TLDR: This article describes a total body barbell workout that is designed to help with calorie burning, lifting explosively, improving mobility, and spending less time in the gym. The workout involves explosive compound movements in volume with light but increasing weight as the rep range falls, focusing on stimulating larger fast twitch muscle fibres, burning calories, and reducing joint impact through intense calorie burning.
Highlights: Explosive workouts can burn between 800-1000 calories per hour
Highlights: Explosive training works to develop Type 2 muscle fibres, which are the largest muscle fibres in many of the muscles included in this workout.
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The humble barbell – a piece of gym equipment that most can afford to buy, every gym has one and even some hotels have sufficient brain power to realise the value of them. With just this and a little weight, you can tackle every muscle in your body and change how you look, feel and function.
NB: Read our guide to Foundational Lifts on those moves.
I love barbells, we love barbells, it’s why we called the site ‘Barbells Abroad’.
Origin Story Of This Barbell Workout
Now, some years ago I met a man, who shall remain unnamed, that had spent a little time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. AKA he was banged up in HMP Wandsworth, a prison here in the UK.
With only limited time out of the cell each day, he needed to make sure his 45 minute sessions in the gym which were not a daily occurrence, could hit as much of his body in that time, while also providing a sense of cardio too.
Fortunately, he met a man, who asked him if he fancied joining in his workout one morning. That morning, he not only learned an amazing total body barbell workout, he helped spread it on to many more people since.
I love this workout – I do it in the spring and summer months, when I want to think about losing weight and keeping muscle condition; and I think you will equal parts love it and hate it too.
How will this Full Body Barbell Workout help me?
This particular full body barbell workout has a handful of outcomes for the trainee:
- You will sweat – This means it has a metabolic affect = calorie burn
- You will be lifting explosively (in parts) – This means the larger fast twitch fibres will be stimulated, which can create the potential for mass gain when paired with a high protein diet.
- You will be improving mobility – Using multijoint lifts that work through natural planes of motion, can improve physiological function.
- You’re going to spend less time in the gym
The goal here is to hit large muscle groups, with stimulus that fires the biggest muscle fibres, at high volume, with limited rest. CrossFit fans will like this workout.
Extra Benefit Of This Barbell Workout
If you’ve ever tried to set up a circuit in a public gym, you’ll know that feeling when some unsuspecting member walks into one of your stations and balls the whole thing up for you.
This counters that problem, by letting you set up a circuit in one place. Reducing the need to run all over the gym, and also getting it completed that bit quicker so you can squeeze it into a lunch break or before you jump in the shower and hit the town.
Efficacy Of This Total Body Barbell Workout
This workout focuses on explosive compound movements, in volume, with light but increasing weight as the rep range falls.
I use this type of training to accompany a period of reduced calorie intake, where I may be aiming to lose the winter blubber but stimulating the larger muscle fibres. In short, I want a workout that makes me feel as jacked as my winter strength sessions left me, but with a lot more sweat involved.
Training heavy, tends to demand an increased calorie intake. Lifting heavy requires increasing muscle mass if you seek to improve your max lifts. This growth in muscle mass requires an increase in calories. It’s this reason why many powerlifters tend to be less lean than conventional bodybuilders. Being overweight is not a requirement, but it’s a by product of a surplus based diet.
In this total body barbell workout, I want to continue to stimulate those larger fast twitch fibres but in a maintenance mode. I’m not trying to grow muscle size but I don’t want to get significantly weaker either. This is why we use power or plyometric training to work these fast twitch type 2 muscle fibres.
While studies show that muscle fibre size varies from muscle group to muscle group and also between the sexes, for the purposes of the muscles included in this workout, fast twitch fibres are the largest and supports the basis of the training focus here. (Source: PubMed)
This type of training can help shed fat through intense calorie burning and take a bit of stress off the joints for a while.
Why does explosive training reduce the impact to your joints? With power moves, you can find yourself working at 30-40% of your single rep max.
