Specialty Barbells: Unique Ways to Improve Your Workouts

Specialty Barbells Unique Ways to Improve Your Workouts, August 2021

If you are serious about strength training, at some point in your training cycle, specialty barbells will become essential tools in improving your overall PBs.

The theory behind this is simple: our bodies respond well to progressive overload (increasing in volume or intensity) each time we work out.

However, if you are continually doing the same exercises, using the same form, month after month, you will naturally develop some imbalances or poor lifting habits that will inhibit your from progressing. 

This is where specialty barbells save the day (or rather, the training cycle). These unique barbells allow athletes to add more variation to the way they train their main lifts.

These variations in turn teach the body to lift in a more effective bar path, and strengthen different muscle imbalances the athlete might have. The result? Serious gains.

In today’s article, I am going to go over my top recommendations for specialty barbells for serious and beginner strength athletes, including where to buy them. You likely know about deadlift bars and regular barbells, but these specialty bars provide different advantages.

All of these barbells can be easily incorporated into your current training regime to effectively increase your overall power and strength (and of course, get shredded along the way). 

The Best Specialty Barbells to Improve Your Workouts

#1. Trap Bar - Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar

If you are looking to increase your overall deadlift PB, consider investing in a trap bar.

The trap bar is one of the specialty barbells that I use most in my strength and conditioning workouts. 

You have probably seen the trap bar before at your local gym; rather than standing behind a straight bar while deadlifting, the trap bar has a hexagonal shape that you can stand inside of while completing your lift.

The trap bar also features dual handles positioned intuitively at either end of the bar to suit your natural grip while lifting. 

  • Handles 25" On Center
  • 8.25 " Floor to Center of Handle
  • 16" Loadable Sleeve Length
  • 60 lbs

If you find conventional deadlifts to be an awkward movement, the trap bar is unique to this specialty barbells list because it allows you to deadlift in a more ergonomic and neutral body position.  Let me talk you through some of the benefits of the trap bar as a result of its comfortable design.

A lot of trainers will agree that trap bars are easier on your back while lifting. Now, I will remind you here that regardless of the kind of bar you are lifting with, standard or trap specialty barbells, you need to make sure that you are always lifting a weight that you have warmed up and trained towards, with correct form, in order to avoid injury. Trap bar specialty barbells are not a magical solution to allow you to lift a ton of weight in a deadlift with poor form.

However, when used correctly, trap bar specialty barbells put less force on your lumbar spine during the lift. The trap bar allows the weight you are lifting to be centered with your body (rather than in front of your body like a standard bar), which creates improved alignment, balance, and decreased tension on your lumbar spine. 

In this way, the trap bar can be an excellent tool to train functional strength in athletes who are trying to limit the amount of force their back endures during lifting. Trap style barbells are also ideal for athletes who are relatively new to lifting, because performing a deadlift using trap barbells is far more intuitive and less technical than learning to deadlift with standard straight barbells.

Aside from deadlifts, trap bar specialty barbells have a wide variety of strength and conditioning training uses. If you are looking for more variety in your home gym strength training, consider levelling up your pull strength power by using the trap bar to perform single leg deadlifts, jump deadlifts, split squats, farmer’s walks, and lunges. 

A trap style Rogue barbell has everything you need and more to train successfully with these unique and versatile specialty barbells. Specifically, I recommend the Rouge TB-2 trap bar to help you crush your strength workouts and power up your deadlift PB. 

The Rouge TB-2 trap bar is 88.5” long and weighs 60lbs (standard in the world of trap specialty barbells). It is manufactured in the USA and features high quality US Steel construction to guarantee a durable and long lasting specialty bar. Better yet, the intuitive hand grips are designed with knurled texture to enhance your grip during your heaviest lifts. 

You might also notice barbell collars in the picture, which can be used in tandem for an even safer lifting experience.

Purchase your Rouge TB-2 trap bar on the Rogue barbell online website for $395 and immediately expand the strength training possibilities of your home gym. 


#2. Safety Squat Bar - SB-1 Safety Squat Bar

Just as trap bar specialty barbells can improve your overall deadlift strength, safety squat specialty barbells can do the same for the power of your back squat.

