Specialty Barbells: The Ultimate Guide!


Specialty barbells were popularized by the Westside Barbell powerlifting team.

They let you overload your muscles in novel ways to stimulate faster size and strength gains. They are also fantastic for strengthening weak muscle groups and decreasing your risk of injury.

If you want to get jacked and freaky strong then specialty barbells are for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Best Squat Specialty Bars
  • Part 2: The Best Bench Press Specialty Bars
  • Part 3: The Best Deadlift Specialty Bars

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how some of the best athletes in the world use specialty barbells for the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Some of the best specialty barbells include the safety squat bar, the earthquake bar and the trap bar. All of these barbells are used to stimulate faster size and strength gains while minimizing your risk for injury.

Here are my all-time favorites: 

The 3 Best Specialty Barbells

The best specialty barbell for the squat is the safety squat bar. Check it out:

The safety squat bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. It has a large padded surface that rests on your shoulders which makes it very comfortable to squat with.

It also has a built-in camber which moves the center of gravity further forwards while you perform the exercise.

This forces your lower and upper back muscles to work much harder while you squat. It also helps you to squat with a more upright posture which takes some of the pressure off your lumbar spine.

The safety squat bar is my favorite specialty bar for the squat but the cambered bar, spider bar and buffalo bar are all great options. I will cover all of these squat specialty bars in part 1 of this article.

The best specialty bar for the bench press is the earthquake bar. Check it out:

The earthquake bar is the craziest specialty bar ever invented. The idea is to hang weights or kettlebells from resistance bands on either side of the bar.

The earthquake bar is made out of bamboo so the bar and the weights shake all over the place while you press the bar. The earthquake bar may look weird but the powerlifting coach Louie Simmons says it is one of the fastest ways to improve your bench press.

There are many other great specialty bars for the bench press like the Duffalo bar, the cambered bar and the football bar. I will cover all of these bench press bars in part 2 of this article.

The best specialty bar for the deadlift is the trap bar. Check it out:

The trap bar is an awesome piece of equipment. You actually step inside of the barbell and then perform the deadlift while holding onto the handles on either side of the bar.

The trap bar deadlift overloads your lower body in a completely different way from a regular straight bar. Some people say it feels more like a squat or a leg press than a regular deadlift!

The trap bar is the only good deadlift specialty barbell on the market.

In part 3 of this article I will show you how the best bodybuilders and powerlifters in the world use the trap bar to blast through training plateaus. I hope you found this overview helpful.

Now let’s take a deeper dive into the crazy world of specialty barbells!

Part 1: The Best Squat Specialty Bars

Specialty barbells are some of the best tools you can use to improve your squat and add muscular size to your legs. This is especially true if you have been training for a long time and you have already mastered the straight-bar squat.

Many of the world’s biggest and strongest athletes use different specialty bars like the safety squat bar of the giant cambered bar to take their training to the next level.

Here is the 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw explaining why he likes specialty barbells for the squat so much:

“I get a lot of questions about why I use all the specialty bars and why I don’t just squat with the straight bar.

It’s because every specialty bar has a different purpose. And for me it has a different purpose in my training.”

There are 4 main specialty bars that you can use for the squat. Check it out:

The Best Squat Specialty Bars

All of these specialty bars deserve a place in your training. Now let’s take a closer look at each one.

Option #1: The Safety Squat Bar

The safety squat bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. I really like the one in the above picture sold from Rogue Fitness  (just click on the picture for a link to their website) but the one from Amazon is also excellent.

Here is where you can get your own:

There are two things that make the safety squat bar so unique. First of all the bar has a large padded surface that rests on your back and shoulders. This makes the safety squat bar extremely comfortable on your shoulders.

Many elite powerlifters and strongman competitors say that the safety squat bar makes it easier for them to recover for their heavy bench press and overhead press workouts because there is less stress on their shoulders.

The other cool thing about the safety squat bar is it has a built-in camber which moves the center of gravity forwards while you squat.

This forces your entire back to work much harder than normal and helps you squat with a more upright posture.

Here is the world class powerlifter Larry Wheels demonstrating how to squat with the safety squat bar:

As you can see this bar lets Larry squat with a slightly more upright posture. This is great news for anyone who normally leans forwards during a regular squat.

The truth is many of the world’s top bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongman competitors use the safety squat bar in their training. Many strongman competitors like Brian Alsruhe use this bar exclusively over the back squat! Yes, it is that good!

