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21 Body Bar Exercises

Whatever your fitness goal is, strength training is a must. Lifting weights offers a wide range of benefits and will help you reach your workout goal faster. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, get fitter, or get better at sports; hitting the gym or working out at home with weights can be the difference between making rapid progress and not making much progress at all.

But what type of strength training should you do?

Will dumbbells produce the best results, or should you work out using kettlebells? Maybe resistance training machines or rubber bands would be better? And what about bodyweight exercises?

The good news is that it doesn’t really matter how you work your muscles. So long as you overload them sufficiently, they’ll respond by getting stronger. They can’t differentiate between different training methods.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the advantages and benefits of body bars and reveal the 21 best body bar exercises.

Body bars, also known as fixed-weight barbells, are very low-tech, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. So long as you train with consistency and intensity, even the humble body bar will help you reach your fitness goals.

Body Bar Exercises For Everyone

What Is a Body Bar?

A body bar is a simple solid metal bar covered with foam. Unlike a plate-loading barbell, body bars are not adjustable and come in various weights, such as 10 pounds, 15 pounds, 20 pounds, etc.

Because they’re covered with foam, body bars are comfortable to hold, won’t tear up your hands like a knurled barbell or dumbbells can, and won’t hurt your back when you are doing squats.

Most are about four feet long, but the length varies slightly by weight. For ease of use, body bars are usually color-coded, so you can pick out the one you want more easily.

Body bars are often used in group exercise classes, such as circuits or Body Pump, but they’re also ideal for home use. With no moving parts, a body bar should provide a lifetime of workouts. On the downside, if you want to change the weight, you’ll need to buy several different body bars.

What Are the Benefits of Using A Body Bar?

Body bars are a form of free-weight strength training, which means they have several important benefits:

Increased StrengthStrength

Lifting any kind of weight will make you stronger. Increased strength makes many everyday activities easier and less tiring.

Strength is also an essential aspect of most sports and is a reliable predictor of potential lifespan.

Better Muscle Tone

Body bars aren’t really heavy enough to build lots of muscle mass but using one regularly should firm and tone your body. That’s good news if you want to sculpt attractive muscles without bulk.

Improved Bone Density

Lifting weights increases osteoblast activity. Osteoblasts are bone-building cells. Stronger, denser bones are less prone to fracture, and regular strength training could reduce your risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by brittle bones.

Improved Joint Mobility and Stability

Working out with a body bar is good for your joints and the muscles surrounding them. Mobile, stable joints are more injury-proof and less prone to arthritis.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity

Training with a body bar will help your body deal more effectively with the carbs in your diet. This will ensure your blood glucose levels remain low and stable, creating the ideal environment for fat burning. Learn how to use fat burners here.

Better Cardiovascular Health

While training with a body bar isn’t a cardio workout, it has many cardiovascular health benefits, such as better circulation, a stronger heart, and lower blood pressure. You should still include cardio in your workouts, but it’s good to know that your body bar exercises are also good for your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

21 Body Bar Exercises

Got a body bar but not sure how to start using it? Here are 21 of the best body bar exercises. There are eight upper body and 13 lower body and abs exercises. Choose a few of each to create a well-balanced, full-body workout.

Lower Body

Work your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and inner and outer thighs with these proven lower body exercises.

1. Squats

Man Squatting

Often known as the king of exercises, squats work your entire lower body in one movement. Squats also strengthen your knee and hip joints and are good for your core too.

How to do it:

  1. Rest and hold your body bar across your upper back. It should be just below your neck and not resting on it. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward. Brace your abs.
  2. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.

2. Lunges

Lunges let you work one leg at a time. They’re good for your balance, coordination, mobility, and flexibility. As an added benefit, lunges also allow you to spot and fix left-to-right strength imbalances.

How to do it:

  1. Rest and hold your body bar across your upper back. It should be just below your neck and not resting on it. Stand with your feet together. Brace your abs and look straight ahead.
  2. Take a large step forward, bend your legs, and lower your rearmost knee down to within an inch of the floor. Your front shin should be roughly vertical.
  3. Push off your front leg and bring your feet back together.
  4. Step out with the opposite leg and repeat.

3. Romanian Deadlifts

woman-romanian-deadlifting

Also known as stiff-legged deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. If you want a firmer butt, this is the exercise for you.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar in front of your thighs with your palms facing your legs. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Push your hips back and lean forward, taking care not to round your lower back. Lower the bar down the front of your legs as far as your flexibility allows.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.

