Best barbell workouts for women

There’s a lot of equipment to choose from when you start working out in the gym. Different weights machines, kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells. Barbells are a classic piece of strength training equipment, but you need to know which exercises to do and how to do them safely.

How do you use a barbell?

If you’ve never used a barbell before, you’ve probably got lots of questions. How much does a barbell weigh? What weights should I put on it? Is it OK to use a barbell without any weights?

Most regular straight barbells you’ll find in a gym weigh 20kgs without any extra weight on them. The exception to this is female weightlifting bars (which weigh 15kgs) and special barbells like the wiggly-shaped EZ bar. But for this article, we’re talking about a regular straight barbell that you’ll find in most gyms. That one will weigh 20kgs.

You can use a barbell without any extra weights, or you can add weight by putting weight plates on each end. Most gyms have weight plates ranging from 2.5kgs to 20kgs so you can create plenty of combinations. You must always put a clip on the outside of the weight plate to hold it safely in place.

5 Best barbell workouts for women

Here’s a great women’s barbell workout routine for every part of your body.

Barbell bench press

This exercise works the muscles of your chest, shoulders, and triceps to tone and strengthen your upper body. This is important because most women naturally have less upper body strength than men, and shy away from training upper body for societal reasons.

Set the barbell up in the rack and lie down on the bench underneath it. The barbell should be in line with your eyeline and the right height for your arms. Push your feet into the floor to brace your body, then lift the barbell out of the rack by pushing it. Lower it to your bra line with control, and press back up.

Barbell bent over row

Barbell bent over rows are a good choice of rowing movement to strengthen the important postural muscles of your mid and upper back. Put the barbell on the ground and stand behind it. Take hold of the barbell with an overhand grip then stand up straight. Bend at the hips to get into a good starting position (with your upper body bent) and pull the barbell into your lower ribs. Each rep starts with your arms extended and finishes with the barbell pulled into your body.

Barbell squat and press

This multi-tasking barbell movement combines a front squat and overhead press to work your legs, bum, shoulders, core and burn calories all at the same time. Even though you can probably squat a heavier weight, choose a weight that you can press overhead as this will be the limiting factor in this combination movement.

Set the barbell up in a rack and stand behind it, hands just wider than shoulder width so the bar rests on the front of your shoulders. Take three steps backwards and set up with your feet slightly wider than your hips.

Squat down by sending your bum back and down, keeping your elbows up. As you push back up to the top, use the momentum to press the barbell overhead. The finish position is standing straight with the bar overhead. Lower the barbell back to your front squat position and go straight into the next squat. This should be a flowing movement of squat to press to squat to press.

Barbell step ups

Here’s a lower body barbell workout exercise to tone your legs, hips and bum and get your heart rate up for extra cardio. Try this with just the barbell before you add any extra weight.

Set up a plyometric box or sturdy bench and place the barbell on your back. Step up onto the box with both feet, then back to the ground with both feet. Focus on a spot ahead of you so you don’t look down. Take your time to get confident with this movement before you add more weight. And vary the foot you start with so you balance out the movement.

Barbell hip thrust

Our final choice in this women’s barbell workout routine is the barbell hip thrust which is great for your hips, bum, pelvic floor, hamstrings and lower back. Sit on the floor and rest your back against a bench. Roll the barbell over your legs so it’s resting in your lap. Walk your feet towards your bum and press into both feet to raise your hips up into a glute bridge, bringing the barbell with you. Squeeze at the top and lower back down with control.

Benefits of barbell workouts for women

Weight can be adjusted

A barbell is a great workout tool because it adapts to your needs. You can adjust the weight, or use it without any extra weight at all.

No limit on progression

There’s no limit to the amount of extra weight you can put on a barbell, and you can go up or down in small amounts.

Used on a range of exercises

Barbells are a super versatile workout tool. They can be used for 100s of exercises for every muscle group and every type of movement.

How to get started with barbell workouts

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to pick up a barbell and start doing a barbell workout routine next time you’re in the gym. Start with a few of the exercises in this article and soon you’ll have your own favourite barbell workout for women.