Here is the world’s strongest man Hafthor Bjornsson demonstrating the safety squat bar squat:

Hafthor Bjornsson used this bar extensively when he was training for the world’s strongest man competition. In fact Hafthor used this bar exclusively when he was training to deadlift 1,105 pounds in competition and break the all-time deadlift world record!

Hafthor says that this bar gives him better carryover to the deadlift and the different strongman events like the Atlas stones.

The 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw is also a big fan of the safety squat bar.

Brian almost never performs the regular back squat in his training. Instead he rotates through a different squat specialty bar each week. Check it out:

Briant Shaw’s Squat Training Schedule

  • Week 1: Safety Squat Bar
  • Week 2: Spider Bar
  • Week 3: Cambered Bar
  • Week 4: Repeat!

This is a really smart system! Brain Shaw rotates through 3 different specialty barbells to keep his body off balance and to attack his body from different angles.

The powerlifting coach Matt Wenning says that this is a great strategy to use once you have mastered the regular straight bar squat. 

The safety squat bar isn’t just for strongman competitors though. Many of the world’s top bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows use the safety squat bar extensively in their training.

Towards the end of his bodybuilding career John Meadows never performed a regular straight bar squat. Instead he focused on different specialty bars like the safety squat bar and the spider bar.

Here is one of John Meadows’ beginner-friendly leg workouts. Check it out:

John Meadows Safety Squat Bar Workout

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 20 reps
  • Exercise #2: Safety squat bar squat, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #3: Walking safety squat bar lunges, 4 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: Sissy squat machine with bands, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Glute ham raise, 3 sets to failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout John Meadows is using the safety squat bar for his primary quadriceps exercise.

John says he likes this bar because it reduces the pressure on his lower back. The built-in camber lowers the center of gravity of the exercise which reduces the pressure on your L5-vertebrae.

If you have any history of lower back pain then this bar is a lifesaver. Here is John describing the safety squat bar:

“Exercise is the squat and I really like the safety bar squat, that’s what this bar is. It’s a little easier on my lower back. You can stay more upright.

I really like the safety squat bar, it’s very easy on your lower back. It’s a very underrated piece of equipment.”

The safety squat bar is a fantastic choice for regular squats. However, there are a couple of other exercises that you have to try with this bar.

The first one is called the Hatfield overload squat. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:

The Hatfield Overload Squat

For the Hatfield overload squat you are going to hold onto the squat rack with both hands. The safety squat bar rests on your shoulders on its own so the bar is perfectly balanced on its own.

Then during the lifting phase of the exercise you use your arms to pull yourself up.

This technique lets you lift more weight than normal because you are using your legs and your arms to complete the lifting phase of the exercise.

Here is Josh Bryant describing this exercise:

“They’re holding the squat rack so when they hit a sticking point they can blast right through it.

This let’s you pull through your sticking points and overload your legs with a heavy weight.

If you’re a bodybuilder this is like constant time under tension with a huge overload.”

Josh uses the Hatfield overload squat with bodybuilders and powerlifters to overload their body with a heavier than normal weight. This is an incredible exercise and it is obviously impossible to do with a regular straight bar.

Another awesome exercise that you can do with this bar is the safety squat bar good morning. Here is the powerlifting legend Dan Greene demonstrating this exercise:

The Safety Squat Bar Good Morning

In my experience the safety squat bar is far superior to a regular 45-pound barbell for any type of good morning exercise.

First of all the safety squat bar is much more comfortable on your upper back and shoulders. You don’t have to worry about the bar rolling off your back in the bottom position because of the giant padded surface.

The other benefit of this bar for good mornings is the built-in camber moves the center of gravity forwards and forces your lower and upper back to work much harder to stabilize your body.

The bar literally feels like it is trying to throw your face onto the ground!

The safety squat bar good morning is a tremendous exercise and a great form of “chaos training” for the squat and deadlift.

If you get strong on this exercise then you will be able to save yourself on squats and deadlifts when your upper body gets too far out in front of your body.

Here is where you can purchase your own safety squat bar:

If you are only going to get one specialty barbell for the squat then make it the safety squat bar.

It is an amazing piece of equipment and an absolute must-have piece of equipment for any serious bodybuilding, powerlifting or strongman gym.

Option #2: The Giant Cambered Bar

The giant cambered bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. I really like the one in the above picture sold from Rogue Fitness (just click on the picture for a link to their website) but the one from Amazon is also excellent.

