The 7 Best Swiss Bar Exercises For Building Strength

Many recreational lifters are so much bewildered by the variety of barbells and specialty bars at the gym, and understandably so. In addition to standard barbells and Olympic barbells, there are quite a number of specialty bars, such as trap bars, safety squat bars, and Swiss bars.

Knowing how to use these different strength training implements can help diversify your workout program and improve the effectiveness of your strength training workouts.

So, what are the best Swiss bar exercises to build strength? How do you structure a Swiss bar workout? How do you use the Swiss bar for building muscle and strength?

In this article, we will discuss how to use the Swiss bar, the benefits of the Swiss barbell, and the best exercises to include in your Swiss bar workout.

We will cover:

Let’s dive in! 

A person using a Swiss bar.

What Is the Swiss Bar?

The Swiss bar, sometimes referred to as the Swiss barbell, multi-grip barbell, or football bar, is a type of specialty barbell used in weightlifting workouts.

The Swiss bar has an array of neutral grip positions and angled grip bars, so it resembles something akin to a mini ladder with some straight and angled “rungs.”

The primary benefit of the football bar or Swiss barbell is that the neutral grip position helps relieve torque and tension on your shoulders you might otherwise feel when using a standard barbell. 

The joint angles are more natural, and the neutral grip position is more ergonomically sound for your elbows and shoulders.

This decreases joint stress and strain and makes it easier to maximize the loads lifted with a Swiss bar because your body is more comfortable.

The 7 Best Swiss Bar Exercises For Building Strength

Here are some of the best Swiss bar exercises to include in your Swiss bar workout:

#1: Swiss Bar Bench Press

A person using a Swiss bar.

It is pretty hard to find any Swiss bar workout that will not include the Swiss bar bench press, as this is likely the most common of the Swiss bar exercises.

The design of the bar lets you load up the barbell with heavy weights, and it can reduce stress on your shoulders for your high-load sets.

In this way, you can maximize your mass and strength gains with a Swiss bar bench press exercise.

Here are the steps to perform this one of our Swiss bar exercises:

  1. Lie on your back on the bench with the same set up that you would use when pressing a standard or Olympic barbell. Reach your arms up to the Swiss bar, grabbing handles that are roughly shoulder-distance apart.
  2. Carefully unrack the bar and slowly lower it towards your chest by bending your elbows. Slowing down the movement as much as possible will help maximize your gains in strength and hypertrophy, as the eccentric or lowering portion of the exercise has been shown to increase muscle mass most significantly.
  3. As soon as the bar nearly grazes your chest, explode the press upward back to the starting position.

#2: Swiss Bar Overhead Presses

A person with a barbell on his back.

Your Swiss bar workout should include the Swiss bar overhead press exercise.

This is a great exercise for your shoulders, and as when doing a bench press with the multi-grip bar, the neutral grip position makes this a joint-friendly alternative to barbell overhead presses.

Additionally, it can be easier to improve your overhead lockout strength with this Swiss bar exercise than when using a straight barbell because you can achieve greater shoulder mobility with more comfort, allowing you to increase the weight lifted and achieve full lockout.

Here are the steps to perform this one of our Swiss bar exercises:

  1. Set up the Swiss bar on the power rack as you would for a normal barbell overhead press.
  2. Grip the handles just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Engage your core and glutes as you unrack the football bar and slowly lower it down to your shoulders with control. Do not hyperextend your back. Keep your core and glutes tight to maintain proper posture with your chest up.
  4. Powerfully press the bar back up overhead, keeping the back of your head out of the way and using a slightly tilted backward path by retracting your shoulder blades.

Note that you can add a squat or split squat with this exercise to work your lower body as well.

#3: Swiss Bar Bent-Over Rows

A person using a hex bar.

You can also perform this classic back exercise for your lats, posterior deltoid, traps, and rhomboids with the Swiss barbell instead of a standard barbell.

The neutral grip position will help reduce torque on your elbow joints.

Here is how to perform this Swiss barbell exercise:

  1. Place the loaded Swiss barbell in front of your feet with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hinge at your hips, keeping your core and glutes tight to maintain a flat and neutral spine.
  3. Reach down and grab the Swiss bar with a neutral grip with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  4. Pull the weight up to your stomach by bending your elbows and retracting your shoulders, maintaining the hinge at your hips throughout the exercise.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down until your elbows are fully extended.

#4: Swiss Bar Hammer Curls

A person doing bicep curls.

Using the Swiss bar for this biceps exercise allows you to transform the unilateral movement with dumbbells into a bilateral exercise.

This helps you maximize the load you can lift to boost your gains in strength and hypertrophy. 

Here is how to do hammer curls with a Swiss bar:

  1. Stand upright with good posture. 
  2. Hold the Swiss bar with your palms facing one another and spaced about shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Contract your biceps to curl the Swiss barbell up to your shoulders, maintaining this neutral wrist position.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell back down with control.

#5: Swiss Bar Skull Crushers

A person using a Swiss bar.

This is a great exercise for triceps workouts, and the neutral grip on the multi-grip bar reduces elbow strain.

These are the steps for this triceps-strengthening exercise with a Swiss barbell:

  1. Lie down on a flat bench holding a Swiss bar with your arms extended straight up like the end position of the bench press. Use a grip that is slightly more narrow than shoulder-width.
  2. Point your elbows so that you can lower the Swiss barbell backward towards your forehead, only moving your lower arms. Your upper arms should remain completely fixed and perpendicular to the weight bench the entire time.
  3. The barbell should nearly graze your forehead before you contract your triceps to press it back up and forward to the starting position.

#6: Swiss Bar Push-Ups

A person doing push-ups with handles.

You can use the specialty Swiss barbell to develop your chest muscles in creative ways aside from the standard Swiss bar press.

By performing Swiss bar push-ups, you can increase your range of motion and achieve a greater depth to the exercise, maximizing the time under tension and movement range for your muscles.

The neutral grip position can also be more ergonomic and comfortable for your wrists, allowing you to pump out more reps without wrist discomfort

Plus, with all of the different grip positions offered by the Swiss bar, you can perform different push-up modifications, such as close grip push-ups to really isolate your triceps and increase the difficulty of the exercise, along with wide grip push-ups, which will work your pecs and lats.

Here is how to perform this exercise with the Swiss bar:

  1. Place the Swiss bar on the floor inside the power rack at an angle so that it is secured between the back and side of the power rack, forming the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle.
  2. Then, grip the handles at whatever distance feels best for the type of push-ups you want to do. The harder you grip, the more that you will help improve your grip strength.
  3. Perform push-ups as you normally would, going as deep as possible so that your chest essentially taps the bar before you press through the heels of your hands to return to the starting position.

#7: Swiss Bar Pullovers

A person using a Swiss bar.

This is an advanced Swiss bar exercise. 

It takes a standard dumbbell or kettlebell pullover exercise and uses the Swiss barbell, which enables you to lift much heavier weights to build mass and strength.

This exercise with a Swiss bar instead of a dumbbell also reduces the likelihood that you will accidentally drop the weight on yourself.

Here are the steps for how to perform this Swiss bar lift:

  1. Lie back on a flat weight bench with your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Hold the Swiss bar straight up above your chest with a neutral grip and shoulder-width hand placement.
  3. Allow a slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement.
  4. Slowly bring the Swiss bar back behind your head, keeping your lower back firmly pressed into the bench.
  5. Pull the Swiss bar back up to the starting position.

Ready to get to the gym and take on these new swiss bar exercises for awesome strength gains? Let’s get going!

If you are looking to maximize your muscle gains, check out our muscle-building guide here.

A person doing a dead lift.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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