Barbell Only Training Regimen
Reg Park built a herculean physique with a painfully simple full body training approach. Steve Reeves who possessed a timeless, classic physique trained full body.
Related: The Best Full Body Workout For Building Muscle
Clyde Emrich was one of America's top Olympic lifters in the 1950's. His training consisted of presses, cleans, snatches, squats and rows. John Grimek was a heavyweight champion in Olympic weightlifting and won the Mr. America with a simple, but productive full body training approach.
Training full body works.
But fast forward a few decades to present day, and things have changed a bit.
It's most prevalent every January. Herds of gym novices rush the commercial gym doors. Sophomoric motivation flows abundantly. It's easy to spot this in the behavior that trumpets around the gyms during this time of year.
Unending pump sets and marathon workout sessions are normative. The approach is defined by overwhelming volume and complete abandonment of a sensible approach.
But, you know what, it's not their fault entirely. With the amount of advice that's published daily on health and fitness, it's hard to decipher what's good and what is B.S.
What is the result of the suffocating content blitz? People adopt bad habits.
The newbies who are malleable in thought get converted to the blitz and blast approach to building their bodies. But what they don't know is that their endless efforts are doomed for frustration. Pumping, shaping and touching up make the foundation of their training.
And so they do this until they realize it's not working.
Don't let this be you. Hedge against the foreseeable future - jump ship from the mainstream advice and take control of your own progress.
Enter full body training.
Lets be clear here: Non-steroid trainees who have built impressive physiques with full body training have followed a few strategies over the years.
- They train big muscle groups several times per week.
- Their volume allows them to sustain a life outside of the weight room.
- The do the big lifts often (squats, presses, cleans, pulls etc).
- They rarely if ever do marathon pump session workouts.
- They train brutally hard in a short amount of time.
- The nuances will shine through from person to person, but if you pull back the curtain, you'll find more in common than you'll find in conflict.
Or else, you'll just keep on keepin' on as they say.
The Hurdle With Full Body TrainingWhile full body training has been around forever, the one obstacle that trainees look at with their eyes wide shut is the periodizaton factor.
Meaning, they keep doing the same workout at the same intensity and loads, week after week. Luckily there's no need to get complicated. A simple template waving loads and intensities will do the job.
- Week 1 - Barbell movements: 3-5 reps
- Week 2 - Barbell movements: 6-8 reps
- Week 3 - Barbell movements: 12-15 reps
ExercisesYou won't find any high-tech, shiny machine movements on this list. Instead, we're basing everything you do on the basics. It's imperative in full body training that your exercise selection is grounded in multi-joint movements - or compound exercises.
The flagship program will consists of eight exercises. For those who will nearly lose their mind if they don't have options, I provided and alternative movement you can do in addition to the one highlighted in the program. Here are the movements:
#1 - Inverted row
Set a bar about waist height on the power rack and hang below using an overhand grip (about shoulder width apart).
With your arms straight, your midsection should be engaged. Your abs should be turned on and your glutes are tight. A straight line should be able to be drawn from your ears to your ankles in the starting position.
To initiate, you'll pull from the elbows activating your lats (don't pull with your biceps as the main movers). Bring your chest all the way to the bar, and lower yourself to repeat.
Alternative movement: Chest supported row
#2 - Front squat
Ideally, you'll have the bar racked in squat stands.
To set up, you'll establish your grip. Take your hands and place them right outside the shoulders on the bar. Then, whip your elbows under the bar and pull them up so they are pointing straight ahead. Your fingers will act as support by now. The bar should be resting across your front delts. You'll dip and drive the bar out fo the front rack and take two steps back.
Maintaining your rack position, you set your feet up. Place your feet right outside the shoulders with a slight point in the toes outward. Before you drop to squat, create some intra-abdominal pressure and breathe into the stomach.
Initiate by taking the hips back and down while keeping an upright torso. Driving the elbows up and out helps you do this. Once you hit the hole, explode out and get to full extension in the hips and knees.
Reclaim a solid starting position and repeat.
