T Nation

Beginner Needs Barbell Program


I'm a 36-year old guy trying for more strength and better body composition. Age is catching up with me and I'm not willing to throw in the towel. I'm about 5'9", 145 lbs, with a small amount of fat on my midsection.

I enjoy running, currently 3-4 miles, 4-5 times a week, but when spring comes back around, I will probably be running longer distances, so it's a priority to remain as lean as possible. I also wear suits for work and can't afford to buy all new clothes, so I'm not trying to gain a significant amount of weight at once if it means adding fat. I'd rather add muscle slowly with minimal fat gains than add a lot of "mixed weight."

The equipment I have access to: an Olympic barbell set, a pullup bar, and a stationary bike for when it gets ridiculously cold out. I can't afford anything else now, other than food, and the local gyms have terrible hours that don't match up with my work or other obligations.

So, my goal is to slowly build a foundation of lean body mass without getting fat. I'm willing to do free weights, calisthenics, cardio, whatever, but I'm not sure where to start with the equipment I've got.

Thanks in advance for any help!


Full body no frills lift HEAVY for the most part in the 1-5 rep range. Aim to add strength get neurally efficient and make the muscle you have DENSE with minimal hypertrophy. Think weight classed oly lifters small but strong as hell.

With all the cardio id keep the weight sessions brief but brutal. have 2 -3 days all compounds. One Push one pull, one legs, call it a day. in the 5-10 set 1-5 rep range. Something like squat, bench, Rows, thats it. Another day DL, Chins, OH Press.

Or you could go One lift a day pick those 6 or a variation of them like front squat in stead of squat but any way set aside 20-30 minutes and just do ONE exercise for that time, then next day do another, etc etc rotate again legs, push and pull




Unfortunately I don't have a bench or a rack, money to buy them, or a place to put them. Things are really tight right now :frowning: I can afford good food but unless something gives somewhere, I can't afford extra equipment or a gym membership for a while.

How would I go about following your recommendations with just a barbell and a pullup bar?


In that case, your best options for pushing exercises are military press, push press and weighted push-ups or push-ups with feet elevated.

If you could find someone to hand you the barbell, you could also do floor presses.

For squats, clean the bar and do front squats. Snatch and overhead squat if you have the flexibility.


Everything Phil mentioned can be done with the equipment you have. You just have to adjust a little.

Do your main exercises standing.

Cleans will help you get the weight to your shoulders, from there, front squats, OH presses. The only real problem is you can't put a bar on the back of your sholders that you can't get overhead and you cant front squat more than you can clean.

That's where deadlifts fill the gap. Conventional DLs, Romanian DLs, work the hams, move the bar behind you and do hack squats to hit you quads. There are endless variation of exercises you can do. Do your horizontal pressing motion lying on the floor.

This may not be optimal but it's certainly feasable.



Thank you! My flexibility is one of my few strong points right now, so I think I can front squat and overhead squat even if it's with really light weight.


make you're own bench, it's really IMO the only piece of equipement necesary other then the barbell///weights. or try to find one at a garage sale. You can do leg work without a squat rack but it's hard to get a good chest/try workout without a bench.


I've been lifting with no bench and no squat rack for about 10 months and have made consistent progress. Make deadlifts and hack squats your best friends and go heavy!