As for the calories burned. Fast movements, incorporating compound muscle groups, at volume and at speed, can burn between 800 and 1000 calories per hour. (Source: Runtastic)
Finally, being strong is great, but being explosively strong eg: powerful, is even better.
The 400 Rep Barbell Workout
You will start with a warm up set of the 15 reps on an empty bar and complete a low intensity circuit of all the moves below.
Once the warmup cycle is completed, which can be done at any pace, you will add 5kg plates to the side of the bar.
This means the beginning load is 30kg. You will perform 10 reps at this weight and work through rep range listed below.
Rep/Sets Range For The Full Body Barbell Workout
Unless indicated next to the exercise you will work through the workout as below with no more than 1 minute rest between circuits.
Circuit 1: 10 Reps of each move with 5kg weight on each end of bar
Circuit 2: 8 Reps of each move with 7.5kg weight on each end of bar
Circuit 3: 6 Reps of each move with 10kg weight on each end of bar
Circuit 4: 4 Reps of each move with 12.5kg weight on each end of bar
Circuit 5: 2 Reps of each move with 15kg weight on each end of bar
The Barbell Workout Exercises
Hang Cleans into deep front squats into overhead press
Stiff Leg Deadlifts:
Push Up On Bar (Always 10-20 Reps)
Barbell Roll Out (Always 10 Reps)
With this workout, your traps, back and biceps get an absolute grilling, so you may want a couple of barbell finishers for the core, delts, tris or legs. Here are some moves I tack on at the end of one of these workouts.
Core: Barbell Sit Ups – On your back with barbell pressed above chest, keep arms straight and sit up.
Delts/Tris: Front Delt & Tricep Superset – Front deltoid raise paired with a laying barbell French press for the triceps.
Quads/Glutes/Hams: Travelling Barbell Lunges – Pulse at between each rep just before you stand back up. A little bounce at the point where your thigh is parallel to the floor.
At this stage of the workout, I would tend to perform them to time not reps. Or perform to failure. These are barbell finishers, the job is to finish you off. Reps are a crude metric as some weeks you will be able to do more than others. Lunges for example, might see me do the first set to 90% from failure and two more to failure. The same approach will work for the other two barbell finishers also.
While you’ll rarely find me stretching before a workout, after a workout like this, which involves explosive shortening of muscles; I do enjoy the meditative aspect of sitting myself down on a mat and stretching out.
Having spent many years doing sports specific movements, I do suffer from shortened/tighter muscles and find huge personal physical benefit from taking time to lengthen and stretch those muscles post workout.
Can it help muscle growth? Maybe.
In a study by the Journal of Applied Physiology there were signs that sustained stretching after workout led to increased lean muscle mass. (Source: JOAP)
It’s not why I do it – but it feels good.
If you begin to find the workout is losing its bastard status in your weekly routine, a couple of next steps to progress this include:
- Increasing the starting weight by 2.5kg to 7.5kg – even 10kg and so on.
- Returning to 10 – When you get to the 2 rep level, go back up to 10, taking the weight off as you return.
Both methods mentioned are ways to make the workout a little tougher. Ultimately it’s about finding a balance between resistance and volume, I like to complete the pyramid personally, and then when I can do that, THEN I increase the weight.
This would lead the barbell workout look a bit more like this:
15 (warm up) – 10-8-6-4-2-4-6-8-10 – Collapse (You’ve done about about 600 reps)
Additional Movements: The original workout also included pull ups on the power rack that was being used. This was done at the same rep structure. I didn’t include it above as it would have ruined my ‘barbell only’ training plan. But my personal view – include it if you can.
Outro // The Wrap Up
There you have it. A spartan level, total body barbell workout, that will slay your delts, traps, biceps, lats, rhomboids and even hamstrings. You can do this with limited gym equipment, you can even replicate it with dumbbells, making it a fantastic travel workout and one to save for the next limited hotel gym you visit.