Here is where you can get your own:

The main feature of the giant cambered bar is – you guessed it – the giant camber! The bar has a large camber which lowers the center of gravity for the exercise.

Here is a perfect demonstration of the cambered bar squat:

The center of gravity for this exercise is closer to your waist than it is your shoulders! This gives the cambered bar squat a completely different feel from regular squats.

The 4x world’s strongest man Brian Shaw is a big fan of the cambered bar. He uses the giant cambered bar squat as one of his core lower body exercises.

Here is one of Brian’s typical squat workouts using this bar. Check it out:

Brian Shaw Cambered Bar Squat Workout

  • Exercise #1: Cambered bar box squat, 5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Hip extension machine, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Alternating one-leg leg press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Lying leg curl, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Brian Shaw says that this bar gives his body a completely different feel vs a regular 45-pound barbell or even a safety squat bar. Check it out:

“I feel the giant cambered bar different than I do with a safety squat bar or with a spider bar. It has a different effect. So what I’m going for right now is the leg drive actually getting off the box.

I feel like it’s a little bit easier to lock up when I’m underneath this bar and sit back to the box and then really emphasize driving my hips as I’m getting up off the box. So that’s the main purpose there.”

The giant cambered bar is a favorite with many strongman competitors but it is also very popular with different powerlifting and bodybuilding coaches.

The legendary powerlifter Matt Wenning is also a big fan of this exercise. Matt believes that anyone who has mastered the regular straight bar squat needs to start experimenting with different specialty bars to continue making progress.

One of Matt’s favorite strategies is to use the regular straight bar squat once every 3-4 weeks for his max effort exercise.

On the other weeks he uses different specialty bars with bands or chains to attack weak points and keep his body off balance. For example:

Matt Wenning’s Squat Programming

  • Week #1: Specialty Bar Squat With Bands Or Chains
  • Week #2: Specialty Bar Squat With Bands Or Chains
  • Week #3: Regular Squat With Straight Weight

Matt believes you can get the best of both worlds by using specialty bars for most of your workouts but also using the straight bar every 3-4 weeks to perfect your technique.

Matt also likes to use the giant cambered bar for his dynamic effort squat workouts. Check it out:

The Cambered Bar Speed Squat

For this workout Matt is performing dynamic effort box squats with the giant cambered bar and chains.

Matt isn’t married to one particular exercise or training style. He believes you need many different tools in your training toolbox to get stronger and to stay healthy over the long run.

The giant cambered bar squat fits Matt’s training philosophy perfectly.

This should come as no surprise but the bodybuilding coach John Meadows is also a big fan of the giant cambered bar. The center of gravity for this exercise is even lower than the safety squat bar squat which makes it that much easier on your lower back.

Here is John demonstrating the giant cambered bar squat:

The Cambered Bar Free Squat

If you have been training for over 3 decades like John then I am sure you have some nagging injuries that you are dealing with. Using a specialty barbell like the giant cambered bar is a great way to reduce the compressive forces on your lower back while still training really, really hard.

If you want to purchase your own giant cambered bar then here are 2 of your best options:

This bar is not as essential as the safety squat bar but it is still a great piece of equipment.

If you are serious about taking your training to the next level then purchasing your own giant camber bar is a great investment.

Option #3: The Spider Bar

The spider bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. I really like the one in the above picture sold from EliteFTS (just click on the picture for a link to their website) but the one from Edge Fitness is also excellent.

Here is where you can get your own:

The spider bar was invented by Dave Tate, the owner of EliteFTS.

The spider bar is like a hybrid between a safety squat bar and a cambered bar. This is a crazy specialty bar but many bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongman competitors have found ways to use this bar in their training.

The 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw uses this bar about once every 3 weeks. Here is Brian performing the suspended spider bar squat:

Brian says that this exercise gives him tremendous carryover to his deadlifting strength. As a professional strongman competitor Brian has to be very strong on the deadlift for different events like the Atlas stones and loaded carries.

For him the suspended spider bar squat is an excellent exercise that overloads his legs and his lower / upper back. Here is Brian’s full workout:

Brian Shaw’s Spider Bar Squat Workout

  • Exercise #1: Suspended spider bar squat with bands, 5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Belt squat, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Alternating one-leg leg press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Lying leg curl, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Pulldown cable abs, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

This shouldn’t come as a surprise but the bodybuilding coach John Meadows is also a big fan of this bar.

