The Swiss Bar is one of the lesser-known bench press accessories that can help you build strength and improve your performance.
The Swiss bar is a great training aid as it encourages the correct form when used properly. This is because it aligns your muscles and joints in the natural positions and reduces the amount of stress placed on the wrists and shoulders while also increasing tricep activation.
These benefits make it a firm favorite amongst football players, powerlifters, and any athletes looking to build their strength.
In this article, we’ll be exploring everything to do with the Swiss Bar Bench press, including how to do this exercise, the benefits of doing it, and the muscles it activates and builds.
About the Swiss Bar
The Swiss Bar is also known as the “Multi-Grip Bar”, “Neutral Grip Bar”, or “Football Bar” - so you can rest assured each of these barbells are exactly the same.
When gripping a straight bar, hands are pronated and facing away from the body. The Swiss Bar is held differently, as your hands are placed in a neutral grip position with the palms facing each other.
This grip allows your shoulders to be more easily placed in a retracted and depressed position while lifting the barbell. This shoulder position allows you to safely carry out the pressing and pulling movement as the scapula is pulled ‘back’ and ‘down’ on the rib cage, which increases the stability of the shoulder joint.
As well as this, with your hands in a neutral position, the elbows will naturally tuck inwards when you lift, which draws them closer to the body, rather than causing them to flare outward, so your triceps are targeted more.
For these reasons, many lifters and athletes who are prone to shoulder injuries choose the Swiss Bar as it promotes better form and reduces the risk of injury.
The Swiss Bar also has several handle widths to choose from so you can alter your hand placement depending on your body size and structure, as well as what feels comfortable for you.
This variation in grip also allows you to change up your grip depending on the exercise you’re doing. You can use the Swiss Bar for several exercises, such as the bench press, overhead press, bent-over row, skull crusher, hammer curl, and pretty much any of the exercises you’d perform with a straight bar.
How to Do a Bench Press with a Swiss Bar
- If it’s your first time using the Swiss Bar, it’s best to use the 2nd narrowest handles. This will give you better control and will allow you to get a feel for the exercise before altering your grip to a more challenging width.
- Prepare to lift by setting your shoulders: pull them back and down before gripping the barbell.
- Bring the barbell towards your chest by holding your arms straight over your body. You’ll probably notice that your elbows are naturally tucking in closer to your body compared to doing a bench press with a straight bar, but don’t try and fight this, as this is what you want.
- Bring the bar to your chest so that it’s lying flat, and avoid rotating the bar back so that the edge touches your chest.
- When you press the bar away from you, punch your hands straight up, rather than using the “up and back” technique as with a regular bench press.
- Start off in a slow tempo to get into the swing of the movement. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can up the pace to that of a normal bench press.
Benefits of the Swiss Bar Bench Press
Safer on the Shoulders
With your elbows tucked in close to the body, your shoulders will experience less strain than if they’re sticking outwards, and this position is far easier to achieve in a neutral grip when using the Swiss Bar, rather than with a straight bar.
The way in which your hands are placed on the Swiss Bar encourages better form, so it’s great for those who struggle to lift with a straight bar. Therefore, it can be used as a modification to allow you to perfect your technique before moving onto the straight bar.
Just bear in mind that it’s not a complete substitute for poor form, and you should still aim to improve your technique to avoid potential injuries when lifting a straight bar.
It’s also ideal for any athlete prone to shoulder injury or recovering from injury.
Wrists are in a More Neutral Position
There are numerous technical errors often performed with the bench press, and one of these is these is that the wrist flares backward. This can cause wrist pain and injuries as it places a lot of stress on the wrist joint and means your weight is not evenly distributed over the forearm.
However, this poor technique is pretty impossible with a Swiss Bar bench press, as it’s much harder for the wrist to flare backward when your hands are placed in a neutral grip.
This makes the Swiss Bar a great option for anyone who usually experiences wrist pain with a straight bar, or who struggles with their hand placement in a bench press. Most of these people can use a Swiss Bar with no wrist pain at all due to the neutral hand positioning.
Builds Tricep Strength
The Swiss Bar bench press is also great for building tricep strength due to the neutral grip which encourages your elbows to tuck in more.