Everyone who trains strength knows that there is nothing more impressive (or bad ass) than being able to sit down and stand up again under a heavy loaded barbell.

To help you achieve beast mode lower body strength, safety squat specialty barbells allow you to add more variation to your squat training routine to help you add serious kilos to your overall lift.

  • Weight: 70LB
  • Black Cerakote Finish
  • Fully welded design
  • 1.5" diameter formed solid steel shaft

Here is the difference between squatting with a standard Olympic bar versus a safety squat specialty bar: while you are under a safety squat bar, the weight is sitting higher on your body, to the point where you need to fight harder to stay upright during your squat.

The benefit of this safety squat bar positioning is that you are training your upper body to remain upright in a barbell squat movement. 

Therefore, using a safety squat bar is an excellent training variation for athletes who have developed a bad habit of pitching forward during their back squat.

If you tip forward during a barbell back squat, you throw your body out of alignment, out of balance, and set yourself for an ineffective lift that puts you at a higher risk for injury. Training with safety squat specialty barbells is so important because you teach your body to counteract that poor form. 

As well, squatting with a safety squat bar in general creates less risk for injury in comparison to standard barbells. While under safety squat specialty barbells, your more upright position naturally puts less pressure on your lower back. As a result, your knees and hips remain more open, and your core is working hard to stay in this upright position. Talk about the ultimate full body workout!

Finally, let's talk about grip on safety squat specialty barbells. Unlike a standard bar that requires a lot of shoulder mobility to lock the straight barbell firmly over your back, safety squat specialty barbells have comfortable, padded grips that allow you to hold the barbell in front of your body, putting you in a more natural position.

This is a great solution for athletes who are recovering from a shoulder injury, have limited shoulder mobility, or who simply want to rest their shoulders during leg day instead of taxing them by locking in a straight bar during their back squat. 

The bottom line is, training with safety squat specialty barbells can help teach your body the technical form that is required to perform an effective back squat. Combine squatting with safety squat bars and standard bars to maximize your full body strength training. You can also use safety squat specialty barbells to effectively perform box squats, good mornings, and walking lunges. 

Where to buy yours? I recommend the safety squat bars from Rogue barbell as a high quality choice for a reliable home gym purchase. 

Rogue sells safety squat bars that prioritize balanced weight distribution in their design, to ensure that the specialty bar is balanced and optimal for consistent, heavy strength training.

With solid steel, all American manufacturing, a fully welded design, and comfortable foam padding over the parts of the bar that make contact with your back, the SB-1 Rogue Safety Bar is a no-brainer for athletes looking to maximize their lower body strength training potential in their home gym. 

The SB-1 Rogue Safety Bar is $415, which may sound pricey, but consider it a once in a lifetime purchase. The high quality manufacturing required to meet Rogue barbell standards promises that this safety squat specialty barbell will get you through even your most challenging, sweat inducing workouts. 


#3. Swiss Bar - Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip Bar

If you want to maximize your bench press form and strength, swiss bar specialty barbells are the natural next step progression in your upper body training routine.

Swiss bar specialty barbells are a unique twist on your standard barbell design that is optimal for adding variation and raw power to your upper body workouts.

As a result, it is a key training tool for football players, powerlifters, body builders, and other strength athletes.

To imagine what makes swiss bar specialty barbells so special, picture this: instead of holding onto a straight standard barbell, swiss bar specialty barbells have a rectangular grip section that features grip options at different widths and angles apart.

  • Multi neutral-grip / Swiss Bar / Football Bar design
  • 2 Angled Handles spaced at 10”, 4 Vertical Handles spaced at 20” and 28.5”
  • Handle diameter: 1.25”
  • Sleeve diameter: 1.91”

The idea is that Swiss bar specialty barbells allow you to vary the way you grip the barbell during upper body workouts, in order to put less pressure on your wrists and shoulders, and make more gains in your triceps and chest.

So, swiss bar specialty barbells are a popular choice among athletes who want to train heavy on their chest and tricep days, without overusing their shoulders and wrists (and potentially setting themselves up for injury).