Actually this is John’s single favorite barbell for performing squats in his training. Check it out:

“This bar is tremendous, it’s a little more quad, and I feel like I can stay a little more upright.

It puts less stress on my back and more stress on my quads which is what I want.”

John is absolutely right – this might be the best specialty bar for anyone who is dealing with lower back pain.

The giant camber in the bar lowers the center of gravity for the exercise. This reduces the strain on your L5 vertebrae and allows you to squat with a more upright posture.

John often uses this as his main compound quadriceps exercise in his leg workouts. Here is John’s training routine from the above video:

John Meadows Spider Bar Squat Workout

  • A1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of x 8 reps**
  • B1: Spider bar squat, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • C1: Vertical leg press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • C2: Sissy squat, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • D1: Smith machine split squat, 3 sets of 12-15 reps

**On your last set perform a double drop set, then perform 10 partial reps in the bottom position of the exercise, then perform a 10-second iso-hold near the bottom position to create even more tension on your hamstrings.

The bottom line is the spider bar is a tremendous piece of equipment. It is Dave Tate’s favorite specialty bar and it is easy to see why. It combines the best aspects of the safety squat bar and the spider bar into one kick-ass exercise!

If you want to use this bar in your own training then here are 2 of your best choices:

Before we move on there is one more specialty bar you should know about. Check it out:

Option #4: The Buffalo Bar

The buffalo bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. I really like the one in the above picture sold from EliteFTS (just click on the picture for a link to their website) but the one from Edge Fitness is also excellent.

Here is where you can get your own:

The buffalo bar is a very simple but useful specialty bar for the squat. The buffalo bar has a small curve which makes the bar much more comfortable on your back than a regular 45-pound barbell.

Here is the Westside Barbell powerlifting team giving a perfect demonstration of the buffalo bar squat: 

Here is the full Westside Barbell squat workout in case you were curious:

Westside Barbell squat workout

  • Exercise #1: Buffalo bar box squat against bands, 8-10 sets of 2 reps
  • Exercise #2: Speed deadlift against bands, 4-6 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #3: Reverse hyperextension, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Belt squat, 4 sets of 8-12 reps

You can think of the buffalo bar as a slight improvement over the regular barbell for anyone trying to build a big squat.

The small curve makes the bar a little more comfortable on your upper back and shoulders. It also lowers the center of gravity of the exercise by a little bit which gives the exercise a slightly different feel from a straight bar.

In my opinion the safety squat bar and the giant cambered bar will give you more “bang for your buck.” However, if Richard Branson is your new sugar Daddy then the Buffalo barbell is a great investment.

Here is where you can get your own:

Note: this is a judgement free website. I know how much you want that brand new buffalo bar and I will never judge you for what you do with Richard Branson in your free time.

Part 2: The Best Bench Press Specialty Bars

“How much ‘ya bench?” That is the question!

In my experience using specialty barbells is a powerful way to blast through a training plateau on the bench press.

In fact the world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox uses bench press specialty barbells to help take his training to the next level!

There are 4 main specialty barbells you can use to blow up your bench press:

The Best Bench Press Specialty Bars

In my opinion the earthquake bar is hands-down the most important bench press specialty barbell ever invented. It is right up there with the safety squat bar as one of the best pieces of equipment money can buy.

If Elon Musk has not agreed to sponsor your weightlifting career then I would focus on the earthquake bar before any of the others.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these bars.

Option #1: The Earthquake Bar

The Earthquake bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. It was designed to improve your bench press strength AND make your upper body healthier all at the same time.

If you want to purchase your own then here are your best options:

The earthquake bar is a new and improved version of the original bamboo bar.

The earthquake bar is made out of bamboo and wobbles all over the place while you perform the exercise. Instead of loading up the bar with 45 pound plates you actually hang weights or kettlebells from either side of the bar.

The weights also wobble around while you perform the exercise which makes the bar even harder to stabilize!

Here is the 582 pound bench presser Marc Bell demonstrating the earthquake bar bench press:

As you can see the weights and the bar are wobbling all over the place while you perform the bench press.

This forces your primary muscles like your chest / shoulders / triceps and your smaller supporting muscles like your rotator cuff and scapular retractors to work much harder than normal.

When the weights start bouncing around your body has to activate more muscle fibers to perform the exercise correctly. Over time this increased muscle fiber recruitment will result in a stronger bench press and a bigger upper body.

