When you read the phrase, “barbell workouts,” how do you feel?
Great? Terrible? Somewhere in the middle?
Maybe once upon a time you never thought you’d train with a barbell bar, but recently, you proved yourself wrong.
Or maybe you’ve trained with one your entire life and simply can't get enough of those seven feet of steel.
Then again, maybe you’ve never tried barbell workouts before, or only here and there, and want to get into them more but aren’t sure how to structure it.
Why Should I Do Barbell Workouts?
No matter what category you belong to, you’ll get something out of this article. Why? Because the techniques and exercises in it will help you build your own barbell workouts and get more out of barbell training and fitness in general.
You might ask, “like what?”
- Useful strength that carries over to other lifts and to everyday life;
- A heart rate that remains elevated, burning more calories during the workout;
- More muscle mass, increasing your resting metabolism and turning you into a calorie-burning machine AFTER the workout?
And let’s not forget the more subtle benefits of barbell workouts (and resistance training in general):
- Heightened endorphins;
- Improved joint health;
- Better bone density;
- Prolonged self-reliance into older age.
So, what are these magical barbell workouts, you ask? They are none other than carefully crafted Barbell Supersets!
You know what a superset is: It’s when you take two different exercises and do them back-to-back, resting only after you’ve finished a full set of both.
Maybe you’ve tried supersets, like kettlebell swings followed by a 500-meter run, or battle ropes followed by jumping jacks.
Barbell supersets are a whole different ballgame. The level of muscle recruitment, mind/body focus, mental toughness, and effort/reward ratio is in a league of its own.
Think you can’t handle it? Think again! All of these exercises were chosen to be less injury-prone for the uninitiated while still plenty challenging. Plus, you can start out light and take your time getting comfortable with them. In fact, you should do that for any workout, not just barbell workouts.
For each of these supersets, perform one set of the first exercise followed by a set of the second exercise, and then rest for 1-2 minutes.
You might say, “but Coach Mark, this is too much for one workout.”
Try this: choose two or three supersets and boom! Instant barbell workout. Or choose one and repeat it for extra rounds. That’s a workout! Or do one round each of all five! THAT’S a workout! The possibilities, much like the benefits, are endless.
And even if you don’t do them as supersets—if you choose to just do the exercises one at a time—these exercises are still extremely effective at all the things I mentioned earlier. So, deconstruct away! We don’t mind!
These supersets are organized into a Lower Body/Upper Body order. They assume you have access to a squat rack or squat rack, and they are designed to be convenient with the least amount of setup.
So, without further ado, here are 5 Barbell Supersets for Building Muscle and Scorching Fat from the Inside Out!
Superset #1: Romanian Deadlift to Inverted Row
The Romanian Deadlift, or RDL, works the upper back, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. It is a centerpiece of many barbell workouts because it is one of the most rewarding exercises in existence.
The RDL is performed by setting a barbell on rack hooks just below hip level. Then, pick the bar up off the hooks, walk it back about four feet, and bend over at the hips, sticking your butt back while keeping your lower back arched. The movement must be AT THE HIPS; you’re not trying to just round your lower back.
Push your butt back until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, and then stand back up by driving the hips forward and clenching your glutes.
There are a few steps to the RDL and it might take some practice, but the rewards are worth it.
The inverted row is a back exercise. While the bar is resting on the rack hooks, position yourself under it lying face-up on the floor. Reach up and grab the bar with both hands. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor and then “drive your elbows behind you” and “pull your chest to the bar.”
Come down under control so you don’t knock the wind out of yourself (I’ve done it. It’s no fun!).
For each superset, perform 8-10 RDLs and 5-10 Inverted Rows.
Superset #2: Back Squat to Assisted Pullup
You’ve seen the Back Squat in plenty of barbell workouts. If you have a preferred style (high-bar or low-bar, wide or narrow stance), use that.
After squatting, the Assisted Pullup is next. But where’s the pullup bar? The barbell IS the pullup bar! While it’s sitting on the rack, grab it and squat down low so your arms are straight. Then, pull with your arms as hard as you can, using your legs to “assist” the movement up.
You can use an overhand or an underhand grip (usually referred to as a Chinup), whichever is more comfortable.
For each superset, do 8-12 Squats and 5-10 Pullups. To make the pullups harder, use less leg assistance.
Superset #3: Barbell Glute Bridge to Barbell Row
The glute bridge—and its elevated cousin, the hip thrust—are the ultimate glute exercises. To perform the glute bridge, sit on the floor and put the bar in your lap (or have someone put it there for you). Lie down and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Then, drive your hips up to raise the bar, clenching your glutes like there’s no tomorrow.
To do the barbell row, stand over the bar, engage your lower back, bend over, and pick the bar up. Stay bent over and then “drive your elbows back” and pull the bar towards you, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
With an empty bar, you can do 15 Glute Bridges and 6-12 Rows.
Superset #4: Floor Press to Hollow Hold
The floor press is a bench press done.... you guessed it... on the floor! To set up, place the bar on the rack hooks at about arm length from the floor.
Lie down under the bar and grab outside shoulder width. Raise the bar up and away from the hooks until it is over your chest. Keeping your back arched and shoulders squeezed down and back, lower the bar until your upper arms (not your elbows) touch the floor. Then, press the bar back up.
When you’re done, place the bar back on the rack hooks. It’s always good to use a spotter.
The Hollow Hold is a bodyweight core exercise. Right after you’ve replaced the bar on the hooks, immediately raise your legs into the air with locked-out knees and press your lower back into the floor. Start to lower your legs, keeping your lower back down. Raise your arms behind you and put your body into the shape of a crescent. Hold this position! Don’t let your back rise up!
Do 8-12 Floor Presses followed by 15-45 seconds of Hollow Hold.
Superset #5: Good morning to Overhead Press
The Good morning is essentially an RDL performed with the bar on your back like a squat. You must keep your upper back very TIGHT to keep the bar from rolling forward or backward.
Whichever you do, the follow-up is the overhead press. Therefore, the bar needs to be set a little lower. Walk up to the bar, grab it with an overhand grip, try to keep your wrists straight (not bent back), and then pick the bar up to chest height. Take 2-3 steps back.
Tighten your abs and glutes, and then push the bar overhead and “get under it” without letting it tip backward. Then, bring it “down to the front” so it returns to the same spot at the upper chest it started from. Make sure your wrists are straight and go again!
Do 12-15 Good mornings and 6-10 Overhead Presses.
Not all barbell workouts are the same. These Barbell Supersets allow you to get a lot of quality work done, hit a lot of muscles, get stronger, get that heart rate high, and save time while you’re doing it.
Try them all and find your favorites. And the next time you hear the phrase, “barbell workouts,” you’ll say, “yes, please!”
Mark Ludas CPT is a NASM-certified personal trainer with a decade of experience in the fitness industry. After an asthmatic childhood, Mark discovered his natural aptitude for fitness in his late twenties. At age 36, he accomplished a 300+ pound conventional deadlift and 280+ high-bar squat as a 6’5” 170-pound ectomorph on a fully vegan diet, all after just one year of proper self-programming. Mark is the founder of Resistance Quest Fitness, established in 2016. Additionally, he is a writer, actor, model, and musician. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and at www.resistancequest.com.