7 Of The Best Barbell Alternatives

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A barbell can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to a barbell setup with similar benefits?

A barbell is a long bar that can hold weight plates. It is one of the most popular types of gym equipment, and for a good reason. Barbells can play a role in many exercises for a wide variety of muscles.

Especially in exercises for strong muscles likes your legs a barbell is one of the best free weight options. This is because it is hard to reach the weight needed to build a lot of muscle mass with other equipment. With these other equipment options, your grip muscles may fatigue faster than your legs.

Whether you don’t enjoy using a barbell, you want a cheaper alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these barbell alternatives can help you train similar areas of your health.

Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like while using any exercise equipment, there is always some risk of injury. Make sure you use these equipment options in a safe way and if needed, get guidance from an expert.

1. Sandbags

There are workout sandbags that can be used as a fitness equipment alternative to a barbell. Similar to a barbell, sandbags can be used to make a wide variety of exercises harder.

Sandbags are an especially good replacement over some of the other options on this list in that most sandbags can be put on your shoulders. This makes it so you can use a sandbag in something like a back squat.

Where sandbags can be even more helpful than a barbell is that they often can be used as a single-handed free weight too. This allows you to work out different sides separately which can help you avoid muscle imbalances. Workout sandbags also often require a lower investment.

A downside is that sandbags are just not as great as a barbell to reach really heavy weights. And while the best workout sandbags should last a long time, this is not quite at the same level as a barbell.

Check workout sandbag prices

2. Resistance bands

Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. They can be a good alternative to a barbell in that you can also use them for exercises like a back squat.

Depending on what your training goals are, resistance bands could be an even better option than a barbell for many body parts. This is because you can move against resistance at a wide variety of angles and with each side separately.

Some of the other benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable.

One downside is that resistance bands are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new heavy duty resistance bands.

Certain exercises will also benefit from anchoring your resistance bands somewhere. Sometimes you can attach them to objects that are already around the house. Even so, it is likely safer to get an inexpensive resistance band anchor to avoid any problems.

Check resistance bands prices

3. Dumbbells

A dumbbell is a type of fitness equipment that is basically a handle with a weight on each side. For most exercises dumbbells can be, at least to some weight, a replacement for a barbell. For example, you can use dumbbells for a deadlift.

In certain cases like the Zottman curl where you twist your wrists, dumbbells can be even more effective than a barbell. Working out the back part of your deltoids can also be challenging with a barbell.

Some other benefits of dumbbells include that they also last a very long time without much reduction in value. Even after using them many times, dumbbells will have a very similar sturdiness and strength. They are also generally cheaper than a barbell setup.

The main downside of dumbbells compared to a barbell is mostly for experienced lifters. Dumbbells only go up to a certain weight. In a dumbbell squat your grip muscles may also fatigue before your leg muscles.

Check dumbbell prices

4. Smith machine

The smith machine looks similar to a squat rack but there are a few differences which make the smith machine different from a regular barbell setup.

First of all, the smith machine bar is attached to a rail system. This makes it so it can only move up or down alongside these rails and not forward or backward. Secondly, it has a system where you can rack the bar at any height.

The squat rack in your local gym may be occupied often. In that case, you can do most exercises in a similar way with the smith machine.

In some cases where you would like to spend less focus on balancing, for example calf exercises, a smith machine may be even more useful than a barbell setup.

This can also be a downside of the smith machine in other cases where you actually want to train these balance muscles. A smith machine is also generally pricier than a barbell setup.

Check smith machine prices

5. Medicine ball

A medicine ball is a weighted ball that is made from relatively soft material and doesn’t bounce that well. This piece of fitness equipment can be used for explosive throwing exercises that engage your leg muscles.

Besides that, you can also use a medicine ball as regular resistance in weight training, in balance training, etc.

Another benefit is that medicine balls are less expensive than a barbell.

The main downside of medicine balls as a barbell replacement is that they are generally not that heavy. For individuals more experienced with resistance training, a medicine ball may not be enough to build a lot of muscle.

Check medicine ball prices

6. Cable machine

The cable machine is a type of gym machine where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. Thanks to the cable going through these pulleys and attached to these weights you can do many types of strength training exercises for a wide variety of muscles.

A benefit of this barbell alternative is that you can select very heavy weights. You can also put something like a double-rope handle on your shoulders which makes the cable machine a good option for leg exercises and a deadlift where you would normally use a heavy barbell.

Similar to resistance bands there are even more exercise options compared to a barbell because of all the different angles you can use. This includes muscles like your hamstrings and the back part of the deltoids that can be hard to isolate with a barbell.

The main downside if you plan to get one for your home gym is that it can be a relatively big investment that requires a relatively large amount of storage space.

Check cable machine prices

7. Plyo box

A plyo box, also known as a jump box or step box, is simply a box that is strong enough to deal with jump exercises. A typical exercise for this piece of equipment is a box jump. This leg exercise is generally more effective than a simple bodyweight squat for training leg muscles.

This piece of equipment is more of an alternative to a barbell in the sense that it offers a different training focus. The way you train influences what fitness component you mostly train. Jump exercises focus on training leg muscle power.

You can however also use a plyo box for a wide variety of other exercises. Most of these make use of your body weight so the downside is that experienced weight lifters may not see a lot of progress with a plyo box alone.

One small upside is that a plyo box is cheaper than a barbell setup.

Check plyo box prices

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.