Swiss Bar vs Football Bar

January 12, 2022 6 min read

Olympic Swiss Bar vs Olympic Football Bar

Before we begin delving into the differences between a swiss bar and a football bar, lets look at two bars separately.

At first glance, it appears as though the bars are the same.  However, the one difference between each of the bars is that the Swiss bar features grip options that are straight, whereas the football bar offers grips which are on an angle. 

Either bar can sometimes be referred to as a multi-grip bar.  Some bars are manufactured in a way that feature both straight and angled grips.  This can cause some confusion with some suggesting that a Swiss bar and Football bar are one and the same thing. 

The Swiss bar is used for a variety of pressing and pulling exercises, with the core benefit being that it reduces stress from the wrists and shoulders when compared to using a straight barbell

In comparison, the football bar is used for the same range of exercises but further limits wear and tear to delts and wrists and reduces stress to joints.  This is thanks to the angled handles making for a more ‘natural’ feeling movement when pressing. 

For example, if you undertake shoulder pressing with a football bar it’s going to feel very similar when compared to undertaking the same exercise but with dumbbells.  

So, why not just use dumbbells you may ask? 

Well, when using dumbbells you are performing a unilateral movement, this means that each limb is working independently from one another.  Unilateral exercises require much more balance and use of stabilisation muscles.  This could mean you add unwanted stress to your joints, not ideal if you are suffering from any injuries. 

A further downside is that you cannot overload the muscles in the same way.  If you’re not lifting your max weight then you’ll be missing out on building extra muscle.  

If you swap out using dumbbells for a Swiss bar or football bar not only will you be doing your joints a big favour by keeping stress to a minimum, you’ll be able to lift much more weight for bigger strength and muscle gains.

Using either of these bars for pressing is a bilateral movement.  This is an exercise where both limbs work in unison to target the intended muscles.  Because both limbs work together, there is a significant improvement in stability which allows for lifting more weight.   

WHERE DO THE BAR’S NAMES DERIVE FROM?

There is much speculation that the name of the Swiss bar derives from it’s positioning of the handles.  Switzerland has a neutral foreign policy.  The Swiss bar has neutral positioned handles.  Another suggestion is that the name reflects the versatility of the Swiss Army knife.  Whether or not either of these are true remains to be seen, but they are interesting theories!

In respect of the name of the football bar, this comes about from American football.  It is said the bar was designed with this specific sport in mind and the semi-neutral positioning of the handles allowed the players to bench press even if they were suffering from any upper body injuries, especially the shoulders. 

HOW MUCH DO THE BARS WEIGH?

Whilst the answer to this question very much depends on the manufacturer, generally speaking the Swiss bar or Football bar weigh between 15kg to 25kg (35lbs to 55lbs).

If the weight of the bar is an important aspect it would be wise to confirm this before purchasing from your chosen supplier. 

WHAT ABOUT THE DIMENSIONS?

As above, the size of a swiss bar or football bar can vary depending on the producer.  However, as a rule of thumb, the overall length of either bar tends to be around 2000mm. 

When it comes to the sleeve size, bar width and measurements between grips and the collars, these can be very different and depending on how you wish to use the bar, they are important factors to consider before buying. 

HOW DO YOU USE A MULTI-GRIP BAR?

Both the Swiss bar and football bars are incredibly versatile and not just limited to bench pressing or shoulder pressing.  Below is a list of exercises (not exhaustive) that can be undertaken safely and effectively with either of these bars.  Essentially, anything you can do with a straight bar, you can swap out for one of these speciality bars. 

  • Floor press
  • Skull crushers
  • Back rows
  • Front lateral raises
  • Hammer curls
  • JM Press

The different handles on these bars will mean you can choose a grip that’s most comfortable and most suited to the exercise you are going to undertake. 

When it comes to bench pressing with a swiss bar, you’ll likely not be able to lift more than if you were using a regular Olympic barbell.  This is because more emphasis is being placed on your triceps, which is a smaller muscle.  That being said, these bars are great for building strength to the triceps and thereby offers excellent carry over to bench pressing with a straight bar potentially meaning you can press more in the long run. 

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A SWISS BAR OR FOOTBALL BAR

Nowadays, most things are not created equal and when it comes to strength training equipment the little, hard to spot, variations can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of your training and the overall quality of the item itself.  Below are some things to consider before buying either of these bars.

  1. Are the sleeves long enough so the bar can be used in your power rack. As dimensions can vary by manufacturer this is important to check else you won’t get the most out of your bar. 
  2. Are the sleeves of your Swiss bar nickel plated?  Some bars offering sleeves that are just powder coated.  When plates are loaded  on and off your bar, this will be quickly chip up leaving the bare steel susceptible to rusting.  It is far better to opt for a bar that has nickel plated sleeves as not only do these look much nicer they will not chip in the same way making for a much better quality bar.
  3. What is the bar rated too? Manufacturers will tend to use different quality and thickness of steel, this can vary significantly when you compare UK made bars to those imported from the Far East.  This would have a significant impact on what your bar can be loaded up with in terms of weight.  Ensure you find out the weight capacity before you buy so that it’s fit for purpose.
  4. What is the width of the bar? Depending on what exercises you wish to undertake, the width could be an important consideration if looking to do movements such as deadlifts.
  5. Are the grips knurled? To keep costs lower some manufacturers do not offer knurled grips. When lifting heavy, the knurling provides a much more improved grip, especially when palms are sweaty. 
  6. What are the measurements between the grips? Some users may prefer a bar with grips that are widely spaced apart so double check all dimensions of your chosen bar before purchasing.
  7. Does the bar offer any protection for your plates? Some bars include a plastic base at the end of sleeve (where the plate would rest).  This is ideal for those who have more expensive plates and furthermore ensures that the plates sit flush as opposed to resting against a bare weld which can cause some instability.#

WHAT ARE THE KEY BENEFITS TO USING A SWISS BAR OR FOOTBALL BAR?

When it comes to specialist bars, either of these should be part of your arsenal of equipment. Below are some benefits to owning one of these bars;

  1. One of the key benefits of using a Swiss or football bar is that it can reduce much of the stress on your shoulders when pressing. This is ideal if you suffer from any shoulder problems but wish to continue training.
  2. Sometimes a poor technique when pressing with a regular straight bar can cause problems with your wrists. When using a Swiss bar your wrists are kept in a neutral position thus removing any stress from wrist joints and reducing the potential for discomfort and injury.
  3. The variety of grip options available on the Swiss bar means it is suitable for all athletes who will easily be able to find a grip position that suits them. The differing grips also allow you to target more of different muscle groups.
  4. The versatility of this bar makes it a worthwhile investment. Not just used for pressing, as mentioned above you can use the Swiss bar for a wide range of exercises.
  5. Swiss bars and football bars are an economical barbell when you consider the versatility of them. There size and cost make them ideal for commercial gyms, as well as home and garage gyms.
  6. You can effectively give your triceps a great workout with the Swiss bar. As you’ll be activating your triceps more when compared to a straight bar, you will improve strength and mass.  This in turn offers excellent carry over to a regular bench press helping you to improve your overall gains. 

CONCLUSION

There are a wide variety of speciality barbells on the market, some of which only have one use.  For example, the safety squat bar.  However, when you consider the broad range of exercises that can be undertaken with the Swiss bar, this makes it a very cost effective investment for both commercial gyms and home gyms.

Before investing in your own Swiss bar or football bar, make sure to bear in mind the above factors to ensure the bar you choose suits your needs. 


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