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  • Nathan Waters

Barbells and Core Lifts

Just the other day I wrote about how you could improve your bench press by doing overhead work whilst you may not have access to your full gym. If you have a barbell, chin up bar, and some dumbbells then there is no reason why you can’t continue to make progress.


When you look at old time lifters and body builders, there programs were very basic but the still had great results. Most of us would love to be able to lift some of their numbers and physique wise they looked rock hard. The best part is, most were as strong as they looked and were still very athletic.


I am biased, as that is how I like to train but I think even if you have different goals, doing a couple of months’ worth of work like the old timers will serve you well.


Reg Park, Arnold's idol, Mr. Universe 1951, 1958, 1965, and the man who popularised the 5 x 5 method would do a lot of barbell work such as prone hyperextensions, squats, deadlifts, clean pulls, power cleans, lunges, calf raises, bench press, shoulder press, behind the neck press, bent over rows, lying triceps extensions, and barbell curls for example. So, as you can see you can do a lot of lifts with just a barbell and some plates.

He would suggest people start with a simple program as follows:


Prone hyperextension 3 set of 10 reps

Full squat 5 x 5

Bench press 5 x 5

Deadlift 5 x 5


The first two sets were considered warm up sets of each exercise and then the last 3 sets were your 5RM for that day. So, it worked out to be roughly 80%, 90%, 100%. Once you could complete all 5 reps for those last 3 sets you would increase the weight by about 2.5kg.


This would depend on your strength levels but that would be a decent guide. You then repeat the process before increasing the weight again.


The rest period was 3-5 minutes between the working sets (last 3 of each exercise).


Reg recommended you do this program 3 days per week for 3 months before moving on to a more advanced program.


That is when the volume really increased. For body builders he would do prone hyperextensions, front squat, regular squat, bench press, press off stands, high pull ups, deadlift, and heel raises with 2 mins rest between sets. Again this was done 3 times per week.


The point is, you don’t need a lot of equipment. Hard work is the most important thing.

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