Jordan Edwards is no stranger to coming up with workouts that are short on equipment but not short on results. Look at her Instagram page, and you'll see her creating impressive full-body workouts with no more than a single cardio step, or a cable stack, or even just a BOSU ball. But her preferred piece of equipment for a single-implement circuit is definitely the barbell—and it doesn't have to be a heavy one.
What's so special about the barbell? Jordan says it's her favorite tool for working her entire body, because there are over 100 different exercises you can do with it, and many flow so seamlessly into one another. Before you know it, your arms, legs, core, and booty are all seriously paying attention.
Looking to get simplified without becoming wimpified? Edwards has six tips to help you burn maximum calories with minimal equipment.
1. Train With Circuits
"Training circuit-style with a barbell, where you perform multiple exercises before setting the weight down, is my personal favorite, because it gets me the most tired," explains Edwards. "By doing different exercises back to back, working out your entire body, you get a better workout overall with less time commitment."
A personal favorite move of hers here is to perform a squat or lunge that flows into a shoulder press with the barbell. "Engaging my leg muscles, then going straight to my delts, saves times and burns calories quickly," she says. Squat with heavier weight or lunge with a lighter weight to maximize time under tension. As the reps add up, neither option will be easy!
2. Flow Between Reps of Exercises
You'll see many circuits that have you perform, say, 10 reps of one move, and then 10 reps of another. Edwards likes to take the opposite approach: 1-2 reps of each move, flowing seamlessly between them, for multiple rounds.
"Often, I'll do a Romanian deadlift, then move straight into a front squat. From there, I go right into a shoulder press," she says. She then repeats this trio for 10 reps, rests for a minute or two, and does another 3 sets of the same sequence.
3. Engage Your Core Whenever Possible
One benefit of Edwards' flow-focused style of barbell training is that in just about every move you do, you'll be calling your core into play heavily. "By doing different exercises in the same circuit, you are naturally engaging your core, which in turn gives you a better workout," says Edwards. "This is one reason why I love training full-body workouts with a barbell."
Compound exercises like presses, squats, deadlift variations, and lunges will hit your core plenty during a circuit, but once you're warmed up and in the heat of a circuit, don't be surprised if you feel even simple arm movements in your core, too.
4. Make Light Weight Feel Heavy
With barbells that come in a wide variety of weights, it's not hard to find one that will challenge you maximally at a certain movement. But at all of them? That can be more challenging, and it's where a little bit of expertise from a coach like Edwards can make all the difference.
Wondering how to work your legs with a weight you can also use for a triceps press? Simple: Just emphasize the most difficult portion of the heaviest movement. For example, in the circuit below, Edwards performs a triceps press, then keeps the weight locked overhead while performing jump lunges. All of a sudden, those lunges just got a whole lot heavier!
Even with a fairly light weight, the time under tension in a circuit like this one will help you gain muscle and strength while also pushing your muscular endurance to the limit. But don't take that as an excuse to go too light!
"Make sure your barbell is heavy enough to give you the most effective workout," advises Edwards. "You still have to push yourself. It should be a struggle by the end."
5. Superset Moves for the Same Muscle Groups
The best circuits aren't just sneaky-tough core workouts; they're also great at building your booty. But if you want to maximize the effect, it's as simple as getting down low—and staying down there.
"You can get the most effective booty workout by doing a strictly lower-body workout where you transition from a squat to a lunge in the bottom position," explains Edwards. "If you want to really kill your muscles, superset with the same muscle group. This way, they won't have any time to rest."
6. Keep Your Rest Periods Short
To be clear, a circuit isn't a complex—and the difference is subtle but important. In a complex, your hands never leave the bar until you've completed all the exercises. In a circuit, you can perform just one movement—or in this case, one series of movements—then set the weight down briefly to rest. Just make sure it's brief!
"You must have a little rest time in order to have an effective high-intensity workout," says Edwards. "With one piece of equipment, it's a little harder to achieve the right intensity, but by decreasing your rest time and really pushing yourself, you'll find it."
She recommends that you minimize your rest time to around 20 seconds between supersets—just enough to shake it off, pick the weight up, and begin again—or a minute after performing all of the pairings in the series.
Circuit: Perform 10 reps of each exercise combination before moving onto the next. Rest as little as necessary between pairings, or attempt to hold on to the bar for multiple exercise pairings—or a whole pass through the circuit! Once the circuit is finished, rest for 1 minute, then repeat three more times.
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- Barbell lunge to shoulder press to Romanian deadlift: 10 reps. One rep equals one lunge-to-press left, one lunge-to-press right, and one RDL.
- Barbell triceps extension to jump lunge: 10 reps. One rep equals one triceps extension followed by one jump lunge per leg.
- Barbell single-leg deadlift to high row: 10 reps. One rep equals one deadlift left, two high-row reps, one deadlift rep right, and two more high row reps.
- Barbell squat lunge to Romanian deadlift: 10 reps. One rep equals a squat, one lunge with each leg while staying in the bottom squat position, and one RDL.