Specialty barbells can improve your training results, reduce injury, and provide more exercise options. But which ones are really worth your money? Not all specialty bars are necessary for everyone so let’s dive into which ones you should use.
The EZ Curl bar and Trap Deadlift bar are the two specialty barbells most people can benefit from. Other specialty bars are for more niche cases and not everyone needs to have access to them. For most beginners, a normal straight barbell is fine.
Let’s dive into the 5 best specialty barbells, who should be using them, and when you should stick to a normal barbell.
Here’s a quick chart that shows you the headlines of what we go through below.
|Type of Barbell||Uses|
|EZ Curl bar||– Primarily used for bicep curls and arm training.|
– Also effective for tricep-focused exercises like overhead extensions and skull crushers.
|Hex/Trap bar||– Ideal for deadlifts with a more upright torso, reducing lower back strain.|
– Suitable for farmers’ walks, shrugs, and lunges.
|Swiss/Football bar||– Offers neutral hand positions, reducing strain on wrists, shoulders, and elbows.|
– Versatile for a wide range of lifts.
|Safety squat bar||– Promotes more comfortable squats with reduced stress on arms and shoulders.|
– Specialized for back squats, helpful for heavy training.
|Cambered Bench press bar||– Provides extra range of motion for bench presses, enhancing pec growth.|
– Suitable for those seeking more chest muscle development.
- 1 1. EZ Curl bar
- 2 2. Hex/Trap bar
- 3 3. Swiss/Football/Multi-grip bar
- 4 4. Safety squat bar
- 5 5. Cambered Bench press bar
- 6 Do You Need Any Specialty Barbells For a Home Gym?
- 7 What Makes Specialty Barbells Special?
- 8 Space and Storage
- 9 Maintenance and Care
- 10 Alternative Options
1. EZ Curl bar
The EZ Curl bar stands out as a staple specialty bar found in almost every commercial gym, and for good reason. Many people like bigger arms and EZ bars are great for arm training. True to its name, it’s primarily used for bicep curls, but it can be used for other exercises as well.
Made with a few bends this bar provides different angles to hold it. The EZ Curl bar offers a distinct advantage over the traditional straight bar.
By incorporating these ergonomic design elements, stress on your wrists during curl motions is significantly reduced. It allows your wrist to be in line with the lower arm so there is less need for twisting and bending. Many repetitions of pressing and curling can often lead to discomfort in the wrists and even forearms. Here’s where the EZ curl bar helps out, as it can effectively prevent and alleviate such issues.
Furthermore, the varied hand positions help to activate your muscles slightly differently. This difference in grip often results in an enhanced mind-muscle connection compared to the conventional straight bar.
Besides its uses in bicep training, the EZ bar can also really help in tricep-focused exercises such as overhead extensions and skull crushers. It can also be useful for certain shoulder exercises. This means the EZ curl bar is the best tool to have for people who want to grow bigger arms but also want to reduce wrist strain.
Benefits of the EZ Curl Bar
Are EZ curl bars a valuable addition to your home gym? The resounding answer is yes. They are relatively small and not that expensive. Combine that with it’s versatility and it’s an easy choice to make.
Key Benefits of the EZ Curl Barbell:
- Wrist-Friendly Lifting: Its unique design inherently reduces wrist strain during lifts, promoting a more comfortable workout experience.
- Diverse Arm Workouts: Unlock an array of arm exercises that capitalize on the bar’s ergonomic construction, allowing you to target various muscle groups effectively.
- Injury Mitigation: By providing ergonomic support and reducing strain, the EZ curl bar inherently minimizes the risk of workout-related injuries.
- Increased range of motion: Because of the bends in the EZ bar, the middle shaft is often a little further away from your body which gives you a bigger range of motion on curls and skull crushers which helps the muscle grow more.
Any commercial gym should have a few of these hanging around but they are also well worth it to home gym owners.
2. Hex/Trap bar
You might not have heard much about the trap bar, but it has its own group of dedicated fans. This bar offers a different way to do a deadlift, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon for some. Imagine standing in the middle of a barbell, where you’d usually be for a normal deadlift. The bar goes around you instead of you avoiding the bar.
The grab handles are raised and perpendicular to your body for a more neutral grip position.