4. Step-Ups

Step-ups are a bit like lunges but, instead of going forwards, you’re going to go upward. Step-ups are great for your glutes and hamstrings like wall sits.

How to do it:

  1. Rest and hold your body bar across your upper back. It should be just below your neck and not resting on it. Stand in front of a shin to knee-height step with your feet together. Brace your abs and look straight ahead.
  2. Place your left foot on top of your platform and step up. Step down with your left foot and return to the floor.
  3. Step up leading with your right foot and repeat.
  4. Continue alternating legs for the duration of your set.

5. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats

It’s not clear what this exercise has to do with Bulgaria, but that doesn’t stop it from being a challenging body bar leg exercise. If you’ve mastered lunges, this should be the next exercise you try.

How to do it:

  1. Rest and hold your body bar across your upper back. It should be just below your neck and not resting on it. Stand with your back to a knee-high bench. Bend one leg and place your foot on the bench behind you. Hop forward and into a split-stance.
  2. Bend your legs and lower your rearmost knee down to about an inch above the floor. Stand back up and repeat.
  3. Rest a moment and then swap legs.
  4. Try to do the same number of reps on each side.

6. Good Mornings

Good mornings are so-called because, when you do them, you look like you are bowing in greeting. Don’t let this polite name put you off what is actually a very effective glute, hamstring, and lower back exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Rest and hold your body bar across your upper back. It should be just below your neck and not resting on it. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Push your hips back and lean forward, taking care not to round your lower back. Lean as far as your flexibility allows.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.

7. Hack Squats

Woman on hack squat machine

Most people have heard of the hack squat machine, but this is the exercise on which that machine is based. It’s good for your thighs, and you’ll also feel it in your hamstrings and glutes.

  1. Hold your body bar behind your butt, hands facing backward. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your legs and lower the bar down the back of your legs to about mid-calf height.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.
  4. Place your heels on 1 to 2-inch blocks for an even more thigh-centric workout.

8. Hip Thrusts

This is a useful exercise for your glutes and hamstrings. If you feel like you’ve done enough work on your quads but still want to do more lower body training, this could be the exercise you’ve been waiting for.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat. Rest and hold your body bar across your hips.
  2. Push your feet into the floor and lift your hips up to the ceiling.
  3. Lower your butt back down to the floor and repeat.
  4. Too easy? Try doing this exercise using just one leg at a time.

Upper Body

While it can be tempting to spend all your time working your legs, your upper body muscles are important too. Try to include an equal number of pulling AND pushing exercises to ensure you develop all muscle groups evenly.

9. Bench Press

Man bench pressing

The bench press is a classic upper body exercise. It works your chest, shoulders, and triceps. If you don’t have a workout bench, you can do floor presses instead, which is the next exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width, overhand grip. Lie on your bench and hold the bar directly over your chest.
  2. Bend your arms and lower the bar to your sternum. It should touch down lightly – don’t bounce the bar off your chest.
  3. Push your body bar back up to arms’ length and repeat.

10. Floor Press

No exercise bench? No problem! Do floor presses instead. They work the same muscles but without the need for additional exercise equipment. Floor presses are ideal for home exercisers.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width, overhand grip. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Hold the bar directly over your chest.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the bar until your elbows touch the floor.
  3. Push your body bar back up to arms’ length and repeat.

11. Bent Over Rows

Wide-grip barbell bent-over rows

Bent over rows work your upper back, lower back, and biceps. They’re a good exercise for better posture.

However, take care not to round your lower back while doing this exercise, as doing so could cause injury.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Lean until your upper body is roughly parallel to the floor, arms hanging straight down.
  3. Without rounding your lower back, bend your arms and pull the bar up and into your abdomen.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat.

12. Shoulder Press

Unsurprisingly, shoulder presses work your shoulders! This exercise also strengthens your triceps, which are the muscles on the back of your upper arms. Because this exercise is done while standing, it will also help tone and strengthen your core.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Raise it to shoulder height. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Press the weight straight up and overhead to arms’ length.
  3. Lower it back to your shoulders and repeat.

13. Front Raises

Man doing dumbbell lateral raise

Most body bar exercises are compound moves, which means that they involve multiple joints and muscles working together. Front raises are one of the few isolation body bar exercises, and they work your shoulders.

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, lift the bar up and out in front of you to shoulder height.
  3. Lower the bar back to your legs and repeat.

