Multi grips swiss bars have an unusual design when it comes to handles but they can still be used in a variety of important exercises.
Swiss bars, also known as multi grip, football, and neutral grip bars, have handles that are straight, angled, or both. This influences the dynamics and muscles worked in a variety of movements.
In some cases, multi grip swiss bars will be the better choice for most people, in others the more standard equipment is better, and sometimes it is a case of personal preference and training goals.
1. Bench presses
For this first exercise you need a multi grip bar, enough weight plates to make the movement challenging enough, a weight bench, and a rack for the bar. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a swiss bar bench press:
- Load the racked swiss bar with the desired weight.
- Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands on the handles that align with your training goals. When in doubt, hold the handles that are at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the swiss bar and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly lower the swiss bar to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the swiss bar back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Multi grip swiss bar bench presses are one of the most popular exercises for this piece of equipment. And for a good reason.
An important technique attention point in this movement is keeping your upper arms close enough to your upper body. If you move them outward too much your risk of shoulder injuries increases, especially with heavy weights.
The neutral and/or angled handles of multi grip swiss bars guide your upper arms toward the right angle. This helps you work your chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles in a safer position.
Additionally, you can choose handles closer to the middle to do a close-grip bench press that focuses more on your triceps and less on your chest muscles if this aligns with your training goals.
2. Overhead presses
Multi grip swiss bar overhead presses could be done with just the bar and weights but most people will prefer using a rack. This makes it a lot more convenient to get heavy weights to the right height.
Once you have this, take the following steps to do a multi grip bar overhead press with a rack:
- Find a multi grip bar rack and rack the bar at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the multi grip bar with your hands on the handles that align the most with your training goals. When in doubt, hold the ones slightly wider than shoulder width or closer.
- Unrack the multi grip bar and take a few steps back so that you have room to do the exercise. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width. Hold the multi grip bar at about shoulder height. Your elbows can point slightly more forward than just a horizontal line with your shoulders.
- Slowly move the multi grip bar up until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Move your head backward and out of the way when the bar is around chin height.
- Lower the multi grip bar back into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion. Again move your head backward when needed.
Similar to bench presses, the neutral grips of swiss bars help you keep your upper arms at a safe angle during overhead presses. This time you want your upper arms to point forward enough.
Another consequence of this upper arm angle is that overhead presses focus a bit more on the front part of the deltoids (main shoulder muscle) and a bit less on the side part. You will still engage your tricep muscles a good amount.
The closer the swiss bar handles you choose, the more overhead presses will focus on the front part of the deltoids.
3. Bent-over rows
For bent-over rows you only need a good swiss bar and enough weight plates. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Load the desired number of weight plates on the swiss bar and stand in front of it.
- Put your feet at about shoulder width, grab the swiss bar at about shoulder width or wider, and lift up the swiss bar with your legs until you stand up straight. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree or smaller angle to the ground. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now but hold the swiss bar tightly.
- Bend your elbows and move your shoulder blades back until the bar reaches your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your spine in a straight line, and your legs in the same position during the movement.
- Lower your hands again to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Swiss bar bent-over rows mainly work muscles like your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, trapezius, biceps, and lower back muscles.
The main reasons why you would use a multi grip swiss bar for this exercise are if you find the neutral grips more comfortable on your wrists and/or find it easier to keep your upper arms close to your body.
Most people will not invest in a multi grip swiss bar for only the bent-over rows but if you already have/plan to invest in this bar, you may as well give this exercise a try to see how much you like it.
4. Bicep (hammer) curls
The next exercise again does not require that much equipment. This time you don’t even need that many weight plates to make the exercise challenging enough.
Once you have the right gear, take the following steps to do a multi grip bar bicep hammer curl:
- Load the desired number of weight plates on the multi grip bar and stand in front of it. Put your hands at about shoulder width or whatever handles come closest to that.
- Lift the multi grip bar with a straight back until you stand up straight. Keep your arms as close to stretched as possible for now. The bar will rest against your thighs or hips.
- Slowly fold your arms at the elbows as far as you comfortably can. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower the multi grip bar back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Multi grip swiss bar hammer curls work your muscles in a different ratio than regular bicep curls due to the different wrist angle.
More specifically, you focus slightly less on the biceps brachii (most visible bicep muscle) and more on the biceps brachialis (deeper upper arm muscle) and brachioradialis (forearm) muscles.
Multi grip bars with angled handles instead of completely neutral will still cause a similar effect but to a smaller extent.
Two other reasons why you would consider multi grip swiss bar hammer curls are because they can be more comfortable on your wrists and because they engage stabilizing muscles less compared to dumbbells.
For swiss bar deadlifts you need the bar and enough weight plates, preferably bumper plates. Once you have these, to do a swiss bar deadlift take the following steps:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width in front of a weighted swiss bar.
- Slightly fold your legs at the knees and tilt your upper body forward to grab the swiss bar on the ground. Keep your spine straight and grab handles that are wider than shoulder width apart.
- Tilt back your upper body and stretch your legs in one continuous motion until your upper body and legs are stretched in one straight line. When doing a deadlift it is very important to keep your spine in a straight line during the exercise.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2 by first tilting your upper body forward (with a straight back) and then folding your knees.
