I’ll never stop loving the feel of a weighted barbell in my hands.
Ever since I started training with weights, I’ve always have had an obsession with barbell training.
I can remember my first barbell set was from Wal-Mart. It was the set that had a short and skinny bar and the plastic sand filled weights. I would crank out bench presses and curls like they were going out of style back then.
My how things change overtime…
I can also remember the old Middle School weight room where I first started training with real barbells at like it was yesterday. I can remember the picture on the wall of Arnold powering through a set of barbell squats…
Over the years as I worked harder and harder, it was an awesome feeling each time I was able to slap on another plate or two onto the bar when I squatted or benched, or deadlifted (which was rare back then).
Today, barbell training is HUGE part of my programming and being a strength coach, it’s very rare to have a day go by with me not actually having contact with a barbell in some way, shape, or form.
Bottom line – if you’re wanting to get seriously strong and add on slabs of muscle to your frame, barbell training is one of the main “go to” methods for getting the job done.
With all the different types and variations of movements barbells offer, I decided to narrow it down to my personal favorite top 7 movements done with a barbell.
BUT, just take note on how you you won’t be finding any curl or skull crusher variations…
ONLY the good stuff baby! 😉
Below, I’ve listed out my favorite movements which I also feel are the some of the absolute most effective and results producing movements as well.
So, let’s get into my 7 top barbell training movements shall we…
1. Athletic Stance Sumo Deadlifts
Now, I love the conventional deadlift as I feel it’s The King of all barbell strength building exercises. One thing many people do not take full advantage of is utilizing the different variations of the deadlift. Most people stick to your regular ol’ traditional deadlift.
For me and for most of the athletes I train that can get a bit boring.
Switching it up to sumo’s every now and then will not only help give you a bit of variety in your training, but it will help build a ton of extra strength to help you bust through plateaus. Don’t pass up your sumo’s.
Now, the sumo deadlifts I speak of here aren’t you competition style sumo’s, rather they’re a bit closer to your traditional deadlift but with a bit wider feet and hands inside.
I like working both high rep sets with these as well as low rep sets.
2. Squat Cleans
I can remember when I first did a workout that included Squat Cleans in it…
I hated that workout, but I’ve grown to LOVE squat cleans.
This is a great movement as it involves both power and strength, but it is a little bit more on the technical side as it takes a whole lot of practice and skill to get it down right.
In addition to this, it also requires a good amount of mobility as well.
Years back I couldn’t even properly perform a solid FULL squat clean, but as I’ve gotten my mobility better I’ve been able to successfully do these with great success.
You can use them for pure strength and power OR if you’re a little more advanced, you can use these nasty boys for conditioning.
One of my favorite (and worst) conditioning sessions is an E.M.O.T.M. interval with squat cleans being one of the main movements.
Hit 3 reps Every Minute on the Minute for 3 mins at a weight that you can handle pretty well for 4-5 reps. By round 5 and 6, you’ll be feeling it pretty damn good.
Here’s a E.M.O.T.M. I did just a few weeks back…
3. Heavy Thrusters
Whenever you combine together both a heavy front squat and a heavy overhead press, you can’t go wrong!
This is an excellent 1-2 punch that will hammer both your upper body and lower body.
What I like about it is it allows you to press a bit more weight then you normally would with just a normal strict press as you use the momentum you build from your front squat and “thrust” the weight overhead.
This movement, like the Squat Clean, can be used for both pure strength or it can be used for conditioning.
A few methods I like to use it for…
A) E.M.O.T.M. – Do 1 Thruster @ 90% of your 1-3 rep max thruster x 10 rounds…
B) Go for more conditioning and hit up a classic ass kicker like Fran which is 21-15-9 reps of 95 lbs thruster and pull ups.
Everyone knows how sh*tty Fran can be…
4. Power Snatch
Taking a bar from the ground to over your head will definitely work the whole body. They say the snatch is the world’s fastest lift. I say yes, but it’s also the world’s most frustrating lift.
Hey, it’s not an Olympic Sport for nothing… Doing Snatches right is f*cking hard! I won’t lie and say it’s easy…
There’s a steady line of progressions you must follow and for most people , improving their shoulder mobility is one of the first focuses they need to key in on before they even think about moving forth with the Snatch.
