Total-body barbell training 6

Each month top strength and conditioning coach Chet Morjaria gives you a total-body barbell challenge
(Image credit: Unknown)

This month’s workout is focused on glute activation and core stability. Activating the glutes, which are among the largest muscle groups, gives you a growth hormone boost and a platform for all-over muscle gains, while core stability is vital for the transmission of force throughout your body, which applies to pretty much every sport. The two barbell movements in it, the overhead squat and barbell rollout, require proper activation of your glutes and trunk to be performed correctly and effectively.

The overhead squat is a true total-body barbell exercise. To perform this taxing movement, you need a solid base of strength, good all-round mobility and a strong midsection. It also packs a powerful punch to the shoulders.

In this workout you will aim to complete 50 overhead squats in as few sets as possible (30 for beginners). To measure your proficiency, record the total number of sets it takes you to perform 50 reps. You should also record the time that it took you, but the number of sets is the primary measure. Focus your efforts on keeping the bar over your head for as many consecutive reps as possible each time.

Perform the overhead squats with a short pause at the bottom of every rep to increase the demands on your core. This will require you to ‘fire out’ the bottom of the squat by tensing your core and glute muscles (your ‘gut and butt’).

To finish off, use the barbell to perform three sets of barbell rollouts. This is a very tough move that will use any strength remaining in your trunk after the overhead squats to keep the barbell under control. A hard contraction of the glutes will ensure you maintain proper back position and make sure you do not overextend your lower back. You can expect this move to have an effect on your upper abs in particular.


Five minutes of low-intensity rowing, cycling or skipping.

Glute bridge - Sets 2 Reps 10
Lie on your back on the floor, with your arms to the side and your knees bent at an angle of around 90˚.
Raise your hips until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line by squeezing your glutes and bracing your abs to avoid hyperextension of the back.
Squeeze and hold for two seconds, then bring your hips back down and repeat.

Shoulder pass-throughs - Sets See below Reps 5
Grasp a broomstick or plastic pipe with a wide grip and pass it over your head, maintaining straight arms.
From this position behind your body, bring the stick over your head and back around to the front. Repeat.
For each subsequent set, bring your grip in a few centimetres until you cannot perform this drill with straight arms. Then bring your grip out slightly and perform one further set.

10 overhead squats with a broomstick or plastic pipe - Sets 2 Reps 10
Take a wide grip on the broomstick or pipe and, with your feet shoulder-width apart, pull your hips back and down, keeping your weight on your heels until the crease of your hips is below your knees.
Maintaining drive through the heels, squeeze the glutes, brace the core and rise out of the squat.

The workout

Overhead squat - Reps 30 with 30% of your bodyweight
Kneeling barbell rollout - Sets 3 Reps 5 Rest 60sec between sets

Overhead squat - Reps 50 with 40% of your bodyweight
Kneeling barbell rollout - Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec between sets
Overhead squat - Reps 50 with 50% of your bodyweight
Standing barbell rollout - Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec between sets

Overhead squat form

  • Set the bar on your upper back, either from a rack or by cleaning the bar up to your shoulders, then pressing it overhead and down to your back.
  • Adopt a wide grip on the bar (the same width as your last set of shoulder pass-throughs).
  • Fill your belly with air and press the bar up, locking out your arms, so that the bar is in line with your heels and ears. Keep your chest up and your weight on your heels.
  • Squeeze your glutes, tense your core and pull your hips back and down, keeping the bar locked out overhead at all times with an arch in your back.
  • Stop when the crease of your hips is well below your knees and hold the position for one second.
  • Squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and drive up out of the squat.
Chet Morjaria

In 2013, Chet wrote a series of articles for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, then shared a website with, Coach.