14. Javelin Press

99% of body bar exercises are bilateral, meaning they work two limbs at a time. This is a unilateral exercise and works one arm at a time. As such, it’s also a useful core exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Hold the center of your body bar and raise it to your shoulder. Your palm should be turned inward, so the bar runs front to back over your shoulder. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your shoulders and hips level, press the weight up and overhead.
  3. Lower it back to your shoulder and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides.

15. Upright Rows

dumbbell upright row

Upright rows work your shoulders, upper back, and biceps. Some people find that this exercise causes shoulder joint pain, but, done with light weights, it should be relatively safe.

That said, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, feel free to skip this exercise altogether.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip in front of your hips. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Bend your elbows and pull the bar up the front of your body to just below your chin. Make sure you lead with your elbows, keeping them above the height of the bar.
  3. Lower the bar back down to your hips and repeat.

16. High Pulls

High pulls are a cross between upright rows and Romanian deadlifts. As such, they work your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, shoulders, and biceps. Done for high reps, this exercise will elevate your heart and breathing rate, making it good for circuit training.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip in front of your hips. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Lean forward and, without rounding your lower back, lower the bar down to just above knee height.
  3. Stand up explosively and pull the bar up the front of your body to just under your chin. Make sure you lead with your elbows.
  4. Lower the bar to your waist and repeat.

17. Clean and Press

barbell clean and press

Like high pulls, the clean and press are two exercises rolled into one. This means it’s really a full-body exercise. Don’t worry if you don’t get this one right straight away; it’s a little tricky. But, with practice, you’ll soon get it and appreciate how time-efficient and effective this exercise really is!

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip in front of your hips. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Lean forward and, without rounding your lower back, lower the bar down to just above knee height.
  3. Stand up explosively and pull the bar up the front of your body to your chest.
  4. Drive your elbows forward and catch the bar across the front of your shoulders.
  5. From here, press the bar overhead to arms’ length.
  6. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and then to your hips.
  7. That’s one rep; keep going!

18. Biceps Curls

The biceps are the most famous muscle in the human body. Located on the front of your upper arm, almost everyone can identify and locate this muscle – even if they don’t work out. Shape and strengthen your biceps with this simple but effective exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip in front of your hips. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Without using your back or legs, bend your arms and curl the bar up to your shoulders.
  3. Lower the weight and repeat.

19. Skull Crushers

Skull crushers

Despite the slightly worrying name, this is a very effective arm exercise. Targeting the triceps, which are the muscles on the back of your upper arm, this exercise can be done using an exercise bench or while lying on the floor.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Lie down and hold the bar directly over your chest with your arms straight.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the bar down to LIGHTLY touch your forehead.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.

20. Saxon Side Bends

There aren’t a lot of body bar core exercises, but this is one the best. Named after old-time strongman Arthur Saxon, this move will tone and strengthen your entire midsection, especially your oblique or waist muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Press your body bar overhead and hold it at arms’ length. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Without twisting your shoulders or your hips, lean over to the left as far as your mobility allows.
  3. Then, lean to the right.
  4. Keep leaning side to side until you feel your core starting to tire.

21. Weighted Crunches

Woman doing ab crunches

If you can do 20 or more regular crunches, you are probably ready for a more challenging exercise. Using a body bar will make this popular abdominal exercise more effective.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat. Hold your body bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip over your chest with your arms straight.
  2. Lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor, simultaneously pushing your body bar up toward the ceiling.
  3. Lie back down and repeat.

Bottom Line

When it comes to strength training, body bars are about as low-tech as it gets. That means body bars are usually pretty cheap too. After all, they’re nothing more than a metal bar covered in foam.

With nothing to adjust, body bar workouts are simple, and you don’t have to waste time adding or removing weights. And, if you drop your body bar, it’ll probably just bounce rather than break.

There are lots of exercises you can do with a body bar, and we’ve listed 21 of the best in this article. But, on the downside, unless you’ve got several different body bars to choose from, you’ll need to use the same weight for all the exercises in your workout.

Because of this, you may find yourself doing high reps for leg exercises, where your muscles are naturally strong, and fewer reps for your upper body.

This minor drawback aside, body bars are perfect for home workouts, as they’re much more compact and easier to use and store than full-sized barbells. They are also much, MUCH cheaper.

Training with just a body bar may seem limiting, but it doesn’t have to be. And remember, your muscles can’t differentiate between a simple body bar and a complex strength training machine.

Work hard, and you WILL reach your fitness goals!


References

  1. Fitness Volt, https://fitnessvolt.com/

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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