The 10 Best Exercises You Can Do with a Single Barbell

·3-min read
Photo credit: Constantinis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Constantinis - Getty Images

Unlike a lot of gym kit, the Olympic bar isn’t a single-purpose item. Though you might assume that it’s only used for big lifts, it can also serve as your secret weapon in full-body workouts – especially when the gym is hectic.

“Find a quiet corner and grab a barbell and some weight plates. That’s all you need for a comprehensive workout,” says MH fitness editor Andrew Tracey. Perform each of these moves in turn for three sets of 8-10 reps, limiting rest to a minimum in order to maximise calorie burn.

“Keep the weight manageable,” says Tracey. “The aim is to build strength in different planes of movement, so you want to use a full range of motion with realistic resistance.”

While the rest of the gym queues for the cable machine, pick up a bar and get to work. When it comes to this type of bar, you won’t feel awkward about being on your own.


Grab a bar with one hand and lift it high above your head, keeping your arm straight (A). Bend at the waist to touch the floor with your other hand (B). Return and repeat. Switch hands when you’ve completed your reps.

Abs Roll-out

Load the bar with 5kg plates and grab it with an overhand grip. Kneel with your shoulders over it (A). Slowly roll forward until your arms reach full extension, keeping your stomach off the floor (B). Pause, then reverse.

Zercher Squat

With your feet at shoulder width, hold a barbell in the crook of your arms (A). Keep your back straight and lower your hips into a deep squat (B). Push back up. “With the bar close to your centre of mass, you can squat deeper,” says Tracey.

Suitcase Lunge

Hold a barbell at your side (A). Keeping your head and chest up and core tight, lunge forward with your leg until both legs are at 90º (B). Push through the front foot to return. Switch legs and repeat, with the bar in your other hand.

Barbell Tyre Flip

Few gyms have tractor tyres. “This is a great alternative,” says Tracey. Secure one end of the bar. Load the plates and squat with your fingers firmly around them (A). Drive through your legs to lift the weight and press it overhead (B).

Javelin Press

“This one is good for shoulder stability,” says Tracey. Hold a barbell in your left hand, just above your shoulder (A). Extend your arm and drive the bar above you (B). Hold, then lower back down to your shoulder and repeat.

Hip Thruster

Lie with your upper back on a bench, with your feet on the floor in front of you. Rest a barbell at your hips (A). Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (B). Hold, then slowly return to the start.

Skull Crusher

This is a serious tri-builder, so up your weights gradually to avoid appearing in a #gymfails video. Lie on a bench, holding a bar with straight arms above you (A). Bend your elbows and lower your hands until the bar nears your forehead (B).

Landmine Press

Put one end of the bar in a plate or landmine attachment and load up the other. Kneel with the bar at one shoulder (A). Brace your abs and press the bar up (B). “This strength move has a low-risk-high-reward ratio,” says Tracey.

Meadows Row

“The fixed range of motion of this back builder lets you go heavier than you would with dumbbells,” says Tracey. Secure one end of the bar. Bend at the knees and grip (A). Use your shoulder to lift the bell (B). Lower and repeat.

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