Workout: Barbell Nation

By 24Life

Ready to get and feel more fit fast? Go old school. There’s nothing like a classic barbell workout to wake up your muscles and your metabolism.

The barbell also helps you train to achieve symmetrical strength so that you can progress to perform the same movements using individual dumbbells. Don’t be afraid to start with an empty bar to master your form and then add weight.

Join the barbell nation and feel the benefits of essential strength moves put to the test. Perform six to eight reps of each movement, and repeat the entire circuit two to three times.


Barbell Shoulder Shrug

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold the barbell with a shoulder-width grip.
  • Lift your shoulders straight upward toward your ears in the frontal plane without bending your elbows, and then slowly lower down the weight. Repeat.

Barbell Lat Pullover

  • Lie down on your back in a semi-supine position with your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell above your chest with your palms facing forward, your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms extended up toward the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower the barbell behind your head while bending your arms slightly, and then pull it slowly back to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with control.


Barbell Squat

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart or a tiny bit wider, rest the barbell on your traps (the wide, flat muscle that covers the top of your back and bottom of your neck) and grasp the bar with both hands facing forward and your elbows pointing down.
  • Your arms should form a rough “W” shape.
  • Keep your spine straight and core braced.
  • Push your hips back and bend your knees to come into a squat. Keep your chest lifted.
  • Pause when your butt is just below parallel with the floor, push through your heels and rise to the starting position.

Barbell Lunge

  • Place the barbell straight on your trapezius and posterior part of your shoulders. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Place one foot in front of the other. Bend your rear knee and direct it toward the floor. Do not force your front knee to go forward.
  • Press through your front heel to return to stand with your feet under your hips. Repeat, alternating legs as you step forward and lunge.

Barbell Chest Press

  • Lie on the ground with the bar racked above your upper chest and place your hands shoulder-width apart or a little wider. Your feet are flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Bring the bar down across your sternum so that your arms are at about a 45-degree angle from your chest (not flared out to the sides).
  • Keeping your wrists straight, push the bar up and very slightly back toward your head so it finishes over your shoulders.
  • Keep your shoulder blades contracted, engage your glutes and drive your heels into the floor throughout the movement. (Position your feet so they’re not too far away to engage your glutes.)

Barbell Row

  • Stand holding the bar with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing you. Tip from your hips until your torso is parallel with the floor.
  • Brace your core and pull your elbows toward the ceiling, bringing the bar to your lower chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to emphasize scapular strength.
  • Return the bar down toward the floor. Repeat.

Barbell Deadlift

  • With the bar on the floor, roll it so it’s practically against your shins.
  • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Point your toes forward or slightly pointed out. Bend your knees a little and your hips a lot as you grasp the bar slightly outside your legs. Keep your back flat.
  • Brace your core and lift the bar by squeezing your glutes, thrusting your hips forward and pulling your torso back and up.
  • Be careful not to bend your knees or drop your hips too much, or keep your torso too upright—it’s a hinge, not a squat, so your hips should be above your knees and your torso should be at about a 45-degree angle to the ground.
  • Hinge down to return the bar to the ground. Release and repeat.

Barbell Front Raise

  • Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift forward with your arms straight until you reach eye level, and then return slowly to the starting position.
  • Do not bounce the barbell up, and never use your back to cheat because it’s a concentrated movement. Repeat.

Barbell Curl

  • Stand with your feet shoulder- or hip-width apart, knees soft.
  • Hold the barbell shoulder-width apart in front of you, palms facing away from you.
  • Curl the bar up by flexing at your elbow joint until you reach a full biceps contraction, stop the bar in front of your shoulders and then lower it down slowly.
  • Repeat. Keep your elbows locked by your sides under your shoulders throughout the movement, and brace your core to keep from swinging.

Barbell Triceps Extension

  • Lie on your back in a semi-supine position with your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell above your head. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart (narrow grip), palms facing away from you.
  • Flex at your elbows and lower the barbell backward behind your head without moving your shoulder joint. Return slowly to the starting position.

Barbell Overhead Press

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, rest the barbell on your clavicle and grip it with your elbows pointed down and your forearms perpendicular to the ground.
  • Taking care to pull your chin back a little (to avoid smacking it with the bar), drive the bar upward in a straight line, locking out your elbows.
  • Once the bar clears your head, bring your chin back to its original position so the barbell is right above your head or even a little farther backward.
  • Reverse the movement. Be careful not to arch your lower back too much throughout the movement. Repeat, bracing your core to keep from swaying and keeping your knees soft.


Barbell Side Bend

  • Hold a barbell behind your neck as for a back squat.
  • Stand with your legs about hip-width apart. Bend your torso to the right side, trying to get the barbell almost vertical.
  • Return to stand and then repeat on the opposite side.

Barbell Sit-Up

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell directly over your shoulders. Don’t let the bar drift over your chest.
  • Perform a sit-up, flexing your back muscles to shoot the bar overhead. Return back down to start. Repeat.

Barbell Floor Hip Thrust

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet planted firmly on the floor with a barbell resting across your hips.
  • Grab the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip and hold it securely in place.
  • Brace your core and press your heels into the floor, driving your hips upward. Pause at the top, making sure to squeeze your glutes.
  • Return your hips down to the ground with control. Repeat.

Barbell Reverse Crunch

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees together and your legs bent to 90 degrees, feet planted on the floor.
  • Hold the barbell directly above your shoulders.
  • Tighten your abs to lift your hips off the floor as you crunch your knees inward to your chest. Release your legs back down and repeat.


Use these moves to wrap up your barbell sweat session.


Greg Campbell, Fitness Manager at 24 Hour Fitness Midtown Ultra-Sport in New York City, started his fitness journey playing basketball overseas. He decided that when he couldn’t play competitively anymore, he wanted to help someone else with their professional success—and that was the start of his next chapter. We asked Campbell for his insights as player and now, as trainer.

24Life: What’s one thing you wish every client knew?

Greg Campbell: I wish everyone knew to eat based on how they move, instead of moving based on how they eat. Most people say they need to go to the gym to offset what they ate, instead of thinking about how much they’re going to move for the day—and then how much they’ll eat, based on their energy expenditure.

24Life: What’s your favorite and least favorite move? 

GC: My favorite move is most likely a burpee. My least favorite is a crunch or sit-up.

24Life: Do you have a power song?

GC: “If This World Were Mine” by Luther Vandross with Cheryl Lynn.

24Life: Where will we find you when you’re not training clients?

GC: Raising my son, Jordan! We wrestle and he pretends to be my personal trainer. 

24Life: What’s your life mantra?

GC: Don’t stop until it’s over. Often, it’s easy to quit, and because people quit often, it’s easy to fall into that groove. How about seeing the other side of that pain, that threshold, that discomfort? Try to find a way to be comfortable with it.

Video credit: HeroImagesFootage, Getty Images
Photo credit: South_agency, Getty Images
GIFs: Mark Kuroda,
Hair & make-up: Éva Roston
Model: Greg Campbell, 24 Hour Fitness


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