Marc Bell believes that the earthquake bar is the real deal. He uses it once per week on his dynamic effort workouts to build muscle mass, strength and stability in his upper body. Check it out:

No matter how much you try to stabilize the weight… that bar is going to take you where it wants when you get to a certain weight.”

Marc Bell isn’t the only person who believes the earthquake bar is the real deal. The powerlifting coach Louie Simmons is also a big fan of this bar. Check it out:

Talk about an impressive bench press!

This bar is much harder than it looks. Even a small amount of weight can be very challenging. There is a joke that if you don’t know what you are doing then the bar will fall on your face and knock your teeth out!

Louie Simmons used the earthquake bar to rehabilitate his shoulder after receiving shoulder replacement surgery. Here is Louie Simmons bench pressing with the earthquake bar:

It’s helped me rehab. It worlds all the stabilizers and with heavier weights it makes you stronger.

I used a bar like this when I had shoulder socket surgery. 3 months later I bench pressed 300 pounds in a t-shirt.

Hardly anyone else can touch a weight after 3 months!

Talk about an endorsement! Louie Simmons is right – most people will not be able to touch a weight for the first several months following a shoulder replacement surgery.

The fact that Louie Simmons could bench press 300 pounds within 3 months is a testament to the power of the earthquake bar.

I mentioned earlier that Julius Maddox likes to use this bar to beef up his bench press. It’s true!

Julius often uses the earthquake bar on overhead presses to improve his shoulder strength and stability. Check it out:

The earthquake bar overhead press is another tremendous exercise for improving your overhead press.

In case you were wondering here is Julius’ full workout from this video:

Julius Maddox’s Bench Press Accessory Workout

  • A1: Push ups, 10 x 25, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Standing “ITY” raises, 3 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Overhead press w/ earthquake bar, 6 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

As you can see Julius uses the bamboo bar overhead press as a core accessory exercise. This is a great strategy to use if your bench press is stalled because of your weak overhead pressing strength.

There is one more exercise that you can perform with the earthquake bar that I think you should know about. I am talking about the earthquake bar lying triceps extension. Check it out:

The earthquake bar lying triceps extension was popularized by Louie Simmons and the westside barbell powerlifting team.

Here is Louie describing this exercise:

“I had a powerlifter who uses the bamboo bar exclusively for triceps extensions. His physical therapist said within 4 months he can handle 2 pounds for triceps extensions.

Within 2 months my powerlifter was handling 135 for sets of 20! Basically because of this bar working the stabilizers of the triceps.”

Performing lying triceps extensions with the earthquake bar is so effective because you have to recruit more muscle fibers in your triceps to perform the exercise.

This leads to faster size and strength gains in the triceps.

In case I have not already convinced you to buy your own earthquake bar here is one more quote by Marc Bell on the earthquake bar bench press:

“This is not just some wild circus trick. This is not just some crazy thing, I know it looks crazy, I know it looks insane, it looks like you are going to die.

The reason is things that don’t challenge you, things that aren’t going to scare you probably aren’t going to make you stronger.”

If you want to purchase your own earthquake bar then here are your best options:

If you are only going to buy one specialty barbell for the bench press then let it be the earthquake bar. You won’t regret it!

Option #2: The Duffalo Bar

The Duffalo bar was invented by Chris Duffin, the world-class powerlifter and founder of the Kabuki Strength company. The Duffalo bar is like a new and improved version of the buffalo bar.

Here is where you can get your own:

The Duffalo bar has a larger curve than a regular buffalo bar.

Chris originally designed this bar for the back squat. However, some people in his gym started using it for the bench press and they were amazed at how much better it felt on their shoulders than a regular straight bar.

Chris started experimenting on people with shoulder pain and found that they could all train without pain using the Duffalo bar.

Here is a great interview with Chris Duffin on the Duffalo bar for bench pressing:

Note: the Duffalo bar is in the background during this interview. Here is what Chris had to say about his invention:

“You’re not fighting the bar to get in position any more. It feels like when you’re bench pressing with dumbbells and you’ve got that nice natural groove.

We’ve tested people with very severe shoulder issues and they always say it feels better vs a regular straight bar.”

The Duffalo bar is so effective because it forces you to externally rotate your hands before you perform the bench press. This puts your shoulders into a better biomechanical position to perform the bench press.

Many trainees find that they can perform the bench press with less pain AND more range of motion using the Duffalo bar.

