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Weighted plate attached to the end of a barbell

A full-body strength workout in less than 50 minutes — it’s no wonder Barbell Strength is one of the most popular studio classes at Life Time.

“This class takes care of every single muscle group in our bodies,” says Abrea Wooten, senior education manager of classes at Life Time. “We learn basic strength-training exercises using a weighted barbell, a few sets of dumbbells, a step bench, and a mat.”

Throughout class, the instructor guides participants through the moves, stressing proper form and providing options and tempo changes to continually challenge each muscle group. “The intensity is up to you depending on how much weight you choose,” Wooten adds. “Start light and you can always increase the weight as you progress.”

To get an idea of what this class is like, we asked Wooten to demonstrate five exercises commonly performed in Barbell Strength.

1. Barbell Deadlift to Row

“For this exercise, you’ll want to add a moderate-to-heavy amount of weight to your barbell,” says Wooten.

  • Standing tall with your feet about hip width apart, grip the barbell with your palms facing your body.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees as you hinge your hips back and lower the barbell toward your shins while keeping it close to your legs.
  • Pause with the barbell at shin height and row it up toward your hips.
  • Squeeze your back and triceps at the top of the row and lower the barbell back down to your shins.
  • Engage your glutes and hamstrings to return to standing.
  • Repeat as guided by your instructor.

2. Barbell Back Squat

“Continuing with your moderate-to-heavy weighted barbell, we’ll do several sets of squats and squat variations,” Wooten says. “This should feel challenging but still allow you to maintain proper form.”

  • Rack the barbell behind your head, just below the bony part of the back of your neck.
  • Adjust your feet placement to what’s comfortable for you — typically shoulder width to hip width apart.
  • Start to squat by pushing your butt backward and bending your knees.
  • Keeping your torso upright, your spine neutral, and your knees in line with your toes, lower yourself as far as you are comfortably can.
  • As you descend, keep your knees tracking in the same direction as your feet, then push your feet into the floor to stand all the way up, squeezing your glutes at the top.
  • Repeat as guided by your instructor.

3. Barbell Bench Press

“You’ll often see a mix of chest exercises, including pushups, presses, and flies,” Wooten says. “One of my favorites is the barbell bench press.”

  • Load your barbell to a moderate weight, slightly less than what you used for the squats.
  • Sit on one end of a step bench with your barbell resting on your hips and slowly lower down so your back is flat on the bench and your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands shoulder width apart on the bar and extend your arms to hold the barbell above you.
  • Slowly lower the barbell down to your chest in three counts.
  • Stop once your elbows reach the height of the bench.
  • Drive your arms back to the starting position.
  • Repeat as guided by your instructor.

4. Chest Fly

“Chest flies help open up and strengthen the major muscle groups in your chest while also working your shoulders,” says Wooten. “Perform this with a moderate, challenging set of dumbbells.”

  • With a dumbbell in each hand, lower down so your back is flat on a step bench. Hold the dumbbells parallel to each other with your palms facing inward and press your arms straight out above you with a slight bend at the elbow.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells out to the sides in three counts until they’re in line with your chest. Your arms will be extended but not locked out.
  • Press the dumbbells back up in the same arc motion so they are straight above you.
  • Repeat as guided by your instructor.

5. Barbell Bicep Curl

“This movement may fall during the second half of class, when we typically focus more on arms and shoulders,” Wooten says. “Think triceps, biceps, and lateral delt work using a lighter bar or dumbbells.”

  • Start in a strong stance with feet about hip width apart. Hold the bar with your palms facing away from you, arms extended toward your thighs.
  • Exhale as you curl the bar up toward your shoulders in two counts.
  • Inhale as you lower the weight back down in two counts to the starting position.
  • Repeat as guided by your instructor.
Emily Ewen

Emily Ewen is a senior writer and content editor at Life Time.

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