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Beginner Barbell Workout | Build Strength & Confidence

If you are new to training but now feel it’s time to progress to the next level, or maybe you’re tired of the machines at the gym, this beginner barbell workout is for you. The mixture of isolation and compound exercises will enable you to engage every major muscle group without the risk of completing complex movements.

In addition, the minimal equipment required to do this beginner barbell workout means that you can do it at home as well as at the gym. All this workout requires is an Olympic barbell, bumper plates, and bar safety clips.

Why do this beginner barbell workout?

First of all, and most importantly, it will provide you with a safer workout to learn your way around an Olympic barbell. Some barbell exercises – such as the snatch or thruster – are challenging movements that pose a significant risk to those who lack the training and experience. Before attempting these complex exercises, it’s imperative to master the basics first.

Though this is a beginner barbell workout it still engages all the major muscle groups. And don’t think that just because it has got beginner in the title that it’s inferior to an advanced workout. A number of the movements that feature in the workout are classic compound exercises that are widely used by elite-level strength athletes.

What’s a compound exercise? A compound exercise is one that involves two or more joints, which is why they are sometimes called ‘multi-joint’ exercises. They are of particular benefit because they cause the ‘greatest stimulation of the muscle fibres’ and they engage ‘one or more large muscle groups,’

As well as building strength and size safely, this beginner barbell workout can also help build your training confidence. Many people miss out on the fitness benefits of barbell training. This is often because they haven’t been shown how to use what can seem like an intimidating exercise tool. However, with a few basic exercises to try, it’s surprising how quickly people pick it up and how quickly their confidence grows.

Barbell training key fitness benefits

  • Barbell training is an effective way to build strength. For example, few if any other exercise develops quad and glute strength like barbell squats. The same can be said of deadlifts: no other exercise builds a stronger lower back and posterior chain.

  • Barbell workouts promote muscle growth which not only increases strength but also size. This is achieved by the combination of compound exercises – which, remember, cause the greatest stimulation of muscle fibres – and the ability to go heavy.

  • Barbell workouts can forge whole-body functional fitness. Big compound exercises – such as squats and deadlifts – engage a wide range of muscle groups. In addition, the exercises require considerably more coordination than simple isolation movements. These attributes of barbell training help develop functional strength that is reflective of everyday tasks and activities.

  • Barbell exercises improve multiple components of fitness. For example, the beginner barbell workout below can enhance strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and coordination. Furthermore, when you feel ready to apply advanced techniques, such as explosive plyometric jumps, this workout can also increase power.

How to do this beginner barbell workout

The workout is comprised of seven barbell exercises. Each exercise is accompanied by a technique overview, a video demonstration, and a list of muscles engaged – that way you’ll know how to perform the exercise as well as what it’s working.

Once you’ve warm-up, begin at the first exercise and complete the specified number of sets and reps. After finishing the sets and reps, progress to the next exercise in line. Follow this process until you have worked through the session plan.

Beginner barbell workout safety points

Before you begin the workout there are a few safety points you should consider. First, ensure to keep the weight light; this is a beginner barbell workout after all. The focus here is on the quality of your technique and building training confidence. In addition to increasing injury risk, going heavy too soon could crush your confidence. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to ditch a barbell during a squat or getting pinned during a bench press. Thus, best to keep it light.

Second, for the safety of other gym users, complete the workout in a secluded area if possible. This is also safer for you as it minimises the chance of someone disturbing you mid-lift.

Third, it is good weightlifting practice to run through the techniques with an unloaded barbell. You wouldn’t include this practice lift as a set. The idea is to get in the grove and nail down the technique prior to popping a few plates either side of the bar.

Essential reading: Strength Training Anatomy

Beginner barbell workout key point

  • Remember to warm-up before starting the workout. Warming up is the surest way to reduce injury risk and improve training performance.

  • Because this is a beginner barbell workout it is advisable to stick with light weights – or even an unloaded bar.

  • Following the session plan below, aim to complete all the exercises listed.

  • The training formula is not set in stone. If 5 sets are too much, reduce the number to suit.

A session plan of the Hungry4Fitness beginner barbell workout.

Beginner barbell workout exercises

For those that could benefit from a refresher, the key technique points of each exercise have been outlined below. In addition, for the more technically challenging exercises, a short video clip concludes each overview.

Barbell squat

Purpose of exercise: engage the quadriceps and gluteus maximus. Barbell squatting also develops whole-body strength.

Key teaching points

  • With the bar resting securely across your traps, space your feet slightly over shoulder-width apart.

  • Keeping your eyes fixed forward, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms at the back of the knee.

  • To conclude the squat, stand up under control focusing on pushing your hips forward as you do so.

  • Watch the video demonstration.

Barbell deadlift

Purpose of exercise: activate the gluts, lower back (erector spinae), lats (latissimus dorsi), trapezius, deltoids, and forearms.

Key teaching points

  • Adopting a shoulder-width stance, start with your feet under the bar.

  • Bending at the knee grasp the bar; your hands are slightly wider than your feet.

  • Using glute and lower back strength, stand up.

  • As you stand ensure to drive the hips forward.

  • Once upright, return the bar to the floor for the next rep.

  • Watch the video demonstration.

Barbell row

Purpose of exercise: activate the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, infraspinatus, and lower back.

Key teaching points

  • Stand in the upright position with an Olympic barbell resting against the upper quads.

  • The feet and hands should be spaced a little over shoulder width.

  • Keeping a slight bend locked at the knee, hinge forward at the hips until the bar is level with the patella.

  • The back remains perfectly flat and you are looking to your front.

  • Under control, row the bar until it touches your stomach. As you do so try and keep the elbows tucked in.

  • To complete the movement, straighten the arms.

  • Watch the video demonstration.

Bench press

Purpose of exercise: engage the pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps.

Key teaching points

  • Lying on a weightlifting bench with a barbell suspended over your chest.

  • Ensure that the barbell is not positioned too high; you should not have to stretch for the bar.

  • Position your hands evenly along the bar about one and a half shoulder widths.

  • Taking the bar off the rack, steady your position before you attempt the lift.

  • Lower the bar to your chest under control.

  • When the bar makes contact press it back to the start position remembering not to lock your arms out.

Standing shoulder press

Purpose of exercise: engage the anterior deltoids, upper chest, and triceps.

Key teaching points

  • Standing in an upright position while supporting a barbell at level with your shoulders.

  • Your hands and feet are positioned a little over shoulder-width and your knees are slightly bent.

  • Keeping your eyes fixed forward, press the bar directly above your head.

  • Pause momentarily before full extension then return to the start position.

Barbell curl

Purpose of exercise: activate the biceps brachii and various muscles of the forearms.

Key teaching points

  • Holding a barbell at your front, palms facing away, space your hands about shoulder-width along the bar.

  • Before executing the lift ensure to adopt a neutral stance: feet shoulder-width, knees slightly bent, standing tall and upright.

  • Under control curl the barbell to your chin.

  • Pause and squeeze! at peak contraction for a two count before returning to the start position.


Purpose of exercise: engage the trapezius and media heads of the deltoids.

Key teaching points

  • Adopt a stance almost identical to the one described for bicep curls. The only difference is the position of the hands. When shrugging the palms face in, all else is the same.

  • To perform a shrug simply raise your shoulders to your ears – just up and down. That’s it!


Enjoyed this beginner barbell workout?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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