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12 Of The Best Specialty Barbell Types

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Regular barbells with weight plates and dumbbells offer a lot of benefits but the types of specialty bars can be helpful for certain situations and individuals.

Specialty barbells are weight lifting bars with unique shapes and features. The effects of this can range from nice to have to enabling individuals to do important exercises they would otherwise not be able to do.

Additionally, all of the specialty barbells below can simply help you switch things up and make your workouts more fun. This can help with consistency and in turn, help you get the health benefits from lifting weights.

1. Multi grip swiss bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who find exercises with a straight barbell uncomfortable on their shoulders and wrists.

Swiss bars, also known as multi grip, football, and neutral grip bars, are long weight lifting bars with multiple neutral and/or angled handles. Often, these handles do not have knurling (grooves in the handles for grips).

From a high-level view, the main benefits of multi grip swiss bars are that they guide your upper arms to angles with lower injury risk and that they require less wrist rotation which can be more comfortable.

For example, in the bench press exercise you want your upper arms to be at an angle of 45 degrees or less to your sides. This puts your shoulders in a safer and more comfortable position.

The neutral and/or angled handles of multi grip swiss bars make it easier to implement these upper arm angles.

This specialty barbell stands out in exercises like the bench press and overhead press but there are plenty of other multi grip swiss bar exercises like bicep curls, bent-over rows, lying tricep extensions, etc.

A downside of this specialty bar is that some combinations of swiss bars and racks can require relatively precise racking. Some people also prefer their handles with knurling, even if they don’t need the extra grip.

The bigger width also requires some extra attention in exercises like the overhead press. If you don’t hold the bar forward enough and tilt your head back enough, the bar will bump against your head.

Check our list of multi grip swiss bar top picks

2. Trap and hex bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want to do deadlifts that are easier on the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings and individuals who are into shrugs, the farmer’s walk, and weighted jump squats.

Trap bars, also known as hex bars, are basically a metal hexagonal construction with neutral handles and weight sleeves on each side. There are also models that leave out the back (or front) bar for more room.

The benefits of trap and hex bars depend on the movement you use them for. One of the most popular uses is the deadlift.

In regular barbell deadlifts, the bar stops you from going more through your legs. This leads to a more bent-over lift that works your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles a lot.

However, some people have lower back issues and/or simply want a compound leg exercise with a different ratio of muscle engagement that is a bit more quadriceps-focused but still far away from back squats.

Additionally, in exercises like shrugs, the trap bar allows you to keep your upper arms at a more effective angle than dumbbells. In shrugs and farmer’s walks, the trap and hex bars don’t bump against your body similar to dumbbells.

These are only a few examples out of the many trap and hex bar exercises you can do. Other examples include shoulder presses, bent-over rows, jump squats, etc.

The main downsides of trap and hex bars are that some people are simply not interested in the different deadlift muscle engagement and/or are not interested in the other exercises where this specialty barbell is useful.

Check our list of trap and hex bar top picks

3. EZ curl bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who find the barbell version of bicep isolation exercises, tricep isolation exercises, and a few other exercises uncomfortable on their wrists.

As the name implies, EZ curl bars are basically weight lifting bars with a variety of grip angles due to their curls.

Some people find barbell bicep curls, tricep extensions, rows, etc. uncomfortable on their wrists. Due to the angled grips of the EZ curl bar, this piece of equipment can be more comfortable in these movements.

At the same time, the EZ curl bar requires less shoulder stabilization muscle engagement than dumbbells which is typically a benefit for isolation exercises.

This specialty barbell is also a relatively budget-friendly addition to your home gym.

The EZ curl bar mainly stands out in exercises like bicep curls, preacher curls, standing tricep extensions, and skull crushers. However, you could even use it for movements like bent-over rows, shoulder presses, and upright rows.

Something you do want to keep in mind is that EZ curl bars are not great for important compound lifts like deadlifts, bench presses, and back squats. Additionally, not everyone is interested in doing the isolation exercises mentioned.

Check EZ curl bar prices

4. Buffalo bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want a bigger bench press range of motion and back squats that are more comfortable on your upper back and shoulders.

Buffalo bars, also known as bow, ox, and the brand name Duffalo bars, are basically barbells with a bend. The benefits of buffalo bars depend on the movement you use them for.

