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Strength Lab: Barbells 101

posted on March 11, 2020

If you’ve spent some time back in our Strength Lab here at union Fitness, then you’ve probably noticed our large selection of barbells. Each barbell has multiple purposes and benefits. Some of them will make your training more challenging, while some of them may make training easier if you are battling with a nagging injury. The main benefit of having such a large selection of bars is variety. By having variety within your training, you will be less likely to hit a plateau, and it will keep things interesting and fun.


One of the first things you’ll notice when looking at the bars is that they have a piece of colored tape on them. This tape designates what the bar could be used for, and which area of the gym it is best suited for. Listed below are the different colors and what each of them mean.


Blue: All purpose. These are our 45lb. texas power bars. They can be used for anything from squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, overhead pressing, rows, cleans, jerks, and snatches. This is by far the most versatile bar you can find.


Yellow: Deadlift. These bars are used specifically and ONLY for deadlifting. They are thinner and a bit longer than a power bar, giving them more “flex” for lifting heavier weights from the floor.


Red: Bench Press. Here, you’ll find straight bars that are 55lbs for competition bench press use, as well as multi/ neutral grip bars used for building your bench through variations.


Orange: Squat. This is our largest variety of bars. Ranging anywhere from 55 and 60lb competition squat bars, to cambered and safety squat bars.


Next, we will go a little bit more in depth on the more specialized bars and what they have to offer for your training.


The SSB squat bar (65 lbs): This is the best speciality bar to use for building your squat. By having handles located out in front, it relieves stress on the shoulders and elbows. With the bar pad on the back, the bar is forced to sit up high on the traps. This is going to force you to use your core and upper back to keep the bar in place and prevent it from pitching you forward. Although this will make the squat more challenging, it greatly aids in building overall squatting strength.


The Cambered squat bar (65 lbs): This is a great bar to use for challenging your core and overall stability/ control during the squat. Due to the large U shape, the bar locates the weight’s center of mass much lower and out in front of the body. This will cause the bar to want to swing back and forth if you are not in the proper position and are not utilizing the proper tension throughout your core and upper body. Give this bar a shot if you want to focus on your overall stability, but be sure to start very light as it will take some time to get used to. 


The Buffalo bar (55 lbs): This multi-purpose bar can be used for both squatting and bench pressing. The slight bow of the bar helps it to sit across the shoulders in a very relaxing position during squatting, while also taking pressure off of the shoulders and elbows. During the bench press, this bar can help you work through a greater range of motion which can help to build pressing power. Be sure to go a bit lighter than you would with a standard straight bar, as it can be harder on the pecs and shoulders if they are not used to the increased range of motion.


The multi grip Football bar and Swiss bar (55lbs & 35lbs): These bars are great for building the bench press. With the grips being in a neutral position, the triceps will be emphasized more so than the standard straight bar, while also relieving stress on the shoulder joint. This bar is great when used for performing a floor press as well. Although a bit more challenging, both of these bars will greatly help to build overall bench press strength.


The Axel bar (55 lbs): Another great tool for building a strong bench press. With this bar being much larger in diameter, you are forced to focus on stability and control. Because of this, you are forced to used your main pressing muscles (triceps and lats) in order to stabilize the bar under a challenging load. Because of the larger grip, this bar can also alleviate stress on the shoulders and elbows.


Now that you have a better understanding of what each bar has to offer, be sure to try them out and give us your feedback. As always, don’t hesitate to grab one of us if you have any questions, or simply need a hand. Cheers.


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