I’m a huge proponent of the basic barbell lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and bent-over row. The trouble is, the barbell lifts are highly technical. As such, unless you’re planning on competing in a powerlifting meet in the near future, there’s really no reason to insist on their use. In fact, there are plenty of exercises out there that work the same movements and muscles without the steep learning curve.
Below are my five favorite easy-to-learn, big-bang-for-the-buck moves.
1. Hex bar squat (in place of barbell squat)
Why: The barbell squat is, on average, probably the most poorly executed lift known to man. Due to the inherent shoulder mobility requirements, just assuming the bar-on-the-back position can be painfully challenging for many folks. Then there’s the issue of ego and depth, in which guys tend to load way too many plates on the bar and squat way too shallowly. The hex bar squat, on the other hand, allows for a more comfortable neutral grip (with the bar held at the sides of the body) and also standardizes depth. Best of all, with just a subtle change in execution, it can easily be made into a hip-dominant, deadift style lift (see #2 below).
Execution: Keeping the torso erect, squat to the bar, grab the handles, drive from the heels, and stand up.