Gainz with just a barbell and a bench

Marilia Coutinho and Antonio F Bruno

Last week Marilia told a bodybuilder friend about the Powerhouse (her home gym).

  • But don’t you have at least a pulley?
  • No… no pulley
  • Dumbbells?…
  • No, no dumbbells. They are on my list for soon, but I don’t know when soon will be.

So he came to visit and was taken for a tour there. It only sank in on him that what she had was enough for any workout when he actually saw it. A smile shone on his face. He understood he was home, since anywhere you can offer your body the stimulus it needs to keep and gain strength is home.

There is one power cage, one male Olympic bar, one female Olympic bar, a bench and about 1100lbs of calibrated plates.

As we explain in the article about how to simplify and then complicate your training, we base training on three basic movement types: squatting, pushing and pulling.

Among the exercises related to squatting we have:

  • The back squat
  • The front squat
  • The snatch squat
  • The lunge
  • The step (over the bench, in my case)
  • The good-morning

And of course, any of these can be sophisticated into different stances:

  • Sumo stance squat
  • Olympic squat
  • High bar squat

Or broken into different ranges of motion with the use of the power cage pins like:

  • The dead squats proper (with pins set at full depth)
  • Zombie squats (our pet names for half-dead squats, which are dead squats in ranges different from the full depth)
  • Lockouts (with or without static holds)
  • Walk-backs from the pins at the support height

And, of course, the infinite variety of squat variations:

  • Box squat
  • Paused squat
  • Speed squat
  • etc

Among the exercises related to pushing we have:

  • Bench-press-the-king (whatever you say, the bench press is king)
  • Overhead presses (military press, either Olympic, from the front, or from the back)
  • Barbell triceps extensions

All of these have variations:

  • Wide and close grip bench press
  • Bench press and overhead presses from different ranges of motion using the cage pins
  • Different ranges of motion with your own body (stop the lift before touching the chest)

The pull is no different and you have the basic movements and its varieties. The basic movements are:

  • The deadlift
  • The snatch pull
  • The high pull/row
  • The rows
  • The biceps curls

And all their variations:

  • Sumo or traditional deadlift
  • The Stiff or Romanian deadlift
  • The snatch grip deadlift
  • etc

You get the idea: you can produce all the stimulus you need, plus those you think you need, with only a barbell, plates, a bench press and a power cage.

With our approach to training as movement and not body parts, and much less muscles, it is not hard to create infinite varieties of routines with nothing more than this basic equipment. Which is what Marilia had and this is how she trained since 2011. Since then, she broke several world records, one all time record, kept herself on the first place of the international inter-federation world ranking for the bench press – well, we guess you could say she had fun and success.

Oh, she has two kettlebells: one 12kg and one 16kg KB.

Would it be interesting to have a crossover? Definitely. We like crossovers. A reverse hyperextension machinte? That, too. A hamstring glute raise machine? Certainly. But do you think hamstring glute raises can’t be done without that equipment? Oh, c’mon, what about creativity? A heavy deadlift bar holds the feet in place. A rubber band attached to the power cage helps with balance. Voilá: a hamstring glute raise workout.

Bottom line is: training is not complicated at the equipment end of the story. However, the more simple the equipment, the more relevant the technique.

But that is another story, for another article.

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