Beefing up your barbell selection is one of the best things you can do for your gym and your workouts.  We already talked about the benefits of thick bar training, but you also need to vary grip orientations.  One of the biggest reasons smart coaches use way more dumbbell work than barbell work is the limited variation of the barbell.  The standard pronated grip holding a barbell is not a very functional movement for most sports and it’s not a very biomechanically safe position for the shoulder joint.  A way to solve these problems is to use different variations of the barbell.

The barbells I’m referring to have been called Swiss Bars, Football Bars, and Ultimate Bars. What all these bars have in common is that they offer a neutral or semi neutral style grip, and usually multiple widths.  The Football Bar is a good example, because it was designed to match the function of the sport. Linemen tend to push with the elbows in and hands is the neutral position, which is how the bar was designed.

While dumbbells have the benefit of balancing strength unilaterally, bilateral work tends to be more effective when training for strength.  Using a Swiss style bar will make this type of training safer on your shoulders and allow for more bilateral variations.

Ultimate bars use the same concept as the swiss bar, but they have interior grips that are angled at approximately 30 degrees. This allows for semi-pronated and semi-supinated grips. Two places that carry both versions of this barbell are EliteFTS in the US and Watson Gym Equipment in the UK.

A side bonus of these bars is that, in addition to pressing and rowing movements, you can also set the bar on top of a power rack and use the bar for chin up variations if you’re limited on equipment.  Many of these bars also weigh only 35 lbs. and can easily be used for training the elbow flexors and triceps as well. Like its name suggests, the Swiss bar is the Swiss army knife of barbells.