Substitutes For Barbells

Using different exercise equipment can help reduce adaptation and plateaus.
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Barbells are a common tool for bodybuilding workouts, but because of their size, cost and lack of portability compared with other equipment, you may not always have access to them. You can still create effective muscle-building workouts with a variety of other substitutes if you’re traveling or can’t get to the gym. Don’t wait until you don’t have access to your barbells to start trying to figure out how create a new workout with unfamiliar equipment. Try a few substitutes now so you’ll be ready to use them in the future.


An obvious substitute for barbells, found next to barbell sets in many gyms, are dumbbells. These versatile weights let you perform many of the same exercises you do with barbells, with the added benefit of letting you do single-arm or alternating-arm reps. Learn how to perform common barbell exercises such as chest presses, deadlifts, curls, heel raises and squats with dumbbells before you find yourself without barbells. This will let you choose the right weights to start working out quickly. Add flies, rows, kickbacks, lunges, iron crosses and arm raises for more muscle-building variety.

Resistance Bands

Depending on your level of strength, exercise bands might not give you the same amount of resistance as the weight you normally lift. They are still helpful for bodybuilding, letting you perform many familiar exercises. With resistance bands, plan on creating workouts that include more reps per set, because your loads will be lower if you normally lift more than 100 to 150 pounds.


Russians began using kettlebells centuries ago, and they are gaining popularity as people learn what a serious bodybuilding tool this simple weight is. If you are purchasing a substitute for a barbell for your home gym, experiment with exercises by using one kettlebell, then two at once, to determine if you’ll want to purchase multiple kettlebells of different weights, or two of the same weight.

Weight Machines

Whether you use a universal or single-exercise machine at a fitness center or a home gym, you’ll be able to create intense bodybuilding exercises with machines. Unlike a barbell routine, a workout on a machine doesn’t require a spotter.

Body Weight Exercises

If you don’t have access to equipment, body weight exercises can help you build and maintain muscle with slow reps that maximize your contractions. If you have a pullup bar and two chairs, add pullups, chinups and dips for more muscle-building options.

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