In a normal bench press, the triceps are activated to extend the elbow in the lockout position of the bench press. If you have a tricep deficiency, the Swiss Bar is a great way to increase your strength in this department. This means that you can use the Swiss Bar to build up your triceps so that when you go back to bench pressing with a straight barbell, you’ll be able to lift more weight.
It Changes Up Your Training Routine
Sometimes, we need to change things up in order to progress, as our bodies become used to doing the same old exercises. If this sounds like you, a Swiss Bar might enable you to keep your strength gains progressing.
It can help you pay vital attention to those triceps, which as we mentioned above, could help you get back to your weekly weight increase. It’s also good for your general exercise routine - as we all need to switch things up now and again to keep things interesting.
Fits Different Body Sizes
A great aspect of the Swiss Bar is that there are different widths for where you can place your hands, so you can alter your grip depending on your body size and preference.
For example, if you have longer arms, place your hands on the wider handles, whereas those with shorter arms can use the narrower ones instead.
It’s also good to know different grips can activate different muscles. So using the wider handles will use your pec muscles more, while narrower ones will rely more on the triceps.
Again, this allows you to work some variation into your bench press. While the aim is to build the triceps, you can also widen your grip for an extra challenge that will train your pec muscles, too.
The Swiss Bar is relatively inexpensive compared with other equipment on the market. It’s also versatile, which is another bonus.
Whereas other bars may only have one purpose, the Swiss Bar can facilitate a range of exercises, and will also make use of different muscles, meaning you get more bang for your buck.
While the Swiss Bar will help you improve your bench press technique and strength, it can also be used for a range of other movements, too, for example: a neutral grip bent-over barbell row, neutral grip skull crushers, barbell hammer curl, and chin-ups if you place the barbell on top of a squat rack.
We’ll cover these in more detail later on in this article.
Like any piece of exercise equipment, the Swiss Bar still has a few drawbacks you should be aware of.
Hard to Fit on J-hooks
The J-hooks are where you place the barbell on a bench press rack.
However, because of the thickness and shape of the Swiss barbell, it usually doesn’t fit your average J-hooks.
That said, there are some Swiss Bars that have been specially designed to ensure they fit normal J-hooks, such as the Rogue MG-24 Multi-Grip Bar.
Most Gyms Don’t Have Them
Annoyingly, even though there are many benefits to a Swiss Bar, you might find that your local gym doesn’t have one.
If you are lucky enough to have a home gym, or your own space you work out in, you can easily purchase your own however, and like we mentioned previously, they’re generally available at quite a low cost.
Don’t Know How Much They Weigh
Swiss Bars vary in weight depending on the manufacturer, but they’re usually between 39lbs to 60lbs. Your average barbell is about 45 lbs, and you can also get Swiss Bars to match this.
However, this can be quite annoying as you may not know how much you’re actually bench pressing, unless you’ve ordered the Swiss Bar yourself, or you’ve weighed it beforehand.
Swiss Bar vs Straight Bar Bench Press
If you’re still not quite sure about whether or not the Swiss Bar is for you, here are a few ways in which the Swiss Bar and Straight Bar compare.
You Will Probably Bench Press Less with a Swiss Bar
Bench pressing with a Swiss Bar won’t allow you to bench press more weight, as the swiss bar utilizes the triceps a lot more than the pec and shoulders.
While the triceps are still an important muscle to build up, they’re a smaller contributing group. That said, the positive aspect of this is that it enables you to lift a smaller weight but still train to a high standard and get great results.
Swiss Bar Trains Your Triceps More
The Swiss Bar uses your triceps more than a straight bar bench press does due to the neutral grip position which automatically causes your elbows to tuck inwards.
This makes it ideal for anyone hoping to build strength in their triceps, or for anyone who wants to hone their technique before moving to a straight bar. The triceps will also be activated more if you perform the bench press with the swiss bar on the floor.
Most Swiss Bars Don’t Have Knurling
Unlike the straight bar, swiss bars don’t have knurling in the place where you place your hands. This is because Swiss Bars aren’t used for deadlifting, which is why straight bars always have knurling to ensure the lifter has a secure grip on the barbell.
