Assistant Exercises with Barbell Only?

Hey Jim. I have read your 5/3/1 book and am a huge fan an follower of your program. I have not yet purchased your new Beyond book but i will. My question is; I just bought 400lbs in plates, bench press, squat/press stands. The reason i bought this stuff is so i don’t have to drive 30+ miles to the gym. I am currently 6’0 220ish and my main goal is to get stronger and gain more muscle size!!

So all i have is barbell equipment. I don’t have any dumbbells yet and will not be able to get the $ for a set anytime soon. What would you recommend for assistant work since all i have is barbell equipment? I can do dips on some sawhorses and i have a chain hanging in my shop i can do pull ups on but that is about it. Thanks

You can do more DLs, benches, squats and overhead presses. Barbell row, stiff leg deadlift, snatch grip deadlift, deficit deadlift, block deadlift, front squat, pause squat, high bar squat, pause bench, close grip bench, floor press, push press, jerks. All olympic lift variations. T-bar row, meadows row, bent over row, etc.

Be creative. You could do a BBB template, or something like this, which is more of what I would do.

Bench 5/3/1
Press 5x10
Row 5x10
Chins - a lot throughout workout
Curls 3x10

Squat 5/3/1
Pause squat 3x3-5 @ 65-75%
Stiff Leg DL 3x10
Hanging Leg Raise 3x10

Press 5/3/1
Close Grip Bench 5x10
Row 5x10
Chins - a lot throughout workout
Curls 3x10

Deadlift 5/3/1
Deficit Deadlift 3x5 - 70%
Front Squat 3x10
Hanging Leg Raise 3x10

Hope that gave you some ideas at least.

EDIT: don’t forget that you can use the smaller plates as Dumbbells as well, for things like rear delt flyes and lateral raises etc.


A pair of Oly DB handels are inexpensive, then all you will need is more 10lb plates and you can make the DB’s as heavy as you like.

You hardly need anything other than squat stands, barbell, plates and a platform to get strong. The list provided above in the second post is pretty damn good. Clean, Press, Deadlift, Squat, Row - all shit you can do with that simple get up. Then you have Snatch, Pushpress, Good Mornings, variations of pulls, lunges, curls and you are set.

Some of the strongest people in the world train with this equipment, so why not YOU?

Outstanding thanks guys!

so last question… I had no clue what a deficit dead lift was so i did looked on you tube… what is the difference between a regular dead lift and the deficit because it looks pretty close to the same i thought.

scratch that last question. i found it. Thanks tho!