Most commercial gyms come stocked with your standard accoutrement: dumbbells, barbells, cable systems, and machines. But if you’re lucky enough, your gym might have a few strange looking barbells laying around. These three bars have been used by powerlifters, strongmen, and even football players for years. And these barbells can shock your muscles in ways they’ve never imagined. Thus sending your strength and muscle gains to entirely new levels.
#1 Cambered Bar
The more you can damage your muscles, either by increasing the stretch placed on them, or the amount of time the muscle is under tension, the more potential you have to make gains.
When it comes to bench pressing, one of the areas that many lifters are weakest, especially with heavy weight, is at the bottom of the movement. How many times have you had a weight loaded on the bar that you were confident you could lift, and then as you lowered the weight, realized there was no way you were getting this back up.
If this were the case with deadlifts, you could perform deficit deadlifts to increase your strength from the floor. And if you were getting stuck at the bottom of squats, you could perform paused squats or Anderson squats to get stronger out of the hole. So how do you to get stronger in regards to the bottom position of the bench press?
Well, if you’re lucky enough to have a cambered bar at your gym, then you have your solution. Bench pressing with a cambered bar allows you to drastically increase your typical range of motion. And this increase in range of motion allows you to target more of your pecs than the standard flat barbell bench press. Because it allows your hands to dip an extra inch or two below your chest, you’re putting more tension on parts of the pecs that rarely get used. And this will force that part of your chest to adapt and grow, which will translate to strength gains on the normal bench press.
There is one caveat, though. DO NOT use heavy weight with the cambered bar. It does place a bit more strain on your shoulders and pecs, so it’s great for assistance work and recruiting more muscle fibers, but it’s not designed for heavy feats of strength.
#2 Fat Barbell
You’ll likely need to be a member of a powerlifting gym to find this bar. Most commercial gyms or even the most decked out college gyms, won’t have these. But when it comes to challenging your muscles, fat bars will make even the mightiest feel weak.
Fat bars have a diameter that can be 2-3x that of a normal barbell. And if you can get your hands on them (and around them) they’ve been shown to help elite lifters add 10-12% to their max in as little as a few weeks. Because of their designed thickness, fat bars significantly increase the amount of motor units your body recruits. Especially, in your fast twitch muscle fibers. What does that mean for you?
Well, the more motor units you have working, the more muscles you can stimulate. And the more muscle you stimulate, the more potential for muscle growth you create. Plus, fat bars are an amazing tool for increasing grip strength.
And if you’re doing bicep curls, rows, or deadlifting with them, you’ll torch your forearms, biceps, back, and hands like never before.
#3 Swiss Bar/Football Bar
Designed to help you increase your bench press without killing your shoulders, the Swiss Bar also known as the Football Bar, is an odd looking, but fun barbell for increasing upper body strength. So why is it safer?
Well, the Swiss Bar places your hands in a neutral position; while keeping your elbows tight to your body, which is a safer position for bench pressing. One of the most common reasons people get injured bench pressing is because they allow their elbows to “flare out” to the side. This places tremendous pressure on your shoulder joint and the surrounding musculature.
The Swiss Bar allows you to keep the tension on your pecs and triceps and not your deltoids. So if you’ve injured yourself while bench pressing, having a tool where you can use a more neutral grip will keep your shoulders healthier.
But, that’s not all you can use the Swiss Bar for. It’s one of the best tools for training the overhead press, tricep extensions, curls, single leg deadlifts, and even bent over rows. It’s a versatile tool that if you’re lucky enough to have access to, it can add some spice to your training.
Here’s a challenge that will light your shoulders on fire.
Grab the Swiss Bar and perform a full range front raise. Start with the bar at your hips, and then slowly raise it until it’s completely overhead. Your shoulders and traps will beg for mercy. But you’ll shock those muscles into new levels of growth.
Take Home Message
Not everyone will be able to use these barbells. Some of them are extremely pricey and your local gym may not see a need for them. But if you do have a chance to use them, or if you have your own home gym and are looking for new equipment, give these barbells a try and see what kind of gains you can make from these weird and unique training tools.