You can deadlift with a swiss bar but this does influence the exercise somewhat. Because of the wider bar, you have to bend forward more.
In turn, this leads to more focus on your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles and a bit less focus on your quadriceps.
Some people also prefer the feel of the neutral/angled handles over a straight barbell.
Most people need a good amount of weight to make deadlifts challenging enough but you want to start on the lighter side to feel exactly how much more challenging the swiss bar makes the movement.
6. Skull crushers
To do skull crushers most people prefer the comfort of a weight bench but you could do the exercise on the ground too. Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a football bar skull crusher:
- Load the football bar in front of the bench, lift it on your lap, and carefully lie down with it.
- Lie on the weight bench with the football bar in your hands. Hold it at about shoulder width or wider. Your upper arms should lean slightly more back than vertical and your lower arms with the football bar can hang down behind your head.
- Slowly raise the football bar by stretching your arms until your arms are fully stretched. Keep your wrists straight and your body and upper arms in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower the football bar back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Skull crushers are done to isolate your tricep muscles. The name for this football bar exercise is not only meant as a joke.
When first trying football bar skull crushers you don’t want to be too optimistic about your capabilities due to the position of the weight. Start with light or no extra resistance and build up from there.
7. Front raises
You only need a swiss bar and a few weight plates for the next exercise. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a swiss bar front raise:
- Load the desired number of weight plates on the swiss bar and stand in front of it. Put your hands at about shoulder width or whatever handles come closest to that.
- Lift the swiss bar bar with a straight back until you stand up straight. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing down. The bar will rest against your thighs or hips.
- Slowly raise the swiss bar until your arms are about horizontal while keeping your arms slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the swiss bar back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Swiss bar front raises are a straightforward movement with a straightforward effect. This exercise will isolate the front part of your deltoids (the main shoulder muscle).
The main benefit of the swiss bar is again wrist comfort and not engaging as many stabilizing muscles compared to something like dumbbells.
You preferably want a weight bench for the multi grip bar pullover but you could do a version with a more limited range of motion on the ground. Take the following steps to do the exercise with a weight bench:
- Load the multi grip bar in front of the bench, lift it on your lap, and carefully lie down with it. Hold the multi grip bar at about shoulder width.
- Lie on the weight bench with your head on the end of the bench.
- Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
- Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. To engage your back muscles more instead of your lower chest bring your elbows slightly more sideways and away from your body. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
The version of the multi grip bar pullover above aims to isolate your latissimus dorsi upper back muscle. You can also bring your elbows closer to your body to focus more on your lower chest muscles.
9. Ab roll-outs
This next exercise implements the swiss bar in a relatively unusual way. In essence, all you need besides the bar is two weight plates with a big diameter. However, a soft pad for your knees can improve comfort a lot.
Once you have the right equipment, take the following steps to do a swiss bar ab roll-out:
- Load one weight plate on each side of the swiss bar, sit in front of it on your knees (on a soft pad if you have one), and put your hands on handles at about shoulder width or narrower. Keep your body in a straight line from your knees to the top of your head during the rest of the exercise.
- Roll the swiss bar forward in a controlled motion, preferably until your stomach is right above the ground.
- Slowly roll back into the position of step 2.
Swiss bar ab roll-outs work your ab and oblique muscles to keep your body straight. While it may not look that impressive, this can be a challenging movement.
If you are more of a beginner you can start with smaller rolling distances instead of until your stomach is right above the ground.
10. Inverted rows
In theory, inverted rows only require a sturdy bar rack and a multi grip bar. In practice, most people will need something like a weighted vest to make the movement challenging enough.
Once you have the right equipment, take the following steps to do a multi grip bar inverted row:
- Rack the multi grip bar at slightly more than an arm’s length above the ground.
- Sit or lie down with your back on the ground under the multi grip bar. Hold the multi grip bar at about shoulder width or wider.
- Move your body so your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line.
- Raise your body by bending your elbows and moving your shoulder blades back until your body reaches the bar. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Slowly lower yourself again until you are back in the position of the third step.
A bent-over row involves a bent-over position and moving an external weight up and down. With this inverted row, you will move your body weight up and down in a way that targets similar upper body muscles.
The main benefits of using a multi grip swiss bar instead of a barbell are the same. Some people find the neutral grips more comfortable and easier to keep their upper arms close to their bodies.
11. Neutral grip pushups
You could do neutral grip pushups with just the swiss bar and weight plates but most people will prefer a sturdy rack. For both versions, a weighted vest is likely needed to make the exercise challenging enough.
Take the following steps to do a swiss bar neutral grip pushup with a bar rack:
- Rack the swiss bar close to the ground.
- Grab the swiss bar handles that are about shoulder width apart or narrower. Your arms start slightly less than stretched.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels and your shoulders are right above your wrists.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the bar. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in the position from the second step.
Swiss bar neutral grip pushups are basically the bench press movement but inverted. The benefits of using this type of specialty barbell are similar.
Many people find the angles of the swiss bar handles a lot more comfortable on their wrists than doing pushups on the ground. Additionally, it becomes easier to keep your upper arms at angles with lower injury risk.