Here is an example of someone using the Duffalo bar for their dynamic effort bench press workout. Check it out:

Duffalo Bar Speed Bench Press

As you can see the Duffalo bar allows for an increased range of motion when compared to a regular straight bar. This increased range of motion is excellent for stimulating size and strength gains in the chest, shoulders and triceps.

If you want to purchase your own Duffalo bar for bench pressing then here are two great options:

This bar is less important than the Earthquake Bar but it is still a very valuable piece of equipment in your training.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger terminates your credit card bills the way he terminated Gray Davis then the first thing you should do is buy the Duffalo bar. You won’t regret it!

Option #3: The Football Bar

The football bar is a really unique piece of equipment. It allows you to perform a bench press with a neutral grip rather than a regular pronated grip.

If you want to purchase your own football bar then here are your best options:

So why would anyone want to bench press with a neutral grip? That is a great question!

The neutral grip puts less stress on your shoulders than a regular pronated grip. This makes the football bar an excellent choice for anyone who is dealing with shoulder pain or recovering from a shoulder injury.

It is also a great choice for someone who wants to increase their bench press volume or frequency without running their shoulders into the ground.

The legendary bodybuilder Branch Warren was a big proponent of the football bar bench press. He performed this exercise in almost all of his chest workouts. Check it out:

Branch Warren liked to perform the football bar bench press third in his chest routine after flat dumbbell presses and incline bench presses. Check it out:

Branch Warren’s Chest Workout

  • Exercise #1: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Football bar flat bench press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: V-bar dips, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: Machine pec dec, 3 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #6: Cable chest press, 3 sets of 8-20 reps

**Perform a triple drop set on your last set. Branch Warren used 405 pounds, 315 pounds, 225 pounds and 135 pounds for each attempt on the drop set.

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows is also a big fan of the football bar. He often uses this bar in his triceps workouts to stimulate muscular hypertrophy.

Here is John showing his preferred way to perform the bench press with the football bar:

John correctly points out that if you are trying to overload your triceps then you want to tuck your elbows in towards the sides of your body as you perform the bench press. This will increase the pressure on your triceps and decrease the amount of stress on your chest and shoulders.

If you want to purchase your own football bar then here are your best options:

The football bar is a fantastic piece of strength training equipment. It can be used for many exercises besides the bench press including triceps extensions, bicep curls and even rows.

I highly recommend you add this specialty bar to your collection.

Option #4: The Cambered Bar

The cambered bar is one of the oldest and most effective bench press specialty bars. The cambered bar has a small 2-4 inch camber which allows you to train the bench press with an increased range of motion.

If you want to purchase your own cambered bar then here is your chance:

Here is the powerlifter Jay Fry demonstrating the cambered bar bench press:

So why would anyone want to perform the bench press with an increased range of motion? Isn’t the point of the bench press to reduce your range of motion as much as possible so you can lift more weight?

The truth is the cambered bar helps you recruit more motor units in the chest / shoulders / triceps and forces your muscles to work harder. In the long run this will result in faster size and strength gains. 

The cambered bar is not just for powerlifters. It can also be used by bodybuilders to stimulate hypertrophy gains if you know what you are doing.

The bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel likes to use this exercise as a “finishing movement” for the chest. Here is Dante Trudel coaching Dusty Hanshaw on how to use this bar:

Dante Trudel recommends that you perform this exercise for sets of 20 reps with a 5-count pause on your chest. This is a 5-count pause, not a 5-second pause.

Realistically you should pause for 2 seconds before pressing the weight back up.

Dante Trudel is a big believer in loaded stretches for stimulating muscle growth. This 2-second pause with the cambered bar is Dante’s way of using loaded stretching to stimulate more muscle growth in the chest.

There are a ton of different ways to use this bar. Some trainees will even use bench press boards to limit the deficit to 1-2 inches.

The bottom line is the cambered bar is a useful tool to have in your toolbox. Here is where you can get your own:

I think the earthquake bar should be higher on your priority list but the bench press cambered bar is another excellent tool to have in your training toolbox.

Part 3: The Best Deadlift Specialty Bars

The trap bar is the only deadlift specialty bar that you should know about.

The truth is this is an unbelievable piece of equipment. Many bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongman competitors use the trap bar to take their training to the next level.

If you want to purchase your own trap bar then here are your best options:

The trap bar is primarily used for deadlifts. Here is Marc Lobliner giving a perfect demonstration of the trap bar deadlift:

As you can see the athlete steps inside of the hexagon-shaped barbell and deadlifts up the bar. The trap bar overloads your lower body in a completely different way from a regular 45-pound barbell.

