An Upper-Body Barbell Workout to Work Your Chest, Back, and Shoulders

Whether you want to start lifting heavier weights or are just looking for a change of pace from your typical go-to equipment, it might be time to give barbells a try. And this upper-body barbell workout is a good place to start.

All of the exercises in this upper-body workout are basic moves that are commonly done with different types of equipment—like barbells or kettlebells—but the barbell is a great tool to use if your goal is to get stronger, says Morit Summers, certified personal trainer and owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn. That’s because it’s super easy to add weight to the bar, so you can keep challenging yourself to increase your loads.

It’s important to note, though, that you should be comfortable doing the moves below with lighter free weights before progressing to barbells. You want to make sure you’ve got the movement patterns down before loading on heavier weight—safety first, always.

Also, it’s important to choose an appropriate weight for your current strength. “Start light and work your way up in weight,” says Summers. Also, be mindful of your posture. “For the bent-over movements, keep a tight core and try to prevent your lower back from rounding.”

Summers suggests starting with just the bar—no plates—and seeing how that feels for a few reps. If it feels too easy, add some weight. (A standard barbell weighs 45 pounds, so it may be plenty challenging for you without adding any plates.) Keep doing this until you hit a weight that you can do 8-12 reps with. You want to feel challenged and like your muscles are tired after, but not so strained that you can’t maintain proper form through the very last rep.

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By splitting up your workouts into upper-body and lower-body sessions, you can focus on getting as much out of each part of the body as possible, says Summers. So don’t be afraid to go heavy and challenge yourself, as long as you plan on resting your upper body the next day.

If you’re looking to build strength in your upper body—including your chest, back, and shoulders—try the upper-body barbell workout below.

Model Mia Lazarewicz, C.S.C.S., is a certified personal trainer, adult competitive gymnast, and American Ninja Warrior competitor.

The Workout


  • Barbell Bent-Over Row
  • Barbell Push-Press
  • Barbell Floor Press
  • Barbell Upright Row


Do 8-12 reps of each exercise. Your rest time is the time it takes to transition to the next exercise.

Rest 1-3 minutes between sets.

Do 3-4 sets.


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