Top 4 Barbell Exercises for an Athletic Figure

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By now, most of us have realized that lifting weights will not actually make us look bulky. Weight lifting actually offers numerous benefits to both the body and the mind! While the idea of working with kettlebells and dumbbells may start to feel familiar to you, you might still be intimidated by barbells. Never fear: We’re here for you! Take the next step in your fitness journey with these four barbell exercises for an athletic figure.

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Related: 9 Proven Health Benefits of Lifting Weights

Add Muscle and Slim Down

We’ve all seen those girls at the gym with their slender little figures and beautifully-toned muscles. Do you want to know their secret? Nine times out of then, these women are incorporating barbell exercises into their regular workout routine.

The idea that strength training will cause you to look bulky couldn’t be farther from the truth. One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat. The difference is in the density. You see, one pound of muscle takes up much less room in your body than one pound of fat. Instead of making you look bulky, muscle is actually largely responsible for slimming you down.

The four barbell exercises in this routine are known as compound lifts. Compound lifts are exercises that recruit more than one major muscle group. These are some of the most effective exercises out there because they help firm & strengthen your muscles while simultaneously burning significant amounts of fat. Additionally, increasing your muscle mass leads to a boost in metabolism so you will continue burning calories even after the workout is finished!

Learn Proper Form and Feel More Comfortable

Taking the time to learn how to perform these exercises will pay off big time when it comes to your appearance. Personally speaking, barbell exercises used to intimidate me, mostly because I didn’t know proper form. I would have rather stayed over in my little corner of the gym, but my progress was beginning to stall. One day, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to give it a try. I did, and I’ve never looked back!

There is something incredibly empowering about doing things you never thought you could. Especially when it makes you stronger than you ever thought possible! It might be intimidating at first, but it will absolutely be worth it.

In order to make you feel more comfortable, we’ve included detailed instructional videos below. Proper form is everything when it comes to lifting heavier weights, so it’s important to get that down first. If you’d like to practice form before you get to the gym, grab a broomstick and try out these moves!

If you notice that you’re having a hard time keeping proper form, it may be due to tight muscles. Try out a flexibility routine to loosen up, like this Total Body Exercises for Increased Flexibility.

Don’t Forget to Fuel Up (and Recover)

Participating in a routine that uses compound movements makes it even more important to fuel up before your workouts. You need to eat healthy foods that are going to provide you with enough energy to get through the routine! Likewise, it’s important to refuel afterwards in order for your body to recover properly.

Check out these 10 Snacks to Eat Before and After You Workout

How Many Reps and Sets Should I Do?

The number of repetitions and sets you complete are decided by your goals are. If you’re looking to…

  • Build Strength – You’ll want to find the weight that allows you to complete 5 to 8 reps for 3 to 5 sets.
  • Tone Up – You’ll want to use a weight that allows you to complete 8-12 reps for 3 to 5 sets.
  • Increase Muscular Endurance – You’ll want to find the weight that allows you to complete 12-15 reps for 3 to 5 sets. This form of training is especially beneficial to runners and distance athletes. 

Note: No matter what your goal is, the weight that you use should be challenging. For instance, if you’re looking to tone-up and you can easily keep going after the 12th rep, you’ll need to increase the weight. Remember: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Top 4 Barbell Exercises for an Athletic Figure

1. Barbell Back Squat

Muscles Worked: The entire lower body, including the Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Calves, as well as the muscles of the core.

2. Barbell Bench Press

Muscles Worked: Pectoralis Major (chest), Triceps, Trapezius, anterior Deltoids (front of the shoulder), Latissimus Dorsi (upper back) as a secondary muscle, and the muscles of the core.

3. Barbell Deadlift

Muscles Worked: The entire posterior chain, including the Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi (upper back), Erector Spinae (low back), Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductor Magnus (inner thigh), and the Calves, as well as the muscles of the core.

4. Barbell Military (Shoulder) Press

Muscles Worked: All three heads of the Deltoid (front, side and back of the shoulder), Latissimus Dorsi (upper back), Pectoralis Major (upper portion), Biceps, Triceps, and all of the muscles of the core.

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Instructional Videos

Barbell Back Squat (wide stance)

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Military (Shoulder) Press

The barbell is about to become your new favorite piece of exercise equipment. Try out these four barbell exercises for an athletic figure. You can perform them all on the same day, but we recommend you split them up into four different days. Perform Squats on leg day, Bench Press on chest day, Deadlifts on back day, and Military Press on Shoulder Day.

If you’re looking for a complete workout guide, try the 21-Day Body-Toning Workout Plan for Beginners. ***On shoulder day, replace Dumbbell Shoulder Press with Military Press. 

Tell us what you think! Do you perform these barbell exercises? Are you going to try them out? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section!

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