Need Help with Barbell-Only Plan

Hello everyone, I will start by telling everyone a little about myself. I am 23, 5’9", and currently at about 175lb-180lb. Im not a complete newbie to the gym; however, I am new to a strict training guide.
I’m here because I have about 6 months to increase my size/strength due to a job. I understand that I am not going to become jacked or get my numbers up ridiculously; however, I do want to improve. When it comes to equipment, at my house I have a barbell and a squat rack with plenty of weight, but I do not have any dumbbells. There is a Planet Fitness near me that I can go to but I do not know if it is good to workout at the house, then drive there to finish.
Anyway, my question for you guys is this: What should I do for a plan? I would love to be able to pay a strength trainer for a detailed plan but that would be a little expensive for my budget.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, honestly.

You don’t need dumbells. I don’t have them, and workout in my garage.

5/3/1 or 10x3 are great programs that don’t require dumbells. Search this site, plenty of info on both.

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With a bar, rack and plates there isn’t really a limit to how strong you can get - certainly a lot stronger than you imagine.

I’ll second 5/3/1, especially if you do the Boring But Big template. If you don’t have a bench do floor press instead. For assistance my picks would be pull-ups/chin-ups or fatman pull-ups after press, front squats after DL, barbell rows after bench and lunges after squats.

All of that requires nothing but a bar, rack and plates.

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What’s the job?

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@dchris @MarkKO
Ill definitely look into those for sure. It is relieving to know that I do not have to have dumbbells. Also, I will be working on my cardio some. Not a lot, but some. Do you think that will hinder muscle growth?

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You should be fine.

When I was doing BBB I jumped rope between assistance on press and bench days. That’s one way of doing it.

Sprints of some kind are also great once or twice a week, or sprints once and a nice, fast paced walk for a half hour or so a couple of times.

First off…unless Planet Fitness has changed lately, you might want to look into somewhere else. Also…what job are you talking about ?

Yea, I hate planet fitness as well. It’s the only one that’s within a decent driving distance though. And the job is a law enforcement job in a rough area.

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Sorta figured that was the field you was bring up in your original post.

Yea. A bit of size and strength would never hurt. One more question, and this may be because I am a total newbie to all of this; on the boring but big workout you guys have recommended, I see that there isn’t any real arm isolation workouts. Is that because this workout will hit them (and everything else for that matter) hard enough? Thanks again.

A barbell,a rack and plenty of weight is just about all you need.Also,no,isolation work is not that important

Look at this guy,who pulls and squats 700,overhead presses 300+ and benches 500 and weights a lean 230 or so.He does most of his work with a barbell and little isolation stuff

I think your best bet is training either full body or upper lower,2-4 times per week,using compound movements like squats,rows,overhead presses,pullups
531 boring but big will probably get the job done

Keeping a training log will also help,since we can help you with specific parts of your workouts.It will also help you stay consistant

To be fair, Alpha is also a strongman competitor. The barbell is not the only thing he uses.

Plus… Alpha has been training for decades. For all we know the guy did a shit-ton of direct arm work a long time ago.

I think that, if you wanted to add size to your arms within six months or so, you should do some direct arm work too.

I think 5/3/1 for hard-gainers (5/3/1 for Hardgainers - T Nation Content - COMMUNITY - T NATION) is also a good option to look at. It’s more structured and seems to follow Wendler’s evolution on how he thinks the general populace should train.

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My point was that if an advanced athlete can make gains using mainly a bar,so can a beginner

Also,I’l not against a bit direct arm work,but the bulk of someone’s work shouldn’t come from there

As for the 531 variation you mentioned,I have to disagree
20 rep squats is a horrible idea for someone without experience imo

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I would also suggest hardgainers after a year of training of so. Amraps are not the best way to start. 5/3/1 has terrific beginner templates even in this forum.

OP, you can always curl with a bar. I also think arm work is not super important, but it does not hurt either (just dont make it as a focus, couple optional sets of curls/extensions after pressing is plenty).


THANK YOU! lol. I was wondering if anyone was going to mention this.

I’m of the opinion that direct arm work absolutely has value, and should be incorporated. It just doesn’t have to be half a dozen different exercises. As long as you have at least ONE thing you can do, you’re fine. Barbell curls, as part of a program that also incorporates rows and pull ups, are sufficient for bicep development for most people.

Also, it’s nice to have a beginner in here who is receptive to advice. That’s not always the case.

I’ll finish by saying I’m a big fan of 5/3/1, given your limited equipment.

@stronkfak why in the world would you recommend AGAINST 20 rep squats??? PARTICULARLY for a beginner??? 20 rep squats are an amazing tool for beginners, because it allows the trainee to perform a ton of volume, increase conditioning, and groove the movement patter without working with excessive, overly demanding loads. This is a MUCH better idea to learn squats than strictly working in low rep ranges. The best thing I did early on in my squat training was a lot of sets of 10.


I feel like unless you have experience with pushing through hard reps while maintaining your form 20 rep squats are a bad idea cause there’s probably gonna be form breakdown

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Alright guys, I think the majority of you agree that 5/3/1 is the way to go for sure. And I’ll definitely take your advice and incorporate a singular arm workout here or there. As for the squat issue, I know that form is definitely crucial to prevent injury so I’ll keep that in check regardless of the reps. The consensus is definitely 5/3/1, Boring But Big.

Of course,take anyone’s advice for what is worth.flipcollar is twice my size and way stronger than me,with way more experience,so his opinion probably carries more weight

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you’re probably both right, really. Just depends how good someone is at squatting to begin with. If you’re uber-terrible then no, 20 reps is probably a bad idea, but if you are reasonable at it (wouldn’t even really need to be good - just reasonable) then you could do it fine.

I definitely think my squat technique improved when I did GVT.


My thought process here is similar to Yogi1’s.

But, to be frank, if you squat form is horrible then you should spend time fixing that before you decide to use the barbell back squat as an important part of your training regimen.

I very much doubt that you should be doing 5/3/1 BBB if your squat form sucks too!. 5x10 with 60% of your training max can be very difficult if you’re not used to volume.