Photo Credit:
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Body Bar: The No-Machine Strength Workout

Easy to use with plenty of exercises to choose from, this tool may just become a permanent part of your routine
Written by 
Holly St. Lifer
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 

Of all the strength training equipment out there, a body bar is one of the simplest to use. While other tools, like kettlebells or resistance bands, may take a workout or two to get used to, most people feel comfortable picking up a body bar right from the start. Whether you’ve used one in a fitness class or want to incorporate one into your at-home workout, there’s a variety of body bar exercises to help keep things interesting—especially helpful for new exercisers, many of whom quit working out within three to six month due to boredom.

The body bar is a slender, four-foot long metal pole that’s wrapped in foam and typically ranges in weight from three to 36 pounds.  If you’re used to lifting dumbbells, the body bar will probably feel natural to you. This workout tool is ideal for taking traditional exercises you’re already familiar with—like squats, curls and rows—and making them more challenging by adding a balance component that also recruits your abdominals and core stabilizers.

If you’re at the gym, you may have a variety of weighted bars to choose from. Pick one that’s light enough for you to keep the bar steady throughout the exercise but fatigues your muscles during the last few reps, making it difficult for you to maintain proper form. Generally, beginners should start with a three- or six-pound bar. Once you’ve reached a more intermediate level, try a nine- or 12-pound bar, working toward advanced training with 24-, 30- and 36-pound options.

Ready to get started? Try incorporating these simple body bar exercises into your workout routine:


Single Arm Row

What It Does: Targets your back, biceps and core

How to Do It: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders down and your abdominals engaged. Hold the middle of the body bar down in front of your thighs with your right hand, palm facing your body. Your left hand can be on your left hip or down by your side. Lean forward at the hips until your torso is at a 45-degree angle and the bar is hanging by your knees. Keep your back flat and chest lifted. Inhale. Exhale as you pull the bar up to the crease in your hips. Inhale as you lower it back to the starting position. Perform 12 reps and then switch arms. Complete two to three sets.

Be careful not to…let either end of the bar drop. Utilize your core muscles to maintain a stable stance and even hold on the bar. 


Side-Loaded Squat

What It Does: Works your legs, glutes, shoulders and core

How to Do It: With your legs wider than hip-width apart, feet facing forward, hold the middle of the body bar with your right hand and raise it to shoulder height, palm facing down. Your left hand can be on your left hip or down by your side. Inhale. Keep your chest lifted and exhale as you lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, inhale and then exhale as you push back up to your starting position. Perform 12 reps and then switch arms. Complete two to three sets.

Be careful not to…lower the bar below shoulder height. Holding and balancing that weight challenges both your upper and lower body.


Bar Rotation

What It Does: Targets your shoulders

How to Do It: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees soft. With both hands, hold the bar down in front of your thighs using a hip-width grip, palms facing your body. Raise the bar to shoulder height with a slight bend in your elbows. Rotate the bar counterclockwise so your right hand is above your left. Then, rotate the bar clockwise so your left hand is above your right. This is one rep. Perform 15 reps; complete two to three sets.

Be careful not to…rotate the bar too quickly. A controlled movement allows your shoulders to work safely and effectively.


Bicep Curl with Leg Extension

What It Does: Strengthens your biceps, legs and core

How to Do It: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees soft, shoulders down and your abdominals engaged. Hold the body bar down at your hips with both hands using a shoulder-width grip, palms facing out. Inhale as you curl the bar up to chest level while lifting your left knee up to 90 degrees and then extending your leg straight out in front of you. Exhale as you bring your leg back to a bent, 90-degree position. Finish by lowering your foot to the ground and the body bar back to hip level. Repeat with the right leg to complete one rep. Perform 12 reps; complete two to three sets.

Be careful not to…lift your hip as you extend your leg. Raising your leg to a height that allows you to keep your hips even will help you maintain balance. Try picking a point of focus in front of you to help you stay grounded.


More:

Dumbbells: The No-Machine Strength Workout
Resistance Bands: The No-Machine Strength Workout
Kettlebells: The No-Machine Strength Workout
Medicine Ball: The No-Machine Strength Workout

Reference(s) 
American College of Sports Medicine
Body Bar, Inc.
About the author 
Holly St. Lifer is a health, fitness, nutrition and human interest writer whose work has appeared in AARP, Health, Ladies' Home Journal, Prevention and other publications. She also teaches magazine writing at New York University.