We train a variety of people with different issues that affect the body. From cystic fibrosis, to arthritis, to simple – but painful – shoulder or knee pain. This means training is often affected and it’s our job to help where we can with rehab or work around barriers to standard exercises.
We have a range of speciality bars that help us with this, and to keep exercise interesting and varied for clients that haven’t got issues. I’ll go through the ones that get the most use between the trainers at Real World Fitness.
Also known as the Swiss Bar, the Football Bar lets clients use a neutral hand position on presses, curls, and extensions, as opposed to a pronated grip which is typically used for barbell movements such as pressing and squatting.
The Football Bar is a great variation to the standard bar and the main attraction for us as personal trainers, is how easy it is on the shoulders. For those with shoulder issues it allows for an alternative exercise to work around injuries long term or as a stop gap for a short term issue. It shifts the emphasis onto the triceps when using it during a pressing exercise and can also be used for hammer curls instead of traditional dumbbell curls.
Let’s get one thing straight; conventional barbell deadlifts cannot be replaced. Trap bar work doesn’t carry over well to the regular deadlift but for anyone not hugely bothered about their deadlift numbers, I would say from my experience normal real world people pick up thetrap bar variation of deadlifts much easier than conventional barbell work, at least initially. For people that don’t compete in powerlifting, the Trap Bar is a great option. You can’t argue the benefits of picking up something heavy off the ground whether it be a Trap Bar or straight bar, so this option keeps people doing that movement when conventional deadlifts are off the menu.
The biggest advantage to the Trap Bar is the handles – they keep the bar close to your centre of gravity. So in theory, it will make the lift safer. The Trap Bar can also be used for shrugs, farmer’s walks and some rowing variations in the same way the football bar is.
Safety Squat Bar
After the trap bar, this is probably my favourite specialty bar to use. Like the other bars it’s easy on the shoulders, so for those with shoulders issues and/or that struggle with getting the hands behind a barbell in a conventional back squat, this is a great bar to allow you to squat without the stress and mobility worries.
It’s great for strengthening your entire lower body and back. The padded part of the bar pushes you forward, forcing you to fight to stay somewhat upright.
This replicates the back position during a deadlift and really forces you to strain in this position. And while this can certainly help your pull, having extra leg and back strength is never a bad thing when trying to improve your squat.
Fat Grip Bar
As with all the above, the shoulders seems to take less of the pressure with a fat grip. I think having the ability to grip the bar super tightly pushes more emphasis onto the muscle groups you’re trying to work. Obviously without the ability to have a solid grip on the bar you will have to drop the weight down progress movements via tempo and technique before increasing load.
There is absolutely no cheating your grip with a thick bar. With a smaller bar, there is no real focus on grip, but with a thick bar, you have to work hard to hold that bar in place at all times. Thicker handles stimulate much more muscle activation in the hands and forearms and in the upper arms and whole upper body. Thick bars perfectly replicate the natural function of the human hand – lifting heavy, awkward objects.
Grip can be an issue initially with new clients so any way in which we can improve this is always useful – and it also keeps the weight down, allowing you to really focus on technique, rather than ego lifting.
Never used one of the bars we’ve mentioned? If you have one in your gym, add in an exercise a week on the new bar and see what happens – it’s likely you’ll discover all kind of benefits from mixing up your training, simply from using a different grip.