In the bench press exercise, the bend allows you to lower the bar more compared to a regular barbell. This leads to a bigger range of motion for your muscles which is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.

Another popular use for this specialty bar is back squats. First of all, the bend in the bar hugs your upper back better than a barbell. This typically feels more comfortable on the upper back.

Additionally, in barbell back squats, some people find the shoulder and wrist angles required to keep the bar in place uncomfortable.

Because of the bow in the bar, you can hold your hands lower which in turn is typically more comfortable. Some people are not able to do back squats (comfortably) because of this so the hand position can be a valuable benefit.

One of the downsides of buffalo bars is that they are only really valuable in a few movements. You could use them for shoulder presses, deadlifts, and bent-over rows but they are not ideal for these.

Buffalo bars, especially the Duffalo bar, can also be relatively pricey compared to some of the other best specialty barbells on the list.

Check our list of buffalo bar top picks

5. Axle bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want to train grip strength, like the thicker feeling of the bar, and want to do deadlifts that are more focused on the lower back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings.

Axle bars are relatively straightforward pieces of fitness equipment. They are simply straight bars with metal pieces to stop the weight plates from sliding.

That means contrary to regular barbells, a thicker handle diameter, no knurling, less bending, and no rotating sleeves. The first upside of this simplicity is a relatively low price.

Thicker objects are more challenging for your forearm grip muscles to hold. That means you will train these muscles a lot more in pulling exercises like a deadlift.

However, the benefits of axle bars are not limited to their increased grip training. You can also do axle bar deadlifts with lifting straps to reduce how much grip you need to use.

There are different reasons why you would do this. First of all, due to the thicker bar, the weights are positioned more forward. In deadlifts, this leads to more glute, hamstring, and lower back muscle engagement.

Additionally, axle bars don’t really bend. This makes it so your range of motion under tension is bigger which can lead to more muscle growth and strength progress.

Axle bars mostly stand out in pulling exercises like deadlifts, bent-over rows, and cleans. However, people also do other axle bar exercises like bench presses and shoulder presses because they like the feeling of the thicker bar.

The main downside of this specialty barbell is that some people are simply not interested in these training effects.

Check our list of axle bar top picks

6. Safety squat bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who find barbell back squats and other squat variations too uncomfortable on their shoulders. You may also prefer the slightly different muscle engagement.

Safety squat bars stand out for their shoulder padding, handles, and cambered bar. One of the main benefits of safety squat bars is that you don’t have to reach back to hold the barbell in the back squat exercise.

Some people are not able to do back squats without this specialty barbell. Since the back squat is such a valuable exercise the safety squat bar can be worth the higher price tag.

Another helpful feature is that the bar can rest on your shoulders without holding the handles if you approach it right.

This can be useful for safety squat bar exercises like calf raises where being able to hold something for balance is helpful.

The main downsides of safety squat bars are their high price tags and relatively specific uses.

Check our list of safety squat bar top picks

7. Cambered bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want to train more stabilizing muscles and want to improve their bench press range of motion (with cambered bench press bars).

Something important to note first is that there are two main types of cambered bars. The most popular version is a cambered squat bar where the sleeves with weight plates hang lower than the main bar.

There are also cambered bench press bars that simply have a dent to increase your range of motion. This can lead to more muscle growth and strength progress.

The benefits of cambered squat bars are different. Because of the lower weight sleeves, the weights typically swing around more during exercises like the back squat and bench press.

This leads to more stabilization muscle engagement and can reveal areas of your technique that could use improvement.

The first downside of cambered bars is that they are relatively limited in the number of exercises you can use them in. Additionally, many people are not interested in their training effects.

Check our list of cambered bar top picks

8. Earthquake and bamboo bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want to train stabilization muscles.

Bandbell EarthQuake Bar
Product image from Rogue Fitness

Earthquake and bamboo bars are similar but earthquake bars have ridges to put the resistance bands with weights behind and bamboo bars have sleeves with one groove.

You use both of these bars by putting resistance bands looped through weights on them. In combination with the flexible bars, this leads to a lot of shaking in a variety of exercises.

One of the main benefits this offers is extra stabilization muscle engagement. In something like bench presses that means more training for your scapular muscles, middle deltoids, and lats.

For back squats that means more core muscle, inner thigh muscle, outer thigh muscle, and ankle muscle engagement. Different earthquake and bamboo bar exercises will have different effects.

