The Swiss Bar bench press is one of the most under-rated bench press accessories that you can do to increase strength and performance.
So what is the Swiss Bar bench press? The Swiss bar is used for several pressing and pulling exercises, including the bench press. The benefit is that it decreases the stress placed on the wrists and shoulders while increasing tricep activation. The swiss bar is used among football players, powerlifters, and other strength athletes.
In this article, I’ll discuss what makes a Swiss Bar special, the differences between bench pressing with a Swiss Bar vs straight bar, the benefits/drawbacks, and other exercises you can do with the Swiss Bar if you decide to invest in purchasing one.
If you’re looking to pick up a Swiss Bar, my recommendation is to buy from Rogue. It’s American-made and the quality is unmatched. They have a few different versions, but my choice is the MG-2 Multi-Grip Bar (click for today’s price on Rogue FItness).
What Is A Swiss Bar?
The Swiss Bar can also be called the “Multi-Grip Bar”, “Neutral Grip Bar”, or “Football Bar”. Just know that there is no difference between these names and the type of barbell. They’re the same thing.
The Swiss Bar allows you to place your hands in a neutral grip position where the palms are facing each other. This is in contrast to a straight bar where the hands are pronated, facing away from the body.
With this grip, your shoulders can more easily be placed in a retracted and depressed position while lifting. This shoulder position is a critical part of any pressing or pulling movement. This is because when the scapula is pulled ‘back’ and ‘down’ on the rib cage it increases the stability of the shoulder joint.
As a result, many lifters who are prone to shoulder injuries or are rehabbing a shoulder injury use the Swiss Bar for this reason.
In addition, when the hands are in a neutral position, the elbows naturally tuck inward toward the body while lifting. When the elbows are closer to the body, rather than flaring outward, the triceps are targeted more. This is especially important in movements like the bench press.
You’ll notice that a Swiss Bar has several handle widths to choose from when it comes to hand placement. Not only does this allow a lifter to choose the hand placement that’s more comfortable for their body structure, but you can use different grips based on the exercise you’re doing.
In addition to the bench press, you can use the Swiss Bar for several exercises, such as the overhead press, bent-over row, skull crusher, hammer curl, and most movements that you can typically do with a straight bar.
The Swiss Bar is just one type of bar you can use for bench press. Check out my complete guide on the 7 Different Types Of Bench Press Bars & Their Uses.
Types of Swiss Bars (FootBall Bars)
For me, the Swiss Bar should be the second barbell that you pick up to add to your collection right after a standard straight bar.
Like many of the high-quality barbells from Rogue, I would pick up the Rogue MG-24 Multi-Grip Bar (click for availability and today’s price on Rogue Fitness).
If you’re on the Rogue website, you’ll notice that there is a Rogue MG-3 version, which is one model up from the Rogue MG-24 and slightly more expensive. The difference is that the MG-3 has knurling on the handles.
Knurling refers to the tiny etches on the barbell that allows you to grip the barbell more effectively. In my opinion, you don’t need knurling on a Swiss Bar because it’s not used for deadlifting, which is where knurling really makes a difference in terms of grip.
I’ve seen Swiss Bars from other manufacturers, like Gronk Fitness, go for almost $150 more than the Rogue MG-24, which is no better built. I literally don’t know how Gronk Fitness sells their Swiss Bars when Rogue offers a better product at a cheaper price.
Swiss Bar vs Straight Bar Bench Press
Here are the 4 main differences between a swiss bar vs straight bar bench press:
1. You will likely bench press less with a Swiss Bar
For most people, bench pressing with a Swiss Bar won’t allow you to lift more weight than a straight bar.
This is because you’re going to be using less pec and shoulder strength and more triceps, which is a smaller contributing muscle group. This is not necessarily a bad thing because you can use a lower weight and still have a high training effect.
2. You will use your tricep more with a Swiss Bar
The Swiss Bar places a greater emphasis on the triceps during the bench press.