Unlike bench pressing with a standard barbell, Swiss bar specialty barbells allow athletes to push in a neutral position (palms facing each other) which is arguably more comfortable and intuitive for the athlete’s upper body. 

A common misconception that strength athletes switch from a straight bar to a swiss bar for their bench press training is that they will be able to lift more weight. In fact, because swiss bar specialty barbells don’t engage your shoulders as much as the regular barbell does, you are lifting less muscle power, meaning you will likely be able to bench press less weight than you are used to.

So, what is the benefit? Instead of relying on your shoulders to make the lift, swiss bar specialty barbells force your triceps to do more of the work. Bench pressing with a Swiss bar seriously engages and strengthens your triceps, which will in the long run help you lift more while benching with a standard bar.

As well, the possibilities for strength training with Swiss bar specialty barbells does not stop there. Strength athletes also know that Swiss bar specialty barbells can do some serious improvement work on your overall power in shoulder presses, barbell rows, barbell hammer curls, and skull crushers too. All of this training will again transfer over to increasing your bench press PB, while sculpting you a pretty shredded upper body. 

For a high quality swiss bar, I again recommend you check out Rogue barbell for the Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip bar.

The Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip specialty bar is a heavy duty, versatile Swiss bar that will transform your chest and triceps days for good. Using angled grips at 10”, 20”, and 28.5” apart, the Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip gives you the freedom to train close grip and wide grip lifts while alleviating the pressure on your wrists and shoulders. 

What I personally appreciate about the Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip in particular is that it is compatible with standard power racks and Olympic sized plates. Not all Swiss bars are rackable on the J-hooks of power racks, so this thoughtful feature on the Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip makes it more safe and effective for use in your home gym.

You can pick up your Rogue MG-3 Multi Grip from the Rogue website for $295- a low price to pay for some serious upper body gains.


#4. Fat/Axle Bar - Rogue Axle Bar

A lesser known but incredibly effective specialty barbell is the “Fat” or Axle Bar. The Axle Bar gained in popularity with the rise of CrossFit, as it provides an exciting variation to the standard barbell design and size in competition lifting.

Let me explain: Fat or Axle specialty barbells averaged about 2” in diameter, which is double the width of the standard Olympic barbell. As you can imagine, a wider bar creates a unique challenge for the athlete’s grip strength.

The variations don’t stop there. Axle specialty barbells are also shorter and lighter than standard barbells.  

  • Diameter: 1.9"
  • Rogue Signature Black Powder Coat Finish for increased grip
  • 1.5” sch. 80 pipe construction
  • Overall Length: 5' (the regular Rogue Axle is 7')

For this purpose, they are sometimes the more preferred barbell option for smaller or shorter athletes, beginner strength trainees, and athletes who are performing more dynamic movements with the barbell that don’t want to be bogged down by the bigger, heavier challenge of standard barbells.

However, that is not to say that Axle specialty barbells are easier to use. Their unique design creates some serious challenges that can in some cases make lifts feel even more difficult. 

You might also consider using Fat Gripz to simulate the benefits that Axle barbells offer.

For example, in comparison to a standard barbell, the axel does not allow weights to spin around the bar. This means that when the bar gets momentum, instead of the weights spinning, the entire bar will want to spin. This can create the effect of making the Axle specialty bar feel heavier in the hands of the athlete controlling it. 

With that being said, Axle specialty barbells are not recommended for Olympic weightlifting. The challenge they present by being wider and thus more difficult to grip can pose a real risk of injury when athletes are performing more technical movements like snatches or cleans that really demand you to move and grab the bar quickly. 

The most popular strength exercises to train with the axle bar is the press or the deadlift. In both situations, the fat or axle bar will seriously train the athletes overall grip strength, making these full body exercises even more functional.

Finally, unlike standard barbells, Axle specialty barbells have no bend or give to them. Most athletes who train heavy deadlifts are used to the feeling of being able to “pull the slack out of the bar” at the beginning of the lift. This is entirely possible with the slight flexibility of an Olympic bar; you can begin to pull up the bar before the plates move.

This is not the same with Axle specialty barbells. Because axle bars have no give, as soon as you lift, the whole bar is coming up. This can provide a unique challenge in maintaining correct form and tension during your deadlift, and increasing your power at the beginning of your lift.