Using this bar, your upper body stands a bit straighter compared to a regular deadlift. That’s great because standing straighter helps your back stay safer. This way, your lower back is loaded less with horizontal forces, and you’re less likely to hurt yourself.
The trap bar isn’t just for deadlifts, though. You can also use it for farmers’ walks and shrugs. So, it’s not just a safer way to do deadlifts; it’s also a tool that’s useful for other exercises. Some of these bars are open on one side which means you can also do lunges with them.
Trap bar benefits?
Wondering if a trap bar should find a place in your home gym? The cost isn’t sky-high – a decent one comes in under $100 although good to great ones are over $300. These bars are a tad more substantial than EZ bars, but they won’t dominate your space. While they might be a touch trickier to wall-mount or store compared to straight bars, they’re not huge obstacles.
The beauty of the trap bar is its versatility combined with safety, making it a popular choice for many fitness enthusiasts. It allows you to deadlift more often without overloading your lower back which means more gains in the long run.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Still, it’s worth noting that after the EZ bar, the trap bar shines as an excellent specialty bar to invest in.
3. Swiss/Football/Multi-grip bar
This particular item goes by quite a few names, but many folks will recognize it. It comes with various grips that are positioned at different angles compared to the regular straight bar.
This design helps to keep your hands in a natural stance, reducing strain on your wrists, shoulders, and elbows. This translates to fewer injuries and, for some, a better mind-muscle connection. These factors contribute to improved muscle strength and growth.
The bar can be utilized for a wide range of lifts. Nearly all the exercises that you can perform with a standard barbell can also be done with this Swiss bar, though there might be a slightly smaller range of motion for some lifts.
To counter the loss of range of motion, you can get cambered versions of these bars.
Should You Get a Swiss Bar?
The main downside is that this type of bar can often be rather costly. While it’s incredibly adaptable and can enhance your workouts, it’s not the right fit for everyone’s budget. If you’re tight on funds, you can find better ways to spend your money.
Price is the only reason not to get one though. If spending a few hundred dollars on a quality bar isn’t an issue, then go ahead and make the purchase. But if it’s a considerable expense for you, many of the same benefits can be achieved with a pair of dumbbells.
4. Safety squat bar
Where the other bars are pretty straightforward, the safety squat bar (SSB) looks like some kind of machine from the Middle Ages that ‘compels’ people to talk. But actually, it’s a more developed version of the cambered bar, that’s even more focused towards squats. While squats are like medieval torture to some people, a safety squat bar at least makes things safer.
A SSB is much safer for your arms and shoulders by putting the hand grips further forward. A straight bar can put quite a lot of stress on the elbows and shoulders because the grip is so far backward. Having the hand grips further forward and in a neutral position you don’t have to put your shoulders into external rotation and your elbows and wrists are in a much better position as well.
If you’ve got pain in your upper extremities when squatting with a straight bar, a safety bar is well worth trying.
Another difference is the movement. The bar sits a bit higher on your shoulders because of the padding but the camber at the end of the bar makes the weight sit a bit lower. This forces your body a bit less forward making this less tough on your lower back. Studies have shown an increase in activation of the lower traps though.
Should You Get a Safety Squat Barbell?
For most people, this type of bar is too specialized. It’s really only used for back squats. There are no real other uses for this bar. It becomes useful if you’re really specializing in back squats and training heavy, often.
Otherwise, you can work around the drawbacks of the normal squat by doing variations. It’s also quite a big piece of equipment that takes up quite a bit of space and it’s not cheap.
However, if you want to squat heavy and often, especially for competitive reasons, this barbell is a must-have. Anything that reduces the risk of injuries is something that’s worth its weight in gold since any injury will set you back and moves you further away from your goals.
5. Cambered Bench press bar
This bar is almost the same as the cambered bar listed above with a small difference. The cambered bench press bar is straight where you put your hands. That means the cambered part curves around your body.
When going down, where you would touch your chest with a normal bar, a cambered bar gives you a bit of extra room. The extra room is there to give extra range of motion. Because the bar has to go further down to touch your chest, your arms have to go further down as well.
This gives a bigger stretch on the pecs and weighted stretches at the end of the range of motion are great for muscle growth.
This also allows you to use a lighter weight for the same training impulse which means less stress on your joints which is always a good thing.
Should You Get a Cambered Bench Press Bar?
Like with the safety squat bar and the strongman log, this is a very specialized bar. It’s for getting more pec growth out of your bench presses.