We know from looking at muscle recruitment in the bench press, that when the hands are placed in a narrow grip in combination with the elbows tucking toward the body during the movement, the triceps are more activated. This will be emphasized more if you perform the bench press with the swiss bar on the floor.
3. Most Swiss Bars don’t have knurling
Every straight bar will have knurling where the hands are supposed to grip the barbell; however, most Swiss Bars don’t have knurling.
As I said, this is because Swiss Bars aren’t used for deadlifting, which is where having knurling on the bar is important for one’s ability to grip the barbell. While you can use the Swiss Bar for other pulling exercises, like bent-over rows, the gripping requirement for rows is significantly less than an exercise like deadlifts.
4. Might be able to bench press with pain-free shoulders
Several lifters have been able to bench press with pain-free shoulders using a Swiss Bar compared with a straight bar.
This is typically the case for people who are prone to shoulder injuries or have experienced a recent shoulder injury.
Another popular bench press variation to help work around injuries is the Reverse Grip Bench Press.
7 Swiss Bar Benefits
These are the 7 benefits of using a Swiss Bar for bench press:
1. Potentially safer on the shoulders
Your shoulders will experience less stress when the elbows are stacked directly underneath of the barbell. This position is much easier to achieve in a neutral grip when using the Swiss Bar.
Furthermore, if you’re an athlete, the last thing you want is not to be able to lift weights. So if you CAN’T lift with a straight bar, but you CAN lift with a football bar, then it’s a good way to modify your training program in order to keep training.
Of course, the bar itself cannot supplement poor technique. So if you have sore shoulders, you’ll want to address all aspects of your technique to avoid pain and injury.
I’ve also heard that if you have bicep pain while bench pressing then the swiss bar can alleviate some of those issues in the short term. Check out my article on How To Fix Bicep Pain While Bench Pressing.
2. Wrists are more neutral
One of the common tehcnical errors in the bench press is that the wrist flares backward.
This causes a lot of stress on the wrist joint when the load is not evenly distributed over the forearm. As a result, some people can experience wrist pain, or worse, injury.
When using a Swiss Bar, it’s almost impossible for the wrist to flare backward in a neutral grip. As such, a lot of people who experience wrist discomfort while bench pressing can use a Swiss Bar and have no issues keeping their wrists in a neutral position.
3. Builds tricep strength
As I previously mentioned, the Swiss Bar will use a lot more tricep strength compared with other bench press variations.
The triceps are used to extend the elbow in the lockout position of the bench press. Therefore, if you find yourself weak in the top range of motion, then you likely have a tricep deficiency.
As such, bench pressing with a Swiss Bar can help you increase tricep strength, which will allow you to bench press more weight when you return to using a straight bar.
4. Another variation to continue progressive overload
If you’ve reached a bench press plateau, it might be because you’ve maxed out your current progression on the bench press.
For example, you can only add so much weight each week until you can’t linearly progress any more.
As such, adding in a new variation where you can progressively overload the movement again week-to-week should help you keep your strength gains moving forward.
Take a look at my article on Is The Neutral Grip Bench Press Harder?
5. Fits different body sizes
One of my favorite features of the Swiss Bar is that there are different widths for where you can place your hands.
If you have longer ams, you can grip the wider handles. If you have shorter arms, you can grip the narrower handles.
You should know that the wider handles will actually recruit more of your pec muscles. So while the Swiss Bar is a tricep-dominant movement, you can widen your grip and let your pec muscles contribute a bit more to the overall exercise.
6. Relatively inexpensive
When you compare the Swiss Bar with other specialty bars that you can use in the gym, it’s a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment. Some other speciality bars only have one purpose in the gym; however, the Swiss Bar is far more versatile in terms of the exercises you can do.
7. Can be used more than just bench press
If you invest in a Swiss Bar, the primary reason would be to bring up the strength of your bench press. However, there are far more exercises that you can do with the Swiss Bar that would have equal benefit, including other upper body pushing and pulling movements (full list below).
The swiss bar bench press is only one type of grip you can use on the bench press. Learn more about the 6 Different Types Of Bench Press Grips.