Most athletes say that the trap bar deadlift feels like a hybrid between a deadlift and a leg press. The center of gravity for the exercise is directly in line with your body which increases the stress on your quads and decreases the stress on your lower back.

This can be a good thing depending on your goals.

Many powerlifters will use the trap bar in the offseason to attack weak muscle groups and to give their lower back a break from the pounding with straight bar deadlifts.

Here is an offseason deadlift workout that Steve Johnson performed using the trap bar. Check it out:

Steve Johnson’s Offseason Deadlift Workout

  • Exercise #1: Trap bar deadlift, 1 set of 4 reps
  • Exercise #2: Farmer’s walk, 2 sets of 100 feet
  • Exercise #3: Glute ham raise, 3 sets to failure
  • Exercise #4: Chest supported row, 3 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #5: Double overhand static hold, 1 set to failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

Here is Steve Johnson’s coach Josh Bryant describing the purpose of the trap bar deadlift in his training:

“These trap bar deadlifts have improved his leg drive immensely in the deadlift. Ed Coan said wow look at Steve, those trap bar deadlifts certainly helped him.”

Josh Bryant is one of the world’s top powerlifting coaches. If Josh says that the trap bar deadlift is a useful exercise then that is good enough for me!

Here is an offseason squat / deadlift workout that Josh Bryant wrote for the powerlifter Adam Ferchen using the trap bar deadlift. Check it out:

Adam Ferchen Hypertrophy Block

  • Exercise #1: Hatfield overload squats, 1 set of 5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Single-leg Romanian deadlift, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Exercise #3: Paused safety squat bar squats, 3 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #4: Trap bar deadlift, 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #5: Farmer’s walk, 2 sets of 100 feet
  • Exercise #6: Meadows row, 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #7: Double overhand deadlift static hold, 1 set to failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

Here is Josh Bryant giving another great explanation for why he is programming in the trap bar deadlift for this workout:

“Why the trap bar deadlift? Adam is a back puller. He does not drop his hips low, he pulls with his back.

These trap bar deadlifts are not only preventing overuse and protecting Adam’s back, they are also going to teach him how to get more leg drive on the competition deadlift.”

The trap bar deadlift is a great choice for powerlifters in their offseason phase of training. However, it can also be used by bodybuilders to build muscular hypertrophy on their legs and upper back.

Here is John Meadows giving a perfect demonstration of the trap bar deadlift:

John Meadows Trap Bar Deadlift

John says that the trap bar deadlift is an excellent choice for beginner bodybuilders. It lets you overload your lower back with less risk of injury vs a regular straight bar.

Remember, if you are a bodybuilder there are no exercises that you have to perform. If the trap bar allows you to get the benefits of deadlifts with less risk of injury vs a regular straight bar then that is a great choice!

The trap bar is primarily used for deadlifting but there are a few other exercises that you can perform if you are creative enough.

The 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw is a big fan of trap bar overhead presses. This exercise lets him train the overhead press with a neutral grip which lets him mimic the overhead press.

Here is a shoulder workout that Brian Shaw recently performed using the trap bar overhead press. Check it out:

Brian Shaw Overhead Press

  • Exercise #1: Trap bar overhead press, multiple sets of 4-6 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing DB overhead press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

The trap bar can also be used for different exercises like rows and even loaded carries. The world’s strongest bodybuilder Stan Efferding is a big fan of trap bar loaded carries for building size, strength and work capacity.

As you can see the trap bar is a very versatile piece of equipment. If you want to get your own trap bar then here are your best options:

The trap bar deadlift may be the missing ingredient in your quest for a bigger deadlift and a big, strong upper back. I can’t recommend this bar enough!

Conclusion

Specialty barbells are the real deal. Many of the world’s best bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongman competitors use specialty barbells to take their training to the next level.

There are a variety of specialty barbells that you can use in your training. In my experience the most important ones to have are the safety squat bar, the earthquake bar and the trap bar.

If you learn how to incorporate these specialty bars into your training then your progress will shoot through the roof! The other specialty barbells are also fantastic but in my opinion they should be lower on your priority list.

If you want to purchase the top 3 specialty bars then these links are for you:

Specialty bars may seem intimidating at first. If this describes you then here is one more quote by Charles Poliquin to pump you up even more:

“Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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