The best Axle specialty barbells  available for purchase right now, in my opinion, are the Rogue Stubby Axle Bars. 

Like all of the Rogue barbell options, the Rogue Stubby Axle Bar is a durable and heavy duty training option that can withstand all conditions and intensity of your workout routine.

The Rogue Stubby Axle Bar is unique because it is short- 5” long instead of 7”. This “stubby” length makes the Rogue Stubby Axle Bar ideal for training your wrist and grip during dynamic movements like presses, barbell lunges, barbell curls, and bent over barbell rows. 

Personally, I like to use my Rogue Stubby Axle Bar during HIIT training sessions. I will perform timed sets of different full body barbell movements, and the Rogue Stubby Axle Bar’s short and light design makes it efficient to change from one exercise to another, fast. Combined, this creates one serious calorie burning workout.

The Rogue Stubby Axle Bar is available for only $95 on the Rogue barbell website, making it a cost efficient way to expand your home gym training possibilities. 


#5. Camber Bar - Rogue CB-1 Camber Bar

If you are looking for a serious, “beast mode” training squat accessory, look no further than Camber specialty barbells. 

Admittedly, Camber specialty barbells can look pretty intimidating to any level of lifter, so let me break down this unique barbell for you.

The Camber specialty barbell sits on an athlete’s back similar to how a regular barbell would.

The difference lies in the way the weights on Camber specialty barbells are suspended below the bar, 14” lower to be exact.

  • Steel Construction
  • Compatible with any standard Oly Bar
  • Includes set of Black Proloc™ Strongman Collars
  • Size Options: Small (14"), Large (16")

Another unique feature of Camber specialty barbells is the angle at which the plates sit. Instead of being aligned with the bar, as plates are loaded on a standard barbell, the Camber bar situates the loaded plates slightly off center from the bar

Together, these different features on a Camber specialty barbell make it more difficult for the athlete to perform a barbell back squat. The athlete might find it harder to maintain balance and alignment under a loaded Camber bar, especially because the Camber bar has the potential of the weights swinging with momentum, which really challenges your full body strength and ability to maintain tension in your core throughout the lift. 

Because of this potential swinging of the weights on the Camber bar, start with a low weight when you are training with one; the goal is to remain in control of your movement throughout the lift, and prioritize quality of movement, safety, and balance over speed or strength. 

With that being said, because of the difficulty of performing a squat under a loaded Camber bar, I would not recommend this squat accessory specialty bar to novice lifts. A wise piece of advice would be to experiment with and master the standard barbell squat and safety squat lift before you graduate to the Camber specialty bar. 

Since Camber specialty barbells really challenge an athletes ability to remain strong and stable in their bar path during the squat, the Camber specialty barbell is a great choice for advanced lifters who are looking for a squat accessory that will carry over to improving their squat PB.

As well, the benefits of Camber specialty barbells do not stop there. You can also use these specialty bars to train your core stability during lunges, good mornings, step ups, and even upper body movements like bench press and overhead press. 

Rogue barbell features a top choice for Camber specialty barbells: the Proloc™ Camber Bar Attachment. 

What I appreciate about Rogue’s Proloc™ Camber Bar Attachment is that it does not require you to purchase a brand new bar. Rather, this attachment connects to any standard Olympic barbell that you already own, to quickly transform that bar into a Camber bar. This is particularly useful for home gym owners, because you don’t need to find space for a whole new bar when your Camber is not in use.

On the Rogue website, you can select between the small 14” Proloc™ Camber Bar Attachment for $132 (best as a bench press accessory or for smaller lifters) or the larger 16” Attachment for $165 (ideal for squatting). Both choices are an affordable and space efficient way to maximize your strength training on your core lifts.


Final Thoughts

As you can see from the list above, no matter your training goals or level of lifting experience, there is a specialty barbell that can help get any athlete to the level of strength they aspire to. 

Greatness can’t be achieved without a little bit of help; consider specialty barbells to be your ticket to great power and great strength under the barbell in your squats, presses, and deadlifts.

Denver Matheson
 

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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