What are the best weighted bar exercises?
Weighted bar exercises can work the entire body using different bar weights without any additional weight loading required.
Whether you want to enhance your lower body or build more strength in your arms and core, it’s all possible with a weighted body bar that’s simple and effective to use.
Make your muscles stand out with this list of the best weighted bar exercises you can do anytime at home or in the gym.
The Best Weighted Bar Exercises
Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being.
Here’s our list of the 10 best weighted bar exercises:
10. Hip Thrusts
Increasing glute size and strength.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with feet flat and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Position feet shoulder-width apart with a weighted bar over your hips.
- Hold the bar securely and push weight into your heels, driving hips upwards and extending so only your upper back stays on the ground.
- Squeeze glutes tight as you reach the top before returning to starting position, keeping your body just off the floor.
- Start with 3 sets of 12 reps and work your way up to 20 reps per set.
Hip thrusts are one of the best exercises for glutes as they build glute size and strength in a targeted way you can’t always get with other exercises.
Not only are hip thrusts one of the best glute exercises, but with a weighted bar, these movements are especially good for stabilizing the core, pelvis, and lower body.
People of all ages should incorporate hip thrusts into their workouts, but especially seniors who could benefit from more stabilization support.
Hip thrusts are one of the best weighted bar exercises to do at least 1-2 times every week, if not more, especially as part of strength training to target those glutes.
If you are doing heavy squats and deadlifts, hip thrusts are a great supplement and help tone your legs and butt without overdoing it.
9. Skull Crushers
Strengthening elbow and shoulder stabilization and toning triceps.
How to do it:
- Lie down on your back with the bar locked out at the top and hands shoulder-width apart.
- Lower the curl bar toward your forehead with elbows tucked in to activate the triceps.
- Squeeze the bar hard to engage your grip and maintain proper form.
- Bring the bar to your forehead before lowering your shoulders and rolling your arms back, so the bar goes behind your head.
- Stretch and drive the bar back up in the reverse position for a smooth reset.
- Aim for 4-6 sets with 8-12 repetitions each and a minute rest in between.
Skull crushers are terrific for toning triceps, similar to overhead triceps extension but lying down rather than in standing position, which strengthens elbow and shoulder stabilization too.
While everyone should do skull crushers to support their upper body, this exercise is particularly important for athletes or those prone to injury as it increases elbow resistance and extension to lower the risk of overextension.
It’s best to do skull crushers toward the start or first half of an upper-body workout, as you can do multiple sets to really work up a sweat.
If you workout 4-5 times a day, try skull crushers at least once or twice a week and increase the frequency when it feels right for your muscles and your muscle gain goals.
8. Bicep Curls
Building upper arm strength.
How to do it:
- Stand up with feet hip-width apart and weighted bar in a neutral underhand grip.
- Keep your arms extended in front of you and tuck elbows into your side.
- Curl the bar up to your chest and hold for one second with your biceps fully contracted.
- Lower down to starting position and do 1-3 sets with 12 to 20 reps each.
As popular bodyweight and dumbbell exercises, bicep curls are a staple in any successful upper body workout regime.
Bicep curls with a weighted bar target your upper and frontal arm muscles for a larger, more toned appearance.
Not only can you increase bicep size, but you can also isolate the biceps to improve strength and stability within your upper arms.
Professional lifters and athletes are big fans of bicep curls with a body bar, as they help with better pulls, deadlifts, and snatches too.
Bicep curl bar exercises are recommended three times a week on non-consecutive days.
It’s important to give your biceps at least one day of rest in between to ensure the best form and muscle gains.
Most people like to bicep curls near the end of an upper body and back workout, as these muscles are smaller and can be trained effectively after some solid lifts.
7. Bent Over Rows
Working multiple muscles in the back, legs, and shoulders.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and use an overhand grip to hold the weighted bar about the width of your shoulders.
- Hinge forward at your hips, pushing backward while fully extending your arms to let the bar hang in front.
- Pull the bar up to your rib cage with elbows skimming your sides.
- At the top, squeeze for a second before slowly returning to starting position.
- Do 2-3 sets of 6 to 12 reps.
While it’s common to do bent over rows with weight plates, a weighted bar works just as well as this exercise targets several muscles to improve overall body strength.