You can use the Swiss Bar for other pulling exercises, like bent-over rows, as these require less grip than exercises such as deadlifts.
A Swiss Bar is a Better Option for Those with Shoulder Pain
Many lifters experience shoulder pain if they’re lacking the right form when performing a bench press with a straight bar.
However, because of the hand positioning and placement of the elbows when using a Swiss Bar, many lifters are able to perform a bench press pain-free on the Swiss Bar as opposed to the straight bar, making it a good choice for those who are prone to shoulder injuries or who are getting over a recent injury.
Muscles Used in a Swiss Bar Bench Press
As we mentioned previously, the Swiss Bar Bench Press is great for working your tricep muscles, as it’s one of the best ways to load up your triceps. Not only this, but the neutral grip that the Swiss Bar offers reduces strain on your shoulders and elbows, too.
The neutral grip also allows you to do other exercises such as skull crushers that you’ll struggle to do with a straight bar or even an EZ-bar.
Keeping your palms facing each other while slowly lowering the heavily loaded bar toward your face will enable you to toss more weight on the bar without the added strain on your elbows.
If you widen your grip to the outer bars you can also activate your pecs, too. Plus you’ll be using secondary muscles such as your middle back and forearms.
Other Exercises You Can Do With The Swiss Bar
The Swiss Bar is super versatile and can also be used for a range of other exercises as well as the bench press. These include:
Neutral Grip Bentover Barbell Row
This is performed in the same way as your classic bent over row but uses a neutral grip to accommodate the Swiss Bar.
This will allow you to use more lats and rhomboids rather than the rear delt and traps.
Neutral Grip Skull Crushers
Due to the effect the Swiss Bar has on your elbows (ie. it makes them tuck in), some lifters prefer using the Swiss Bar for skull crushers rather than using dumbbells as it’s a lot easier on the elbows.
Neutral Grip Shoulder Press
When it comes to shoulder pressing with a Swiss Bar, you’ll achieve a significant training effect without needing a huge amount of weight.
Barbell Hammer Curl
The Swiss Bar is great for hammer curls as the inside handles are the ideal design for these. They are slightly angled, which makes it far easier on the wrists when curling.
Chin-ups (placed on top of a squat rack)
You can place your Swiss Bar on top of a squat rack to allow you to perform neutral grip chin-ups.
Using the Swiss Bar to perform a floor press is a great way of further loading your triceps. This partial range of motion will allow you to focus the movement entirely on the lock-out.
Where to Buy
If your gym doesn’t have a Swiss Bar, or you’re looking for one to add to your home gym, you can buy one online.
It’s worth noting that they’re less common than a regular barbell, so you may have to search a little more, or switch up the keywords as like we said at the beginning, the Swiss Bar is also known as “Multi-Grip Bar”, “Neutral Grip Bar”, or “Football Bar”.
This Synergee Multi Grip Barbell is made from steel and will handle all your presses, curls, and extensions with ease. It has 4 angled grips to accommodate neutral positions for various exercises, which also allows you to change the width of your grip while maintaining comfort.
This Power Systems Multi Grip Bar is slightly more expensive, but is equipped with ergonomic handles which help reduce stress when performing heavy lifts.
It’s made from heat-treated alloy with knurled hand-grips and has three ergonomic hand positions for overall shoulder and chest muscle development.
The Swiss Bar bench press is a great strength-building exercise that has a range of benefits. While the Swiss Bar isn’t always available at commercial gyms, it will make a great addition to your workout if you have a home gym.
The Swiss Bar is great for anyone who is looking to switch up their workout routine or who has reached a plateau with the straight bar. Bench pressing on a Swiss Bar can allow you to strengthen your triceps which could enable you to press more when you return to the straight barbell.
It’s also a lot easier on the shoulders and elbows, which is why it’s a preferred choice for those prone to wrist, elbow or shoulder pain, as the neutral grip required to press the Swiss Bar means less joint strain as your elbows automatically stay close to your body.
The Swiss Bar is also a great option for anyone who wants to improve their form before pressing on a regular barbell. So, whether you’re looking for a modification to accommodate poor form or injuries, or whether you’re just looking to vary your bench press routine, the Swiss Bar could be a great addition to your strength training.