Build Full-Body Strength With This 20-Minute Barbell Workout

Full-body barbell workouts build power, strength and muscular endurance.
Image Credit: kupicoo/E+/GettyImages

Full-body training sessions are time efficient, and they do a great job building power, strength and muscular endurance.

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This 20-minute full-body workout uses just one piece of equipment: a barbell. Barbells are an excellent muscle-strengthening tool because of their versatility — they can be used in a warm-up as well as your main workout.

Each movement in the workout below trains your fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. (Fast-twitch muscle fibers contract quickly and help you perform fast, high-intensity exercises and slow-twitch muscle fibers contract slowly and help you perform longer, aerobic exercises.)

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When your muscle fibers are stimulated, your muscles contract in one of three ways: concentric (shortening), isometric (same length) and eccentric (lengthening). This 20-minute full-body barbell workout addresses all three contraction types and takes your muscles through their full ranges of motion.

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You can do this workout at home, outside or at the gym. Because the amount of reps, sets and rest per exercise differ, see below for exactly what to do for each move. The workout is split into three parts: the warm-up, the strength portion and the metabolic conditioning portion.

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Grab a barbell and give it a go!

​​Check out more of our ​​20-minute workouts here​​ — we’ve got something for everyone.

The Warm-Up

Directions: ​Perform 5 reps of each movement without setting the barbell down. Complete 2 sets of this barbell complex, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Weight Suggestion: ​Because you're hanging onto the barbell the whole time, choose your weight accordingly. And, because this is a warm-up, the weight should be relatively light.

Exercises in the barbell complex:

  1. Muscle clean
  2. Front squat
  3. Strict overhead press
  4. Romanian deadlift
  5. Bent-over row

1. Barbell Complex

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with feet about shoulder width apart.
  2. Grip the barbell about thumbs-width outside your hips.
  3. Hinge at your hips, then stand up quickly, pulling the barbell up as you stand and catching the barbell on your shoulders. This is the muscle clean.
  4. Push your hips back and lower down into a squat with the barbell resting on shoulders while maintaining tension through your core, keeping your heels on the ground and driving your knees out. This is the front squat.
  5. Tightening your core and squeezing your glutes, press the barbell overhead. This is the strict overhead press.
  6. Holding the barbell at hip level with a slight bend in your knees, hinge at your hips and lower the barbell down to the ground, keeping your back flat.When you feel the tension increasing in the hamstring muscles in the back of your thighs, pause for a second or two before returning to the starting position by pushing your heels into the floor and thrusting your butt forward. This is the Romanian deadlift.
  7. With your chest and back parallel to the ground (or as close as possible), pull the barbell to your belly button to perform a bent-over row.

Strength Work

1. Vertical Jump

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a barbell on your back by cleaning the barbell up to your shoulders then pressing it overhead and lowering it down behind you.
  3. Push your hips back and lower down into a half-squat position (think: athletic position, not a full squat).
  4. Pause for 2 seconds.
  5. Jump as high as possible (without squatting down anymore).
  6. Reset between jumps, then repeat.

Directions: ​Perform 3 reps of this movement. Complete 2 sets, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Weight Suggestion: ​The goal of these jumps is maximum power output, so choose a weight you can move quickly with and leave the ground on the jump.

2. Split Squat Isometric Overhead Hold

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a barbell on your back by cleaning the barbell up to your shoulders then pressing it overhead.
  3. Brace your core and step forward a few feet with one leg.
  4. Bend both knees and let the heel of your back foot to rise up. Lower as far as is comfortable or until your back knee almost touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel with the floor.
  5. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  6. Press through your lead foot to raise up without moving your feet.

Directions: ​Perform 2 reps of this movement, holding each rep for 10 seconds each. Complete 2 sets, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Weight Suggestion: ​Use the same weight you used for the vertical jumps. However, you want to be able to adequately hold the position for entire 10-second duration, so maintaining proper form trumps weight used. With that in mind, go down in weight if needed.

3. Zombie Squat

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  2. Clean the barbell up to your shoulders.
  3. Extend your arms out in front of you keeping the bar balanced on your shoulders.
  4. Push your hips back and slowly lower into deep squat position (take 5 seconds to get to your bottom range of motion).
  5. Stand back up and repeat.

Directions: ​Perform 5 reps of this movement, lowering into the squat over a period of 5 seconds. Complete 2 sets, resting 2 minutes between sets.

Weight Suggestion: ​Increase the weight for this movement. The increased time under tension through the eccentric (slow) loading will further allow those strength gains to accrue.

Alternative: ​Perform a barbell front squat instead.

4. Lateral Squat

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a barbell on your back by cleaning the barbell up to your shoulders then pressing it overhead.
  3. Move your feet into a wide-stance (quite a bit wider than shoulder-width).
  4. Bracing your core, shift your body-weight to one side, bending the knee of the side you are shifting to and keeping the other leg straight. Keep both feet planted in ground.
  5. Return to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side.

Directions: ​Perform 5 reps of this movement. Complete 2 sets, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Weight Suggestion: ​Use a similar weight as the vertical jumps and split squat isometric overhead holds. The goal here is to move through as much range of motion as possible, so keep that in mind when choosing your weight.

Metabolic Conditioning

Directions:​ Perform each exercise listed below for 20 seconds, doing as many reps as you can in that timeframe. Rest 10 seconds between each exercise. Complete 2 rounds.

Weight Suggestion: ​Use the same weight you used for the vertical jumps and split squat isometric overhead holds. The goal here is to move quickly, so with that being said, scale your weight down if needed.

1. Push Jerk

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Clean the barbell up to your shoulders.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and drive with your legs to time push the barbell up over your head. Jump slightly off the ground as you drive your legs and push the barbell overhead.
  4. Lower the barbell back down to your shoulders and repeat.

2. Bent-Over Row

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell at your hips.
  2. Push your hips back and soften your knees to lean your torso forward until it's nearly parallel with the ground and your weight is centered in your heels. Let the barbell hang straight down in front of your knees.
  3. Brace your core and think about keeping your back completely flat.
  4. Leading with your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then pull through your arms to raise the barbell up toward your ribcage. Pause at the top of the movement.
  5. Keep your core and spine stable as you reverse the motion, extending your arms to lower the barbell so it hangs by your knees.

3. Thruster

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Clean the barbell up to your shoulders.
  3. Lift your chest, push your hips back and bend your knees to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as possible).
  4. Explosively drive up and out of the squat.
  5. Maintain the momentum of the bar by powerfully extending your arms and pushing it overhead.
  6. Bend your arms and lower the bar back to your shoulders before squatting down and repeating.

4. Lateral Burpee Over Barbell

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Activity Barbell Workout
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand next to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and down while maintaining a flat back.
  3. When your hands hit the ground underneath your shoulders, jump or step both feet back and land in a high plank with your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  4. Perform a push-up, bending your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lowering to the floor, maintaining your body alignment.
  5. Press back up to a high plank.
  6. Jump or step your feet back underneath your hips and stand up and immediately transition into a jump.
  7. Land softly with your hips back and knees slightly bent and in line with your feet and hips.
  8. Laterally hop over the barbell (or step over it if you're not comfortable jumping over it).
  9. Complete another burpee on the other side of the barbell. Laterally hop over the barbell and repeat.

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