3 Swiss Bar Drawbacks
There are a 3 drawbacks when using the Swiss Bar for bench press:
1. Hard to fit on J-hooks
The J-hooks are where the barbell sit on the bench press rack.
The Swiss Bar usually has trouble fitting inside normal J-hooks. Essentially, the barbell is just a bit too thick, so it either awkwardly fits on the rack or doesn’t fit altogether.
I mentioned that the Rogue MG-24 Multi-Grip Bar is my go-to Swiss bar option. One reason for this is because Rogue designed their Swiss Bar to fit on any normal J-hook. So as long as you bench using a Rogue Swiss Bar then you won’t have this issue.
2. Most gyms don’t have them
I’ve just touted the many benefits of using a Swiss Bar; however, most commercial gyms don’t have Swiss Bars available.
If you have a home-gym though, then you can easily add a Swiss Bar to your collection.
3. Don’t know how much they weigh
Swiss Bars can weigh anywhere between 39lbs to 60lbs depending on the make and manufacturer.
This can be frustrating for some people who don’t know how much weight they’re actual bench pressing unless you weigh the barbell beforehand.
If you get the Rogue MG-24, it weighs the same as your average barbell (45lbs).
How To Bench Press With The Swiss Bar
Here’s how to bench press using a Swiss Bar:
- If you’re using the Swiss Bar for the first time, use the 2nd narrowest handles. This will give you a chance to practice what it feels like benching in this grip before moving your hands closer or wider.
- Set your shoulders by pulling them back and down prior to lifting the barbell off the rack.
- With your arms straight over your body, begin bringing the barbell to your chest. Your elbows will naturally tuck closer to your body compared with a straight bar bench press. Don’t fight this natural position.
- Touch the bar on your chest so that the entire surface is flat. Don’t rotate the bar back so that the edge of the Swiss Bar touches your chest.
- Rather than pressing off your chest in an ‘up and back’ trajectory like a regular bench press, think about punching your hands straight up.
- Use a slower tempo to start in order to get used to how the movement is supposed to feel. Once you’ve practiced the movement, you can use the same tempo as a normal bench press.
Where To Buy
If you search Swiss Bar on Amazon, you’ll see this barbell from Power Systems.
It’s one of the more expensive Swiss Bars I’ve seen, and people complain that the black paint finish began chipping immediately, that the grips were uncomfortable, and the customer service was non-existent.
The only place I would recommend buying a Swiss Bar from is Rogue. You can’t beat the quality and price of the Rogue MG-24 Swiss Bar (click for today’s pricing and reviews).
Other Exercises You Can Do With The Swiss Bar
You should also be aware that the Swiss Bar can be used for several other exercises, which makes it an extremely versatile piece of equipment.
Here are some examples:
Neutral Grip Shoulder Press
When using the Swiss Bar for shoulder pressing, you’ll find you don’t need as much weight to get a significant training effect.
Neutral Grip Bentover Barbell Row
Performed like your classic bentover row but with a neutral grip. You’ll use more lats and rhomboids versus rear delt and traps.
Neutral Grip Skull Crushers
Some people prefer using a Swiss Bar for skull crushers over dummbbels because it feels better on the elbows.
Barbell Hammer Curl
The inside handles on the Swiss bar are designed perfectly for hammer curls because they are slightly angled, making it easier on the wrists when curling.
Chin-ups (placed on top of a squat rack)
If your squat rack doesn’t have a chin-up attachment, you can place the Swiss Bar on top of the rack and perform neutral grip chin-ups.
If you want to load the triceps even more, you can perform a floor press using a Swiss Bar. This partial range of motion will focus the movement entirely on the lock-out.
The Swiss Bar bench press is an excellent bench press variation for those who want to target their triceps more and decrease the stress on their shoulders. For lifters who are more prone to shoulder injuries, the swiss bar might give them the ability to keep training the bench press. If you find yourself stalling on the bench press, doing a training cycle with the swiss bar may increase your strength beyond previous levels.
Feature image by: @coachnickknows