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The Best Barbell Exercises For Building Biceps, Triceps and Shoulders

We all want strong, toned arms to look and feel stronger, more confident and vigorous. There is no shortage of fitness equipment to help build your upper body strength. From professional gym machines to truck tires, you can get a workout using nearly anything. Some of the most underutilized or underappreciated workouts are barbell exercises. 

Barbells can be used for so much more than bench presses, deadlifts, and squats. They can be found in a variety of places from garages to high-end fitness centers. Plus, barbells can be easily adjusted to meet your fitness needs or to challenge yourself by switching out bumper plates. 

You may be new to working with barbells and plates, or you may have years of experience doing your favorite barbell exercises. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we’re sure you’ll find these bicep, tricep, and shoulder exercises a fun fitness challenge. 

The Importance of a Strong Upper Body

The importance of any exercise or physical activity is to promote strength, control, mobility and range of motion within the body. When we take a deeper look at the functions of the upper body, these muscles are highly linked to our daily lives and activity. Upper body muscles allow us to perform activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting.

From your hands up your arms to your neck and shoulders, down and round to your chest and back, and even further down to your torso and core – all of these body parts are made up of a system of muscles, joints, connective tissues and bones. When we talk about building a strong upper body, we refer to the muscles in all of these body parts. Muscles are designed to support and mobilize the body for long-term health.

When we have weaker, untoned, under-utilized muscles they can atrophy or degenerate. This can reduce the body’s support, causing more weight and responsibility to fall on cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and even bones in seriously degenerative cases. While this is often the case as we get into old age, we can prolong or prevent these events from happening by maintaining our muscular strength.

Even smaller, finer movements such as writing or eating require upper-body mobility and control. Therefore, it’s essential that we improve our upper body strength to support our ability to participate in regular, everyday activities for today, tomorrow and decades into the future. Weight training is one of the most efficient ways to be able to build strong muscle and promote mobility. Performing some of the following weight training exercises can help to keep your body mobile, flexible, and functioning the way it was meant to. 

Barbell Exercises for Biceps

When performing any bicep exercise, it’s important to remember safety and form. When performing the following bicep workouts, remember to maintain a straight back and neck, and avoid moving anything other than your arms. It’s also crucial to focus on getting your biceps to do most of the work. To warm-up, start with a lighter weight, then as you continue through your sets, you can increase the weight. 


​Barbell Curl Tips:

How To:

  1. Standing with your feet about shoulder-width distance, grab the barbell about shoulder-width apart with an underhand/outfacing grip.
  2. Arms should be extended down with a slight bend in your elbows – this is the starting position.
  3. Engaging your biceps, keeping your elbows tucked to your sides, pull or curl the barbell up toward your chest. Avoid using your chest to move the weight up. 
  4. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds then in a controlled motion lower the barbell back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 – 12 reps for 3 sets. 


How To:

  1. Lying face up on a bench, grab the barbell with an out-facing grip. Hands should be about shoulder-width distance apart. 
  2. Unrack the bar keeping your arms engaged and hold it so your hands are directly above your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell down to your mid-chest while keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso. 
  4. Push the barbell back up by engaging your arms. 
  5. Repeat 10-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

 Pro-Tip: The burn in this exercise comes from the control of bringing the bar up and down. Make sure it’s taking twice as long to lower the bar to you as it takes to push it back up.

Barbell Exercises for Triceps

Tricep exercises can often be a challenge for those who have rarely utilized this posterior muscle. Similar to the bicep exercises, it’s important to focus on the tricep muscle and engage it through these workouts. It’s not uncommon for you to feel some muscle burn in other areas, such as your forearms – this is perfectly normal. These muscles are assisting with your movement. This is one of the great benefits of exercises, you’re often working out a whole system of muscles even when you mean to target a specific area. Try these barbell exercises for triceps and you’ll see what we mean. 


How To:

  1. Lying face up on a bench or a mat, grab the barbell with a close grip (about shoulder-width apart). Your hands should face outward.
  2. Hold the bar so your hands are directly above your shoulders, with a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Maintaining the position of your upper arms, lower the barbel toward the top of your head by bending your elbows.
  4. Pause for a few seconds, then engage the triceps as you bring the bar back up to the starting position. Avoid hyperextending your elbows.
  5. Repeat 8-10 reps for 3 sets.


AKA Reverse Grip Bent Over Row or Yates Row

How To:

  1. Begin in a standing position with feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Grab the barbell with an underhand/ supinated grip. 
  3. Bending your knees slightly, and pushing your heels into the ground, bend at the waist to bring your body forward while maintaining a straight back. 
  4. Keeping your head in line with your spine, only moving your arms, bend your elbows and pull the bar toward your chest. Elbows should go back but not flare out to the sides.
  5. Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds
  6. In a controlled motion, return to the starting position. 
  7. Repeat 10 – 12 reps for  3 sets.

Barbell Exercises for Shoulders

Nearly every upper body movement incorporates your shoulders. The shoulders have the most range of motion of any body part. This is because the shoulders are essentially large joints with a lot of delicate connective tissues. Because of all this, the shoulders can be prone to soreness and injury whether you work out or not. When performed correctly, exercise can help strengthen the muscles in the shoulders, reduce the tension on the tendons and ligaments, and provide support to a vast array of upper body movements. Strengthen your shoulders with these barbell exercises. 

High Pull

How To:

  1. In a standing position, grab the barbell at a wide-grip (about double shoulder-width distance. Hands should have an inward-facing grip. 
  2. Hold the barbell close to your body in front of your thighs. 
  3. Bend slightly from your hips and bend your knees to position the bar just above your knees.
  4. In an explosive motion, extend your hips toward and pull the bar up to shoulder level, allowing your elbows to flare out to the sides in a rowing motion.
  5. Control the bar down to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 8 -10 reps for 3 sets. 
  7. In a controlled motion return arms and then hips and knees to the starting point.
  8. Repeat for 10 – 12 reps for 3 sets.

Snatch-Grip Shrug Pull

How To:

  1. Begin in a standing position holding the bar about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hinge forward by bending in the hips and knees to grab the barbell with a wide grip,  more than shoulder-width distance. Grip the bar with an overhand grip. 
  3. Push your heels into the ground and use your legs and core to stand up straight, maintaining a neutral spine.
  4. Shrug your shoulders by contracting your traps. When your shoulders are elevated, squeeze and hold at the top for 1- 2 seconds. 
  5. In a controlled motion relax your shoulders, allowing the bar to lower. Maintain engagement in your core and arms. 
  6. Repeat the trap contraction and hold 10 -12 times for 3 reps.

Get Archon For Professional and Reliable Barbells and Other Fitness Equipment

If you want high-quality, commercial-grade gym equipment at a reasonable cost, then you need Archon Fitness equipment. Archon provides expertly designed, durable, and stylish equipment for home and commercial use. 

Founder of Archon Fitness, Don Sprouse, saw a crucial need in America to have access to high-quality, functioning, and cost-effective workout equipment. He says, “I started Archon Fitness out of my desire to make America healthier. At Archon, we have a desire and a passion to help others. Not only do we support our clients by providing the equipment they need, but we also support their journey of using the products through our Youtube channel, our social media platforms, our blog, and more! We want to show our buyers what their bodies can do.”

Whether you use Archon fitness equipment for your personal use in your home-gym or if you have your commercial gym and want to equip your members with premium fitness tools, you’ll find that we stand the test of time and operation. We have a large variety of equipment to help create the best fitness experience for your needs including cages, pulley stations, bars, bells, benches, plates and much more. Shop our entire collection or contact us if you have specific fitness equipment needs. 

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