Here’s the infamous 90 rep Snatch workout from a few years back in the Crossfit Open…
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Now, there’s a few different ways you can use the snatch…
I used to use it just because it was a solid power movement, which was good to have at the beginning of my training session. You can build up some serious muscle with snatches and all of it’s different variations (heavy snatch pulls will throw slabs of muscle onto your traps BTW).
When I used snatches for building more strength, muscle, and power, I stuck to your basic POWER snatch in which you would catch the bar overhead with a slight bend in the knees and hips. This is different then a FULL snatch.
For most of my power based athletes, I prescribe Power Snatches because they don’t require as much skill and mobility.
Full snatches on the other hand take quite a bit longer to learn and progress up to and in most cases, not even a movement that most athletes need to learn unless their going to complete in Olympic Lifting or Crossfit.
For me, I’m using the full snatch almost 95% of the time now as it’s apart of my preparation for competing within Crossfit as it’s one of the staple movements within competition so I need to be highly proficient with it.
It’s always a work in progress as I’ll have my good days and my terrible days where I can’t seem to snatch anything.
Bottom Line – snatches will take some time to learn. If you want to get good at them and use them right, I recommend learning from a highly qualified coach or by getting yourself a solid resource to learn from like the Olympic Lifting Domination Video Series I have within The Aggressive Strength Coaching Community.
5. Squat Clean Thruster – AKA “Man Childs”
What do you get when you combine the great Squat Clean + Thrusters?
You get what I like to call “Man Childs”.
There’s nothing more to say about these other then they will make you into a man if you’re a child.
Here’s one of my favorite set ups I did a while back…
Give that one a go or at least make sure you’re programming these ass-kickers into your program at some point.
6. Heavy Push Presses
The next barbell movement that I love are heavy push presses.
There’s no better feeling then when you get a new PR on pressing a heavy ass weight over your head granted you had a cheat a bit to get it there…
With the push press, instead of strictly pressing the weight overhead, you use your hips a bit like you would for a push jerk to generate a bit of momentum in order to power the bar up over your head.
I can remember this is one of the movements that my football coach had us do back in high school that actually was a major benefit and just like the other barbell movements mentioned, you can use push presses for either strength and power by choosing a heavy weight or go light with your weight selection and go the conditioning route.
Here’s some highlights from the past…
7. Front Squats
The final barbell movement that I’ve got on my list of favorites is the great Front Squat.
In my mind, these are one of the most demanding and effective barbell movements there is.
They require solid mobility within the hips and upper body as well as a ton of mid line strength and stability.
The reason I like Front Squats so much is because not only do you get some good work in on your legs, you also hammer your upper back and abs as well due to where the barbell is loaded.
Front Squats are said to be one of the BEST core movements there is which I fully agree with.
For Front Squats I typically keep my reps at 6 or below, but of course, there’s times I’ll do higher rep sets with them for conditioning purposes.
Below is another video of me hitting some Front Squats here about a year ago. 315 x 3. My goal is to get to 405 x 3 = WORK IN PROGRESS 😉
Now, obviously there’s a TON of other highly effective barbell movements out there like your back squat, strict military press, ect but like I mentioned above, I had to narrow my selection down to just my top seven.
All of those other lifts are great, but they aren’t my TOP favorites.
In all honesty, if I had to pick just one barbell movement overall, it would have to be the BACK SQUAT because when you get stronger in that, you’ll get stronger in EVERYTHING across the board. That whole idea is a whole other post on it’s own 😉
In addition to single barbell movements, my other favorite thing to do with a barbell in hand are barbell complexes. I love barbell complexes as there’s so many different options you have to choose from when it comes t putting them together and when it comes down to it, there’s nothing quite as brutal and forgiving at the same time then a nice 5 movement barbell complex…
For now, I would like to hear what YOUR 3 TOP favorite barbell movements are of all time. Share your thoughts in the comments.
ALSO, if you have questions about a certain barbell movement or set of movements, drop that in the comments as well and I’ll help you out.
PS – If you love having a barbell in your hands and love to barbell training, you’ll love Barbell Battlefield.
It’s a manual I created that has a collection of over 30 KILLER Barbell Complexes within it.
You’ll build strength, shred fat, and improve your overall conditioning.
These complexes are TOUGH and will test both your physical and mental strength, so be ready for a challenge.