Strength Training with Only One Barbell

One Barbell

I bought my home gym in 2004. Three months passed between the time I received my barbell, plates & dumbbells and when I got my power rack.

I didn’t want to train in a commercial gym anymore, so I decided to train at home with what I had. Without a power rack & bench. Strength training with only one barbell.


Who is This For?
Examples in which strength training with one barbell is better:

  • Your gym has no Squat Rack or Bench.
  • Your gym has only smith machines.
  • You want a home gym but you’re low on budget.
  • You want a home gym but you lack space.


Squats.
Without a power rack, the problem is getting the bar on your back, front shoulders or overhead; depending on the squat variation. Some solutions:

  • Back Squat. Get the weight on your back using the Steinborn Lift.
  • Front Squat. Power Clean the weight onto your shoulders & squat.
  • Overhead Squat. Snatch or Clean & Press the weight overhead.

Back Squats allow you to lift the heaviest weights. Front Squats are the best replacement for Back Squats. And Overhead Squats are a full body exercise which will get you strong abs & healthy shoulders.

I prefer the Power Clean + Front Squat. You’ll never stress your legs maximally this way, because the Power Clean is the limiting factor. However squatting at a lower intensity is better than no squatting. And you still have Deadlifts.


Deadlift & Barbell Rows.
You don’t need a power rack for Deadlifts, Bent-Over Barbell Rows & Pendlay Rows. Deadlifts allow you to stress your body with heavy weights. Barbell Rows will work your back hard in absence of Pull-ups.


Overhead Press.
My power rack is not big enough to Overhead Press inside it. It also doesn’t have external safety pins. So I Power Clean the weight on every set onto my shoulders & press from there.

Overhead strength is the limiting factor unless you lack technique on the Power Clean. You’ll lose strength cleaning the weight although I’ve been doing this for so long it feels weird pressing overhead without cleaning the weight first.


Floor Press.
The Floor Press is a great alternative to the Bench Press when you don’t have a Power Rack & Bench. Floor Press work your triceps more: you’re only doing the top part of the movement.


Variations.
You can do the Beginner Strength Training Program I & II using only one barbell. But there are plenty of other exercises you can do. Examples:

  • Zercher Squats, Jefferson Squats, Hack Squats, etc
  • Halting Deadlift, Romanian Deadlifts, etc
  • Close Grip Floor Press, Push Press, etc
  • Lunges & Step-ups.
  • Unilateral movements using one barbell


As a beginner, one barbell will help you build muscle & strength. Once you get more experienced, a Power Rack is the first investment you should make.

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