Numerous fitness institutions espouse the virtues of minimalism, with CrossFit being one of the more famous examples. I also believe in the mantra of “less is more.” Below are three exercises you can do with only an Olympic bar and a weight plate. Choose the plate that best suits your ability (10 pounds and 25 pounds are good starting points). These exercises engage multiple muscle chains. All three are done with the plate and bar attached. You can create many more exercises with a bar and a single plate. Just use your imagination.
A great natural strength exercise that engages shoulder, core and legs. You need a bench or a bench-height box. Imagine you’re shoveling a pile of dirt from one side of the box to the other and back.
Position the bar with plate resting on the floor left of the bench near your left foot. Your right hand will be at the top of the bar, just below the empty sleeve (where the weight plates go), left hand approximately two feet farther down the bar, with the bar running across your body from right hip to left knee.
Bend your knees slightly and raise the plate over the bench, touching the plate to the floor on the right side of the bench.
Your feet will swap positions as you return your plate to the starting point.
Over and back equals one rep. After 10 reps, reverse the setup so the plate starts on the right side, the bar runs from left hip to right knee and your left hand is at the top of the bar. Do 10 reps.
Not your average squat with a shoulder press. This works the shoulders, upper back and obliques. Place the unweighted end of the bar where a wall meets the floor — or use a “landmine.”
Stand away from the wall the length of your extended arm plus about 6 inches. This allows for full range of motion.
The bar will position from the base of the wall to past your right shoulder. Your right hand will be under the bar sleeve that’s holding the weight plate.
Turn your body 45 degrees toward the bar; the bar now lies at an angle across your chest.
In a single, smooth movement, pivot on your right foot toward the wall; use your obliques to turn your trunk from right to left; thrust your right arm forward and upward at a 45-degree angle; and drive the weight plate on the same line (forward and upward).
Reverse the movement back to the start. Do 10 reps, then set up with the left arm.
I named it this only because the line of movement is an upside-down V. I’m sure other trainers call it something different. Focus is on the core, shoulders and lats.
The unweighted end of the bar is wedged into a corner, or you can use a “landmine.”
Start out facing the bar, arms fully extended (slight bend at elbows) at 45 degrees up, hands holding the sleeve just above the weight plate.
Keeping your arms extended throughout, engage your obliques and rotate your trunk, twisting to the right while you bring the bar and plate down to your right hip. Your shoulders will be at 90 degrees to your hips.
As you come to your right hip, immediately reverse the direction and drive the bar and plate to the starting position. Pause slightly, then repeat the process to the left hip and immediately reverse direction toward the top. One repetition is start; to right hip; back to start; to left hip; back to start. Since it’s a four-count, you may want to lower your number of reps from 10 and then work up.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Thomas has been our Military Muscle columnist since 2007. He’s the director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. He’s his base’s lead trainer, a wounded warrior program facilitator and the Navy nutrition counselor there. His special emphasis is on fitness for the military retired population. Find his Military Muscle columns here.