For people who are just training for general strength and fitness, I wouldn’t say it’s worth it. If normal bench pressing isn’t growing your chest much anymore, this could be a great option.
It’s a tool for people who are at a pretty high level to get that extra bit of results out of their training. For most people, a normal barbell will be more than enough for a long time.
The extra range of motion can also be trained by using dumbbells since they can go down further than a bar. For most people that’s a cheaper and better solution than buying a separate bar.
Do You Need Any Specialty Barbells For a Home Gym?
In a commercial gym, I’d say you need at least some specialty bars but it depends on your customers. In a home gym, they’re not necessary but once you become a more advanced lifter, they can become very useful.
A normal barbell can be used for quite a while before you have to start thinking about other types of bars. Once you notice that you would like to alter the range of motion on a certain exercise, have more exercise variations available, or want to reduce injury risk on a certain movement, that’s the time to start looking at specialty bars.
What Makes Specialty Barbells Special?
Everyone knows what a normal barbell looks like. It’s a straight piece of steel with weight plates on both ends. There are ‘official’ Olympic barbells that are certified to be used in certain competitions. These are high quality, strong, and built with very small tolerances but also expensive.
Just looking for a normal Olympic barbell? Check out my recommendations here.
Then there are the bars that look the same but are not certified. Most of these are more than fine to be used in a commercial or home gym. Functionally they are the same as a real Olympic bar and are often called the same. They have the same look and dimensions as the official bars but might not be as strong or have slightly wider tolerances.
Then there are bars that actually look different. They have a different shape. Most of them are never used in any official competitions but are just for training purposes. These barbells are also called ‘specialty bars’.
Why use a specialty bar if a normal barbell works? There are two main reasons to choose a specialty bar over a normal bar for certain exercises;
- Better/different muscle engagement.
- Lower injury risk
Differently shaped bars can force you to use your muscles slightly differently. This gives you a new training impulse which results in new muscle and/or strength gains. This can then help you become stronger on the ‘normal’ lift, or create more muscle mass, depending on what your goals are.
A differently shaped bar usually allows you to take a different grip on the bar and therefore hold your arms and body in a different position which is potentially safer. The distribution of the weight can also be a bit different which puts less stress on more vulnerable parts of the body. All that together can make it safer to use.
Those are the two biggest reasons for using a specialty bar. Of course, there are also drawbacks to specialty bars, especially in a home gym;
- They take up space
- They cost money
You’ll have to weigh those factors against the benefits for you own situation.
Space and Storage
When dealing with limited space in your home gym, smart storage solutions for specialty barbells are essential. Consider these tips to keep your gym organized and functional:
- Wall-Mounted Racks: Utilize vertical space by installing wall-mounted racks specifically designed to hold specialty barbells. This keeps the bars off the ground and frees up valuable floor space.
- Floor Stands: If wall mounting isn’t an option, invest in sturdy floor stands to keep your specialty barbells upright and easily accessible. Look for compact designs that don’t take up too much room.
- Vertical Storage: Some specialty barbells, like the Swiss bar, can be stored vertically in a corner or against a wall. Vertical storage reduces the footprint and allows you to efficiently use available space.
Maintenance and Care
To ensure the longevity of your specialty barbells, follow these maintenance and care guidelines:
- Regular Inspection: Check for signs of wear, tear, or damage on the bars, grips, and rotating parts. Address any issues promptly to prevent further deterioration.
- Lubrication: Apply a light lubricant to rotating parts, such as sleeves and collars, to ensure smooth movement. Regular lubrication prevents rust and extends the life of the bar.
- Cleaning: Wipe down the bars after each use to remove sweat and prevent buildup of grime. Use a soft cloth and a mild cleaning solution to maintain their appearance and prevent corrosion.
- Rust Prevention: If you notice any rust spots, gently scrub them with a wire brush and apply a rust inhibitor. Regular maintenance prevents rust from spreading and damaging the bar.
For those unable to accommodate specialty barbells in their home gym, here are alternative exercise options:
- Dumbbells: Dumbbells offer versatile options for targeting various muscle groups. They can replicate many movements achievable with specialty barbells.
- Resistance Bands: Resistance bands provide adjustable resistance and can mimic the effects of some specialty barbell exercises. They’re particularly useful for isolation exercises and rehabilitation.