Engaging these stabilization muscles can be helpful in a recovery setting. Additionally, strengthening these muscles can reduce your injury risk.

One downside is that not everyone is interested in training these stabilization muscles in these amounts. The exercises are also challenging and could lead to injuries if you overdo them.

Check our list of earthquake and bamboo bar top picks

9. Tricep bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who find the barbell version of bicep isolation exercises, tricep isolation exercises, and a few other exercises uncomfortable on their wrists.

Tricep bars are a similar concept as swiss bars but they are a lot shorter, non-rackable, only have two handles, and have weight limits that are typically lower.

Similar to swiss and EZ curl bars, the benefits of tricep bars mainly come from being able to do exercises with your wrists and upper arms at safer and more comfortable angles.

Due to their small size, tricep bars are relatively budget-friendly and easy to store and transport.

Another benefit is that there are a nice number of tricep bar exercises you can do.

One potential downside to keep in mind with these is that tricep bars do not have the highest weight capacities. These weight capacities are often around 200 pounds = 90.7 kg (but individual models can vary).

Stronger lifters may find this lacking for the bench press exercise.

Something else to note is that many tricep bars have 1″ weight plate sleeves. These days, 2″ weight plates are a lot more common. You definitely want to check this feature when buying a tricep bar.

Check our list of tricep bar top picks

10. Strongman log press bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want to do the strongman log press exercise.

The log press is a strongman exercise where you “pick up” a log press bar from the ground and shoulder press it. This bar has neutral handles and a thicker diameter which makes it so challenging.

Doing the log press exercise can be a fun and technically challenging way to do resistance training. You may also be a strongman who wants to prepare for your competitions.

Due to the bulky size of the log, you will engage your wrist and shoulder stabilization muscles a lot more. If you don’t overdo it this can also lead to more strengthening.

You will also focus more on your front deltoids because the log has the be held somewhat forward because its diameter is so big.

At the same time, you may find the neutral grips more comfortable on your wrists than a straight barbell.

The main downside of this specialty barbell is that it is made for basically one exercise. If you don’t enjoy doing that movement there is not really a use for the log press bar.

Check our list of strongman log press bar top picks

11. Deadlift bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who want more flex, more aggressive knurling, and different knurling locations than regular barbells for their deadlifts.

Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar
Product image from Rogue Fitness

At first sight, deadlift bars may look very similar to regular barbells but there are some important differences. One of the main ones is that deadlift bars will have more flex and a longer length.

These make it so during the deadlift exercise, your muscles only start really pulling all the weight at a higher point. In turn, you can like deadlift more weight (but not necessarily build more muscle).

Additionally, the knurling (grooves on the handles) is typically more aggressive and the handle diameter is smaller. These make it so your grip muscles have to work less hard compared to regular barbell deadlifts.

There is also no knurling in the center because regular deadlifts don’t really need this.

On the other hand, there are also sumo deadlift bars that have similar features but center knurling for the different hand positions of the sumo deadlift exercise.

The main benefits of all these unique features are that you will be able to deadlift more weight. You may need to get used to this type of specialty barbell if it will be used in a competition.

A downside of deadlift bars is that they do not necessarily benefit your training in terms of health benefits, muscle growth, and strength increases. For these goals, regular barbells can be just as good and potentially even better.

Check deadlift bar prices

12. Squat bars

People who will benefit from this specialty barbell the most: Individuals who find that regular barbells slip off their back when back squatting and/or find regular barbells too flexible for squats.

Rogue Squat Bar
Product image from Rogue Fitness

Squat bars are another specialty bar that looks very similar to the regular barbell but is somewhat different.

The main differences are that squat bars have more knurling in the middle, have more aggressive knurling, are stiffer, are a bit thicker, and are a bit longer.

More knurling in the middle and more aggressive knurling make it so there is less risk of the bar sliding down your back during squats.

Heavy lifters also may find regular barbells a bit too flexible which can disrupt their balance in the squat movement.

The main downsides are that the benefits of squat bars are mostly useful for heavy lifters. Additionally, the price may seem a bit high for such a specific use.

That being said, if you are a heavy squatter, this specialty barbell may be worth it. The back squat is an important exercise and some extra comfort each time you do this movement can really add up in value over time.

Check squat bar prices

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Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.

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