How to get started with Barbell Training

It was the first gym I ever trained at.

When the big dude finished his set on the incline I went over to ask him: How is the incline bench different than the regular bench?

He told me about exercise variation and total chest stimulation. Since I only used the barbell for flat bench, this would be my second barbell exercise.

For a few years these were the only two movements I did with the barbell. If you have been training with only machines and dumbbells, this post is for you.


How to Get Started With Barbell Training


Start with proper form

Learn how to do the basic barbell lifts by reading Starting Strength or 531 or Bill Starr's The Strongest Shall Survive. Start there.

Get a trainer/coach to help you nail it down. It will be worth it.

Technique will make or break you. When the weight on the bar is light you won't think it matters. Save yourself pain and frustration down the line by learning how to lift properly from the beginning.


If you try to squat with the bar on your back and your chest caves in and your heels come off the floor and the bar moves around on your back then you aren't ready for the barbell squat yet.

Try a goblet squat or squat to box. For every barbell movement there is a variation that will allow you to get stronger without putting yourself into a dangerous position. When you master those regressions then you advance to the barbell.

Do more than just the bench

Just because you rarely see another guy at the gym do overhead presses or deadlifts or squats doesn't mean you need to follow them.

Sure you can leg press a few plates but you are not impressing anyone. No one cares what you are doing at the gym.

Everyone who starts out thinks other people notice them and judge what they are doing but the reality is they are all way more interested in how they look in the mirror than how much you can leg press or machine press.

Learn how to get tight

Bracing your abs, squeezing your glutes, gripping the bar until your knuckles turn white. You should always be aware of your body and getting tight during every single barbell lift.

It's easy for me to tell you to get tight. Actually doing it is another story.

Brace your midsection during all barbell lifts. Squeeze your glutes during overhead presses and bench.

It will take time but practice it every time you grab the barbell. You can always improve and get tighter. This one detail can make a huge difference so don't overlook it.

Be mindful of your hands and feet

The hands should be obvious but beginners always take a lackadaisical approach to gripping a barbell. Take a grip like your life depends on it. If you let go you will die. Seriously, choke that son of a b.

The feet get overlooked also. Especially on bench and military presses, but they are your foundation. Don't forget to use them. How? By driving them into the ground. Plant your feet firmly and keep them secure throughout the lifts.

One last tip.

If you are new to the barbell, start with the 5 main barbell exercises- squats, bench, overhead press, barbell row, deadlifts.

Once you are proficient at those lifts you can start the olympic lifts. They are a bit more tricky to learn but they add a whole new level of explosiveness to your lifting.

Please do not use a barbell for bicep curls in the squat rack. You will piss a lot of people off for no good reason.

If you're at a commercial gym, there might be only 1 or maybe 2 squat racks. Plus you are using up a barbell. Again, a commercial gym might have limited supply of good bars and dumbbells are better for curls in my opinion anyway.

Don't be that guy taking up that sacred space to do curls when you can just grab dumbbells or an ez bar and pump up your guns.

If you are new to barbell training and need some help, let me know. If you are in the WNY/716 area come stop in the studio at 777 Maple Rd. Williamsville, NY 14221


For those of you outside the area I do online coaching as well, if you need a program that will keep you on track and make big progress this year.