Dumbbells and kettlebells are great strength-training tools, but when it comes to significantly upping the resistance in your workouts to build strength, barbells reign supreme. That’s because they’re the easiest free weights to add a lot of weight to—the bar itself never gets bulkier or harder to grip, even when you’re lifting hundreds of pounds. If you’re looking to challenge your lower body and lift heavier over time, the lower-body barbell workout below is a great one to try.
“Working the lower body is incredibly important,” says workout creator Morit Summers, certified personal trainer and owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn. This barbell workout uses all of the muscles in your lower body, including your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Strength in all of these areas will help you do everyday activities better, and keep your body strong and stable to handle anything life throws its way. This workout is also great for your core—you’ll have to keep your midsection engaged throughout to maintain stability and do these exercises with proper form.
One quick safety note: You should feel comfortable doing these movements with lighter dumbbells or kettlebells before trying them with barbells. “Safety comes first,” says Summers.
Speaking of which, Summers adds that it’s best to start lighter than you think you need and slowly increase the weight from there. Try starting with just the bar and seeing how that feels for a few reps. If it’s too easy, add some weight. (A standard barbell weighs 45 pounds, so it may be plenty challenging for you without adding any plates.) Keep doing this until you hit a weight that feels challenging, but that you can do 8-12 reps with and still maintain proper form.
As you do these exercises, focus on good posture, and think about maintaining tension in your core muscles.
Model Harlan Kellaway is a trans bodybuilder based in Queens, New York City.
- Barbell Back Squat
- Barbell Reverse Lunge
- Barbell Deadlift
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Do 8-12 reps of each exercise. Your rest time is the time it takes to transition to the next exercise.
- Rest 1-3 minutes between sets.
- Do 3-4 sets.
Here’s how to do each move