Cambered Swiss bar. Football bar. Multi-grip bar. Neutral grip bar. Call it what you want.
These are all variations of the same unique-looking barbell. This specialty bar was originally designed to allow athletes to continue bench pressing heavy with a reduced risk of shoulder injury. And while the neutral-grip hand variations (palms facing each other rather than away from the body) of this barbell are gentler on the shoulders when you bench press, there’s a ton more a Cambered Swiss Bar is great for. In fact, it's arguably one of the most underrated barbells out there.
Here’s a closer look at the Cambered Swiss Bar and why you should incorporate it into your workouts -- and also how.
Bet you haven’t tried all these exercises before. (Yeah, that’s a challenge!)
First Things First: What the Heck is a Cambered Swiss Bar?
The Cambered Swiss Bar has a loadable sleeve on each side (like a regular barbell), but with a ladder-like design in the middle. Often, some of those “rungs” are angled to create various grip options.
REP’s Cambered Swiss Bar is designed for greater range of motion. The camber offsets the weight from being in line with the bar, creating a pendulum effect, so you must engage more muscles to stabilize the bar, creating a different stimulus than a traditional barbell. The outermost handle creates a deficit. The deficit allows you to pull the bar down in a larger range of motion. On the REP bar, those outer handles are at a deficit and slight camber, so you get both.
* Camber = Curve or bend in the bar that offsets the weight, creating an unstable, pendulum effect.
* Deficit: Larger range of motion.
Why People Love the Cambered Swiss Bar
The design of the Cambered Swiss Bar reduces the stress on your shoulders and wrists. At the same time, it demands more of your triceps. This makes it optimal for people with shoulder issues or a limited range of motion. It also is great for bodybuilders who want to pinpoint more specific muscles.
Ego check: Since the Cambered Swiss Bar demands more triceps (smaller muscles) than pecs and shoulders, you probably won’t be able to lift as much as you normally can on a straight bar.
Here are some more reasons people love the Cambered Swiss Bar:
- It keeps your wrists neutral, so they can’t "break" backward (a common technical problem with benching with a straight bar).
- It can improve your lockout by building your triceps strength, a critical component of that top range of motion on the bench press.
- It’s versatile for different sized lifters, thanks to the different handle widths.
- It’s less expensive than many other pieces of specialty equipment, especially considering its versatility.
How to Use the Cambered Swiss Bar
The Cambered Swiss Bar is known as a bench press accessory/alternative. Choose between the different handle widths and angles to change the emphasis. Add chains or bands to change it up. But bench pressing is just the beginning. You can also use a Cambered Swiss Bar for:
Lat pulldowns (if your bar has an eyebolt to connect to a cable – REP’s does!)
Low rows/bent-over rows
- Ab rollouts
- Incline presses
- Floor presses
- Front squats
- Zercher squats
- Triceps extensions
- Front raises
- Clean and presses (narrow grip)
- Chin-ups (place the bar on top of a squat rack)
- Jammer presses
- Suitcase carries
- Stiff-legged deadlifts
- Single-leg deadlifts
- JM Presses
- Inverted rows (put the bar on your rack safeties)
Want more of a challenge? Try this with presses and other relevant exercises: Press to near-failure (or a certain rep range), then immediately move to medium width, then wide grip.
Tip: Look for a Cambered Swiss Bar with knurling to help with grip on heavier lifts, especially pulling movements. Bonus points if you can find a Cambered Swiss Bar that’s long enough to rack on a power rack. This will help with loading weights and getting into optimal form for many of the exercises.