Work your back, biceps, and forearms at the same time while also targeting your glutes, hamstrings, and lats in a challenging workout that helps with muscular endurance.
It’s great to do bent over rows with a weighted bar at least once or twice a week, but you can easily increase this as your fitness improves.
It’s fine to do these bar exercises in the middle or toward the end of a workout, so long as you maintain control and make sure to rest your muscles as required.
Strengthening and sculpting back and hips.
How to do it:
- Rack the weighted body bar on your back just like you would for a high bar back squat.
- Lunge forward with one leg, keeping weight in your front heel, and both knees bent.
- Push back upwards with the other leg and take your next step forward on the other leg.
- Keep your chest up through each lunge with 10-12 lunges on each side per workout.
Lunges are some of the best weighted bar exercises for building muscle mass and increasing strength for a more toned core and butt.
If you want more definition in your legs, then lunges with a body bar are ideal, especially because they train better posture and improved range of motion.
Try to do lunges at least two or three times per week to improve your fitness levels and build stronger leg muscles for a toned look.
Just keep in mind you should stick to four or five sets of lunges at most per day to ensure your leg muscles aren’t overtrained.
5. Romanian Deadlifts
Increasing hip mobility and targeting glutes.
How to do it:
- Start standing and bend over to grip the bar about shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back straight and bend with your knees while lifting the bar off the floor.
- Push through your heels and stick your butt out, driving your hips forward.
- Exhale throughout the lift, and once the bar is up near your thighs, lower it back down.
- Stop when the bar is just a few inches off the floor and repeat for 3-5 sets with 8 to 12 reps.
Romanian deadlifts are great for building glutes and hamstrings, as your legs have to do most of the work while your knees stay still.
This weighted bar exercise is great for lower back strength and coordination, and it also helps with injury resistance linked to lower back stress or poor loading form.
If you do Romanian deadlifts 1-3 times a week, you should start to see results in your efforts to tone and strengthen muscles.
This is a big exercise that challenges your muscles and is great in the first half of your workout during a hardcore weightlifting session.
4. Front Squats
Working the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
How to do it:
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and the body bar in an overhand grip.
- Lift your elbows to bring the bar in front to the top of your chest as your hands hold the bar palms up.
- Keep elbows pointed forward and hands near your collar bones.
- Maintain weight in your heels, push hips back, and bend at the knees.
- Once your thighs are near the ground, stand back up with a strong glute squeeze.
- Repeat for 12-15 reps in 3 sets.
Front squats are another awesome option for bar exercises because they require more quad work than back squats, as well as extra upper body flexibility.
By holding the weight in front of your shoulders, you can keep your torso upright in a fun and effective challenge after mastering back squats.
You can do front squats several times a week, and these exercises are great for after deadlifts and heavy back work.
As with any leg exercise, it’s important to stretch afterward so you can keep lifting without injury.
Also, you can combine front squats with hip thrusts and shoulder presses if you want a full-body exercise to take your workout to the next level.
3. Shoulder Presses
Targeting muscles, triceps, and abs.
How to do it:
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees and hips fully extended.
- Grab the bar in a front-rack position but don’t lock your knees.
- Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders with hands shoulder-width apart and elbows pointed forward.
- Squeeze your shoulders together, tighten your core, and exhale as you press the bar overhead.
- Press your head through your arms and keep pressing until your arms lockout.
- Engage your back to keep control as you lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Try 8-12 reps in 2 or 3 sets.
Shoulder presses are some of the best bar exercises for your deltoids as they work your triceps, too, all from a standing position.
If you want to target your abs and stabilize your spine, then shoulder presses should definitely go on your list for toning your body with a weighted bar.
A lot of people like to do shoulder presses near the end of an upper body workout once the arms are properly warmed up.
You should do shoulder presses twice or even three times a week, but make sure you incorporate a rest period to keep your shoulders healthy and strong.
Working your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.
How to do it:
- Hold the bar in front with an overhand grip and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Start with your hips pushed back, and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle to your hips.
- With your chest nearly parallel to the ground, engage your glutes and retract your shoulders.
- Drive your hips forward and stand fully upright before returning to starting position.
