Harley Pasternak: Don’t Be Afraid of the Barbell — Here’s How to Use It!

09/24/2014 at 12:28 PM ET

Harley Pasternak
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

For many, the thought of barbells conjures up images of giant, muscle-bound bodybuilders, Olympic-sized weight plates and the guy at your gym who grunt-yells when he does anything.

Unfortunately, this scares off many people (especially women) from one of the most versatile pieces of equipment out there. But here’s the thing: there are amazing exercises you can do using this piece of equipment — and you don’t have to add heavy plates to make it work for you! Here are some ways to use just the barbell bar to work your whole body from top to bottom:

Squat. Keeping the bar over your shoulders centers your weight so you don’t tip forward. Do NOT look down at your toes — this can cause neck and back injury.

Shoulder Press. Keep one foot slightly in front of the other to protect your back.

Reverse Lunge. A barbell adds an extra level of difficulty to the reverse lunge — your legs will be screaming after a few of these!

Skullcrusher. Contrary to the name of this tricep-toning favorite, don’t let the barbell come down on your head!

Hip Thrust. The hip thrust is one of my favorite butt- and hamstring-toning moves, but I often hear people saying they can do a ton of them before they really feel anything. Add a barbell, and I promise you’ll feel it after just a few!

Kayaks. Resist the urge to curve; keep a 45-degree angle to the ground for this total ab workout.

Bent-Over Row. For this move, pull your shoulder blades back and together, like you’re trying to get them to touch.

What is your favorite barbell move?

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Showing 10 comments

Jim on


Janie on

For women who want a good barbell class, Google Les Mills and find a gym that offers Body Pump classes. I do it and love it.

AngelLove on

These are great ideas! And I love the videos as opposed to the images. Much more visual. However, the video under Skullcrusher is the reverse lunge.

lola on

Dr. Joyce Vedral’s workout for women!! Awesome!

Christine on

Skull crushers are my nemesis, but holy crap do they work! I used to struggle to do reps with just the bar. Now I’ve got ten pound weights on either side. Love lifting!

Anonymous on

So the wrong video appears for skullcrushers. Also, a in some cardio, like 10-20 burp eyes between each of these exercises.

Anonymous on

*add in some cardio between each…..like 10-20 burpees

Sarah on

This is absolutely horrendous. I could not get past the God awful barbell squat. Uh, excuse me, but looking UP will cause more trauma to your neck and back, not looking down. And please, for the love of all that is good on this earth, could you please squat to depth? Stick to what yo know best. Dealing with celebrities and leave the strength training to those who actually understand how to coach these lifts.

And sorry, Body Pump is not strength training. It is glorified aerobics with weight.

Anonymous on

This is absolutely pathetic. Stick to training celebrities and leave the strength training to people who actually know how to teach someone to squat and press.

And Body Pump is simply glorified aerobics with weights. No one ever gets stronger by following someone on a stage in front of them shouting “3, 2, 1, down!” or “Slow, slow then quick!” Dancing with weights. This is NOT strength training.

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