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Barbell Routine For Building Strength & Size

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Two CrossFit athletes completing a barbell routine.

Build strength & size with this barbell routine

Complete body power, active posterior chain, strength development in the legs, back, and arms – the benefits of this barbell routine are extensive. But there’s more.


Because part of this barbell routine is based on CrossFit training methods, you’ll be maintaining a high intensity throughout which will stimulate your aerobic fitness.


If you do pit yourself against this tough training session, you’ll enjoy a rewarding workout while bagging loads of health and fitness benefits.


Barbell routine benefits

This barbell routine has been designed to develop strength in all the major muscle groups. It provides a whole-body blast that’s perfect for people with limited training time and who want to get their strength fix in one super-compact workout.


Organised into two separate workouts, option one promotes purely strength while option two features CrossFit-style AMRAPs (as many reps as possible).


If you challenge yourself to the AMRAPs, expect an increase in muscular endurance and definition.


Compound exercises

Compound exercises are superb for building strength and functional fitness. In addition, compound exercises develop power while activating the posterior chain.


The six exercises that have been selected for this barbell routine are all compound movements. So, in a little over 30-minutes, every major muscle group and a whole host of synergists muscles will be engaged.


Exercise equipment needed for this barbell routine

Another benefit of this barbell routine is that it requires minimal equipment. All that’s needed is an Olympic barbell, a range of weights (preferably bumper plates), barbell clips, and (if you opt for the AMRAP) a countdown timer.


Related: Best Olympic Barbell for the Home Gym

Barbell routine

There are two ways to approach this barbell routine – option one and option two. The first option is structured like your typical gym workout. Comprised of sets, reps, and rest, the objective here is to progress through the six compound exercises. As you do so you will complete the prescribed sets and reps.


Option one is completely customisable. Meaning you can remove or include exercises while also adjusting the workload. For example, reducing or increasing sets and reps.


Related: Best Bumper Plates >

Make this barbell routine an AMRAP

Option two is a bit more restrictive. The objective here is to complete the six 5-minute AMRAPs. Concluding a warm-up, set a 5-minute countdown timer and attempt to amass as many reps as physically possible.


It’s preferable to stick to 5-minute AMRAPs. However, if your fitness is not there yet, but you’re up for a challenge, reduce the duration by a couple of minutes. Even two and a half minutes would still be physically demanding.


After each AMRAP take a two-minute rest.


Barbell routine session plan.

Barbell squat

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (60/70% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (50% max lift)


Barbell squat key techniques

  • With an Olympic barbell resting across your traps and rear deltoids, space your feet a little over shoulder width.

  • Keeping the back perfectly straight, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms at the back of the knees.

  • Pausing momentarily, return to the upright position by standing up.

  • Throughout the squat ensure to keep your eyes fixed forward.

  • As you squat from the bottom position, focus on firing equally through both quads.


Sumo deadlift

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (70/80% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (50% max lift)


Barbell sumo deadlift key techniques

  • Standing in front of an Olympic barbell, space your feet one and a half shoulder widths.

  • Bending at the knees, ensuring to keep the back straight, grasp the centre of the bar. The foot position is wide while the hand position is narrow.

  • Using glute and lower back strength, execute a deadlift by pulling the bar off the floor.

  • Focus on executing a smooth lift while forcing the hips forward.

  • If you’re using bumper plates drop the bar. If not, lower under control.


Bent over row

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (60/70% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (50% max lift)


Bent over row key techniques

  • Adopting a neutral stance, grasping a barbell at your front. Your feet are shoulder-width and so are your hands on the bar.

  • Keeping the back perfectly straight, hinge forward at the hips until the bar is level with the upper knee.

  • With the eyes fixed forward, row the barbell until it touches your torso.

  • The elbows do not splay out but brush past the lats. Also, avoid ‘cocking’ the wrists. A straight line can be drawn from the elbow to the outer knuckle.

  • Smoothly and under control lower the barbell to the start position.


Hang clean

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (50/70% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (40% max lift)


Barbell hang clean key techniques

  • Adopt the same start position as explained for the bent-over row.

  • Using the muscles of the posterior chain – glutes, lower back, and lats -heave the bar into the front rack position.

  • To initiate this movement hinge forward slightly at the hips.

  • Explode out of the position using the muscles listed above.

  • As you do so take a shallow dip at the knee in preparedness to receive – or ‘catch’ – the bar.

  • When the bar comes to rest across the anterior deltoids, raise your elbows by rolling your hands around the bar. This locks the bar into position.

  • To complete the movement either drop the bar or lower it under control.


Front squat

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (60/70% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (40% max lift)


Barbell front squat key techniques

  • The start of the front squat is the top position of the hang clean.

  • With the bar in front rack, elbows high locking the bar in place, space your feet a little over shoulder-width.

  • Keeping the back straight and eyes fixed forward, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms behind the knee.

  • Pause momentarily before recovering the position.

  • To complete the exercise, stand up under control ensuring to fire evenly through both quads.


Push press

Option 1: 5 sets of 5 reps (40/50% max lift)

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (40% max lift)


Standing push press key techniques

  • The start of the push press is the same as the start of the front squat.

  • Prior to executing the exercise, take a shallow dip at the knee.

  • To initiate the push press, fire through the quads to get the bar moving.

  • Assist the upward flight of the bar by engaging the shoulders.

  • Arrest the bar before the elbows lockout.

  • To recover the exercise, lower the bar to the front rack position under control.


Barbell routine video demonstration

 

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This barbell routine concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits volume one.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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