- Do 4 sets of 6 reps to start and increase from there.
Deadlifts are some of the best exercises to do for your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, and you don’t need heavy weight plates to do it.
With a weighted bar, you can work your muscles through dynamic deadlifts that activate hip extensors and help soothe lower back pain when done right.
Deadlifts should be incorporated into strength training 1-3 times a week, keeping in mind the importance of balancing difficulty and safe lifting practices to ensure the best results.
After you warm up, deadlifts with a body bar are a great way to boost your heart rate and get your muscles working during a strength training session.
1. Back Squats
Improving glute and squad strength.
How to do it:
- Place the bar at the top of your back with your feet hip-width apart.
- Grip the bar near your shoulders and keep your elbows tucked in.
- Push through your heels to bring your hips back and bend at the knees.
- Once your upper legs are parallel to the ground, return to the standing position, squeezing your glutes simultaneously.
- Try for 3 sets with 12-15 reps each.
Back squats are at the top of the list of bar, bodyweight, and dumbbell exercises because they are incredibly functional and replicate daily movements.
The more back squats you do, the better, as you can build lower back strength and promote lower body power for more awareness and coordination.
It’s ideal to do two or three back squat sessions every week, making sure there’s at least a day or two of recovery in between to maximize strength development.
Most fitness enthusiasts put squats toward the end of their workouts, as these bar exercises make a great strong finish after technical lifting.
FAQs About Weighted Bar Exercises
If you want to grow your arm and leg muscles while also working your core, weighted bar exercises are a must-try.
Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions about weighted body bar workouts and how to get the most out of your exercise.
Q: What Size Weighted Bar Should I Start With?
Grow your arm and leg muscles with a 48-inch weighted bar.
You can choose whichever size best suits your current strength levels, although most beginners find a 3 or 6 lb. bar to be suitable.
By using a weighted bar two or three times a week for successful resistance training, you can increase your strength and eventually move to an intermediate 9 or 12 lb. bar.
There are even 24, 30, and 36 lb. weighted bar options available for experienced heavy lifters.
Q: What Is the Best Weight for a Weighted Bar?
The best weight for a weighted bar depends on your current fitness levels. If you’re a beginner, try somewhere between 3 and 9 lb.
For an intermediate weight, 9, 12, or 15 lb. may be ideal. Then there are heavier body bars over 30 lb. for a heavy-duty full-body workout that challenges all your muscles.
Whichever weight you go with, try to commit to regular resistance training to promote cardiovascular health and develop stronger muscles.
Q: How Heavy Should a Weighted Bar Be?
A weighted bar should be heavy enough to challenge your muscles, so you feel the burn, but not too heavy to overextend and injure your muscles.
If you’re interested in higher-level weightlifting, keep in mind that Olympic weightlifting bars are 45 lb. for men and 33 lb. for women, with powerlifting bars weighing 55 lb.
As long as you have a comfortable weight for you, whether a 6 lb. or 40 lb. bar, it’s best to use a weighted bar to target lower body muscles at least two days a week, if not more.
Q: What Muscles Does a Weight Bar Work?
One of the best things about using a weighted bar is how many muscles you can work in one session.
The most effective strength training workouts target your core muscles throughout the back, abdomen, and pelvis, as well as the arms, legs, and shoulders.
You can pick and choose a variety of bar exercises to improve upper body flexibility and increase your overall strength.
Q: Can You Add Weights to a Weighted Bar?
You may be able to add weights to a weighted bar depending on the design and the weights you have available, whether you’re working out at home or the gym.
However, the great thing about a weighted bar is it already has weight, so you can complete a wide range of strength training exercises.
For the best results, aim for the recommended 75-150 minutes of strength training a week, both with a weighted bar and through bodyweight and dumbbell exercises.
While weight plates are great to use in the gym, sometimes you may want to switch things up and use a weighted body bar instead.
It’s simple, effective, and an excellent way to tone your entire body, with a variety of different exercises you can try.
From bicep curls to work the upper body to back squats that build leg muscle, the best weighted bar exercises certainly deliver
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best weighted bar exercises:
- Back Squats
- Shoulder Presses
- Front Squats
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Bent Over Rows
- Bicep Curls
- Skull Crushers
- Hip Thrusts