Alternative movement: Overhead squat
#3 - Dip
Grab the bars of a parallel bar dip station and lift yourself up so your arms are straight. This is the top and the starting position of the movement.
You'll lower yourself down as far as you can without discomfort (or until your shoulders touch the bars). Once you hit the hole, you'll push back up using your grip, triceps, and pecs to drive you up to starting position.
Alternative movement: Push up
#4 - Bodyweight lunge
You'll start by standing up straight with your arms at your sides, feet together. To initiate you'll step out with one foot in a big step. Then, plant your forward foot onto the ground until your led leg is bent about 90 degrees at the knee. Don't let your back knee touch the floor.
From here, you'll activate your quad, hamstring and glute of the led leg to push yourself back into starting position. Once you arrive back to starting position, repeat with the alternate leg.
Alternative movement: Single leg squats (pistols)
#5 - Pull up
Hang from a pull up bar using an overhand grip established about shoulder width apart. Pull yourself up to the bar by initiating your midsection, glutes and lats ( rather then relying solely on the arms).
Alternative movement: TRX row
#6 - Romanian Deadlift
This movements starts at the top. To get there, pull the bar off the floor to full extension with an overhand grip.
Standing tall with the bar at your thighs, you'll initiate the movement by taking your hips back while keeping a slight, but fixed bend in the knees. While you descend be sure to keep your abs engaged and a flat back by pulling your shoulders together.
Once the barbell reaches your lower shins (the plates should not touch the ground), return the movement by activating your hamstrings and glutes by driving your hips back to extension.
Alternative movement: Sumo Deadlift
#7 - Push press
The push press is great way to train heavy loads in an strength-endurance format. To do it, you'll rack the barbell across your shoulders.
In the front squat, your elbows are pointing forward. In the push press, since, you'll be taking the load overhead, you'll want to have a solid grip on the bar. Therefore, your elbows will still be out in front of the bar, but not as exaggerated as the front squat. This way, you can transition into a strong grip on the bar once you initiate the press.
There are three main cues in the push press - the dip, drive and press.
The dip will happen at the knees while you keep everything else solid and strong - your rack, your midsection and upper torso should remain in position. The dip is about 10% of the depth of a full front squat.
Once you get here, the drive happens. You'll drive your feet into the ground forcing your knees and hips to come to extension. Once this happens you'll finish things off by taking the barbell overhead.
That brings you to the last phase of the movement, the press. When you lock the bar out overhead, everything will be extended - hips, knees, elbows. You'll return the barbell to your starting position and repeat.
Alternative movement: Split Jerk
Full Body Barbell Workout Program NotesYou'll do this workout once a week in addition to your conventional split style training. On the fourth week, you'll take a deload week from this circuit. You'll follow up by starting over again in week 1 with a focus on heavy loads on the barbell movements.
This program is to be done circuit style with as little rest between sets as possible during each set, followed by a rest period. It'll test your physical limits, build total body strength and forge mental grit.
For the barbell movements, you'll want to load your bars prior to starting the workout with the appropriate load. This will allow you to transition from movement to movement a lot faster.
DirectionsYou'll do this workout once a week. It's designed to be plugged into your weekly training if you're short on time or if you prefer to mix things up and sprinkle in whole-body training into your split routine.
For all barbell movements, you'll follow the rep scheme below:
- Week 1 - Barbell movements: 3-5 reps (heavy/strength)
- Week 2 - Barbell movements: 6-8 reps (moderate/hypertrophy)
- Week 3 - Barbell movements: 12-15 (light/muscle endurance)
Week 1: 4 total sets - rest 5 minutes between sets.
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Week 2: 3 total sets - rest 3 minutes between sets.
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Week 3: 2 total sets - rest 2 minutes between sets.
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Wrapping UpWith three days and minimal equipment, you have road-map to get jacked. As you progress you can use this template to expand your plate for circuit training with barbells. You can mix and match the many barbell movements to choose from when you're ready to or feel like you need to change things up.
With a simple periodization template to follow, you can be sure that you're training all of the strength modalities to maximize your gains and giving yourself the best stimulus to build the body your training so hard for.
Good look - and don't underestimate how challenging this routine is.