  • Erectors
  • Abdominals
  • Biceps
  • Hack Squat

Jefferson Squat

The Jefferson Squat is an asymmetrical, bilateral exercise that you should add into your training.

The Jefferson Squat is an unusual squat variation where the barbell is supported between the legs. It is an anti-rotational exercise that works with a multi-planar movement pattern.

The barbell starts on the ground and is deadlifted into position before being squatted.

  • Increase leg hypertrophy
  • Build core stability and strength
  • Test and improve the body through multiple planes of motion
  • It is easier on the lower back than the back squat
  • It is an anti-rotational exercise
  • This variation builds adductor strength
  • It will add new stimulus and variety to your training

The Jefferson Squat also offers the combined benefits of unilateral training, squatting and sumo deadlifting, all rolled together into a single lift.

It is an effective accessory exercise for strength athletes, gym goers and CrossFit athletes.

The way that it strengthens the adductors makes it a great secondary lift to help improve your squat.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Landmine Squat

The Landmine Squat is an anterior loaded squat where one end of the barbell is fixed to the floor.

They can be performed in the gym/box using a landmine attachment or by placing the end of the barbell into the hole of a weights plate.

The Landmine Squat tests, challenges and improves the following muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Rectus Abdominus
  • Obliques
  • Scapular Stabilizers
  • Trapezius
  • Deltoids

Of these muscles, this Squat variation primarily targets the quads, upper back and glutes.

As with all Squats, it is also an excellent core exercise.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Barbell Lunge

The barbell lunge is a unilateral single-leg strength exercise that enhances the following muscles:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

This exercise will also develop core stability, hip mobility and muscular balance.

When you perform this highly underrated exercise, make sure that you don’t let your front knee extend out over your toes at the bottom of the rep.

Additionally, you want to drop your hips to descend into the movement instead of just stabbing the knee forwards.

Finally, it is highly important never to let either knee cave inwards.

Barbell Exercises Guide – Barbell Reverse Lunge

The Barbell Reverse Lunge is a compound exercise that targets the legs, core and glutes. Similar to the previous entry, this variation is, however, performed in reverse.

The quadriceps are especially worked hard. Reverse Lunges will also improve explosive power.

The four muscles that make up the quads are the:

  • Rectus femoris
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus medialis
  • Vastus lateralis

Standing Barbell Calf Raise

You perform the standing Calf Raise by racking the barbell on your back. Maintain a strong core and a stable stance then rise upwards onto your toes, taking the pressure on your calves.

Move slowly and with purpose and you can add significant muscle mass to your calves.

The calves consist of two primary muscles, the soleus and the gastrocnemius.

The soleus is a deeper muscle that contributes to ankle stability and plantar flexion

The gastrocnemius is the two-headed muscle that helps to enable plantar flexion and knee flexion.

This guide will be continued soon.

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