The 5 Kings of Barbell Training

Let’s talk about resistance training, more specifically the five most effective exercises you should be doing. The exercises I’m talking about often listed as the top four( but myself and many others believe there to be five) are:

  1. Barbell Squat- Whether it’s back squat, front squat, sumo squat or even zercher squat the barbell squat is one of the Big Dogs.
  2. Barbell Deadlift- Conventional, Romaian and even Sumo. If you’re not deadlifting you are losing out on major strength gains and overall injury prevention and better quality of life.
  3. Barbell Bench Press- Preferably flat bench but incline bench press is amazing too. As for decline I don’t consider it a “Top 5” but great to toss in none the less if you don’t do it often.
  4. Barbell Overhead Press- Now when I think of KING exercises for the overhead press I personally think of a standing press, mainly due to its full body control, stability and strength. Seated can be a great way to build the strength and mobility for it’s standing counterpart.
  5. Barbell Row- The row is the +1 that myself and others should be considered in the top. As for way I think of it as a King barbell movement is because it’s the only one on this list that puts your rhomboids and rear deltoid muscles through a full range of motion. Don’t get me wrong the deadlift and overhead press are great for building a strong back but getting to work in the horizontal plan I feel is far superior. 

Now, why are these exercises considered to be the “Top 5” or the “Kings” of resistance training? You may ask. Well, there are two main reasons.

  • Each one of these exercises are a  compound/ multi-joint movement. Meaning multiple joints are moved to achieve the movement. Examples- The deadlift requires the ankles, knees, and hips to all work together, as for the bench press the elbows and shoulders.
  • The second reason is the high amount of carry over you get from performing this movements properly and with good form. Examples- Increase my strength and stability in my overhead press, will help strengthen my shoulder and core strength and stability for my bench press, as for getting a stronger squat can and will strengthen my hip extension through my deadlift. Not to mention all of the smaller muscles(biceps, triceps, shoulder, and calves) are acting as secondary muscles and getting stronger as well. Try incorporating barbell rows into your workouts and see how much stronger your bicep curls get. 

Let’s talk about how to build into performing these exercises and incorporating them into your workouts. If you are a complete beginner I recommend hiring an in-person personal trainer for at least 6-12 months to watch and correct your form and to educate on how to properly feel the movement. I know and understand how this can be an expensive investment, but that’s exactly what it is, an investment in yourself to live a longer, healthier and higher quality of life. The cost of a trainer for a year is still less than the cost of back or shoulder surgery due to improper lifting. If you have some experience it’s all about finding your starting point. IF you have trouble deadlifting the bar then kettlebells and dumbbells are a great tool to modify the movement and to get strong before moving to the bar. Same goes for all the other exercises, if you aren’t comfortable with the bar use the many tools out there to help you until you are stable enough to tackle the bar. 

After you put in the work and you are ready for the bar, how should you add it to your training? The best thing to do no matter what level you’re at beginner to advance is to always approach your training session as practice. Use each lift as it’s own mini practice session. Every time you unrack the bar, examine your movement and form from head to toe with every rep. Don’t think about hitting the gym and getting as sweaty and sore as possible. This mindset will inevitably lead you to plateaus and injury. The more you PRACTICE your movements the stronger and safer they will become not matter the weight on the bar.

Lastly, how to program these into my workout. I’m a huge fan of the “Full-Body” Workouts. Myself and my clients over the years have seen exceptional results from this method without spending 2hr a day, 5 days a week in the gym. So to help out here is a great mini 3 day split to help you get started in adding the 5 Kings of Barbell Training. Enjoy!

Workout 1:

Chest Press

Workout 2:

Overhead Press

Workout 3: