Top 5 Barbell Exercises

You'll find below a list of the top 5 barbell exercises one can do. Although the list is subjective and its content may lead to debates, the exercises that made it in were selected based on their popularity, effectiveness, and ease of use.

  1. Bench Press
  2. Squat
  3. Biceps Curl
  4. Upright Row
  5. Barbell Row

#1 - Bench Press

Bench Press

Without a doubt, the Bench Press barbell exercise is one of the most popular exercise one can do, if not the most popular. The reason why it is so popular comes from the fact that it very efficiently targets 2 popular muscle groups, i.e. the pectorals (chest) and the triceps muscles.

Another reason why it is so popular comes from the fact that it can be altered to target different sections of the chest muscles. For example, using a wider grip will switch the focus outwardly towards the outer pectorals while using a closer grip will bring the focus to the inner pectorals. Similarly, performing the bench press on a bench in a decline position will bring the focus to the lower part of the pectorals while lying on an incline bench will bring the focus up to the upper part of the chest muscles.

#2 - Squat


Coming in close at the number two spot on our list is the Barbell Squat. Another staple of any athlete's workout regimen, the squat is widely thought to be one of the best exercises one can do while working out. It is so widely loved and used because of its ability to target several essential muscles at the same time: the quadriceps (front of the thighs); the glutes (buttocks); the inner thighs; and the hamstrings.

While it will strengthen the previous muscles primarily, the squat will also require input from a host of muscles in order to stabilize the movements, i.e., the back muscles, the abdominal muscles and the core muscles.

#3 - Biceps Curl

Biceps Curl

It is hard to imagine an individual who has had access to a barbell but has never performed the Biceps Curl exercise. The beauty of the biceps curl comes from its ability to very efficiently target the biceps muscles, located at the front of the upper arms. While the main target is without a doubt the biceps, input from the inside forearms will also be needed in order to complete the movements required.

There are a few variations that one can do with the biceps curl. Notably, you can choose to grip the bar with your hands very close to one another to better target the outside biceps or conversely you can grip the bar with your hands far from each other.

#4 - Upright Row

Upright Row

Coming in at number four in our list is the Upright Row. This shoulder exercise is terrific at strengthening the deltoid muscles that are located in your shoulders. Specifically, it targets primarily the rear deltoids muscles that are located at the back of your shoulders. The upright row will also solicit input from your biceps and trapezius (upper back) in order to bring the barbell up and down.

On to the topic of exercise tweaking, some will prefer using a close grip while others will prefer a wider grip, the latter of which will bring the focus away from the biceps and towards the deltoids and upper back muscle.

#5 - Barbell Row

Barbell Row

Closing the list by coming in at number five is the Barbell Row. Although the 'row' can be performed using a variety of equipment, you'll need a high bench on which to lie prone in order to perform this exercise using a barbell. This of course is explained by the fact that barbell exercises use straight down gravity in order to create the necessary resistance.

As with other barbell exercises, there are a few variations of this exercise, notably the wide-grip and the close-grip adaptations.