Barbell exercises are arguably the holy grail of free weight exercises. Many gymgoers employ the barbell and its wide array of combinations to develop different muscle groups, including their biceps, shoulders, pecs, traps, quads, and many more. However, this article is for you if you intend to switch to substitutes for barbell exercises that yield the same or similar results.
Because barbell exercises come in different styles, there are several alternatives you can opt for, depending on the muscle group you want to develop.
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Substitutes for upper body barbell exercises
Here are some alternatives for upper body barbell exercises, neatly divided into free weight exercises, bodyweight exercises, and machine-based exercises:
Free weight exercises
The Dumbbell Press
The dumbbell press is a popular and standard exercise for upper body development. Like the barbell bench press, the dumbbell press works your biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis muscles. You can perform it with two dumbbells, allowing you to mimic the singular barbell for bench presses.
Like the bench press, you can also perform the dumbbell press at a 90, 45, 30, or 0-degree angle. Many weightlifters also prefer the dumbbell press because it works more stabilizer muscles as you have to keep both dumbbells stable and aligned. If you prefer the dumbbell press, I recommend the hex dumbbells because they offer value for money and are easy to use.
Bicep curls are another common upper body exercise among weightlifters. As the name implies, they primarily build your biceps, and it is performed with dumbbells. It is an alternative to performing the same curls with a barbell. Unlike barbell curls, you can work on an arm at a time. This allows you to focus on one arm and lift heavy as the weight on the other hand does not distract you.
💡 Quick Tip: Loadable dumbbells may be for you if you are beginning your weightlifting journey, as you can adjust them to various weight levels. I recommend the Rogue loadable dumbbells as it is the perfect combination of classy and functional.
Rogue loadable dumbbells
The Dumbbell Overhead Press
The dumbbell overhead press is very similar to the military press, except that you use dumbells for the former and a barbell for the latter. As you may expect, they work the same muscles, including your traps, lats, arms, upper chest, and shoulders.
However, the dumbbell overhead press recruits your stabilizer muscles to keep your arms and the dumbbells aligned while you lift it above your head. Additionally, you can also perform variations of the overhead press with your dumbbells, including twisting and turning them for extra effect.
Push-ups are the quintessential upper body builder without weights. Pushups enjoy wide success because of how easy it is to perform. You can perform several variations of the exercise to stimulate different parts of your biceps, triceps, pecs, and other muscles that the exercise targets.
The pushup is the bodyweight equivalent of the bench press and is the most suitable alternative if you cannot go to a gym or buy a barbell for your home gym needs. Its variations include the strict military pushup, wide hand pushup, diamond push-up, and clap pushup. I recommend the Abmat to go with your pushups to provide a gripping and neat surface for your workout.
📖 Related Article: If you're enjoying this article and are interested in setting up a home gym, check out this article on: How to Build a Home Gym in a Basement
Machine Based Exercises
The Chest Press
The chest press is the machine equivalent of the bench press. It similarly works your chest, arms, and shoulder muscles. The chest press is excellent for beginners who are yet to master the bench press form or want to use the machine to improve their form. However, because the machine keeps you stable, you do not work your stabilizer muscles the same way a bench press would.
Machine Overhead Press
The machine overhead press is very similar to the regular barbell overhead press, with the primary difference being the equipment you use. As with other machines, the machine overhead press does not work your stabilizer muscles because it gives you balance and form.
As a result, it is good for you if you are a beginner or recuperating from an injury. The overhead press works the same muscles irrespective of whether you use a barbell, pair of dumbbells, or an overhead press machine.
Substitutes for lower body barbell exercises
On the other hand, you can also perform substitute barbell exercises to get similar results and develop your lower body. Here are some of them:
Free weight Exercises
Dumbbell lunges are excellent lower body builders, especially because of the wide range of motion it involves. It is perfect for replacing barbell squats, especially if you cannot get a spotter or a squat rack; you can simply drop the dumbbells when you realize you are in a failed rep. Dumbbell lunges similarly work your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
The bodyweight squat is one of the most popular home and beginner leg workouts, primarily due to its simplicity. Many weightlifters use bodyweight squats as an alternative to barbell squats to master the squat form or when they are recovering from an injury.
Lunges are very similar to dumbbell lunges, except that you only rely on your body weight. It is perfect if you are out of town and cannot get any dumbbells or kettlebells. It works the same muscle groups and helps you develop your general body fitness.
💡 Quick Tip: If you want the benefits of a home gym together with the benefits of using a barbell, you can invest in a squat rack to help you perform your squats at home. You can check out the Rogue sml-2c squat stand, as it is perfect for home squats.
Rogue sml-2c squat stand
The leg press is the most common alternative to the barbell squat as they work the same muscle groups. You use the leg press machine for the exercise to work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
With the machine, you need not worry about the stress the barbell places on your back or falling with the bar, as the machine takes care of that. If you prefer the leg press machine, I recommend the Leverage squat machine.