Mastering the Swiss Bar Overhead Press for Shoulder Strength

Written by Daniel Mesa
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football bar overhead press

The swiss bar has traditionally been heavily associated with the swiss bar bench press. However, many people do not realize that many of the same benefits also apply to the overhead press. Not only with the swiss bar overhead press add much-needed variation it will protect your shoulders so you can work out pain-free.

What Is A Swiss Bar?

multi grip bar overhead press

The swiss bar (also known as the football bar or multi-grip bar) is a type of specialty bar that has a series of neutral grip options within the bar.

The neutral grips of the bar make it easier to stack your wrists over your elbows, minimizing wrist pain. With the neutral grip, the elbows also naturally tuck in and put your shoulders in a less vulnerable position.

Do I Need To Do Overhead Presses?

No, you technically do not need to do any exercise. But I would argue that you are heavily missing out if you are not doing any kind of overhead pressing whether that be caused by injury or laziness.

swiss bar overhead press

A common argument made by those who argue against overhead presses is that the delts already get enough work in if you are bench pressing. Sure, the delts are worked hard during flat benches but this does not mean you should leave gains on the table by neglecting your overhead work.

It has been proven time and time again that nothing triggers hypertrophy in your delts quite like in the overhead press. Aside from the studies, I can speak from experience when I tell you that my delts blew up like never before when I started getting really strong at pushing weight over my head.

If you are limited in this respect, this is understandable. Shoulder pain can be very hard to deal with, but the swiss bar may allow you to press weight again if you give it a try.

Benefits Of The Swiss Bar Overhead Press

Here is why you should add this great variation to your routine:

Shoulder Saver

The swiss bar forces your arms to tuck in next to your body which is a much safer position for the shoulders. Not only that, the variety of grip options means that you can find the grips that feel the best for your individual build.

Given how common shoulder injuries are among the lifting community, you want to do everything in your power to protect your shoulders.

Wrists Are Stable

One of the most common technical mistakes during the overhead press is allowing the wrists to collapse backward. Not only will this make it harder to lift the weight but it can also lead to wrist pain over time.

With a swiss bar, your wrists are locked into position and stacked directly over the elbows during the lift. This stable position minimizes the risk of a wrist injury.

Targets Delts Pain-Free

As we have already established, the shoulder press works your shoulder joint like no other exercise really can. Considering how crucial the delts are for acquiring a strong, masculine look you need to be overhead pressing in some way.

The swiss bar allows you to target your delts without the shoulder pain that may plague your workouts currently.

Stronger Triceps

Since your elbows will be tucked in close to your body during the movement, your triceps are going to be more heavily engaged. Use of the swiss bar can therefore lead to stronger triceps and better lockout strength across all pressing motions.

More Variation

With enough time, anyone will experience a plateau on the straight bar overhead press. With a swiss bar, you get another variation that you can add to your rotation so that you avoid stalls in progress.

The slight change in form and muscle recruitment provided by the swiss bar is enough to stimulate new muscle growth and help you push through plateaus.


Compared to other specialty bars, the swiss bar is fairly cheap. You can easily pick one up for under $200 from a quality brand. Given how versatile these bars are, I consider them no-brainers for home gyms.

How To Do The Swiss Bar Overhead Press

Video Guide

Swiss Bar Overhead Press Step-By-Step Guide

Set the rack and bar up

The bar should be at or just below your chest height

Get into a shoulder press position

Grip the swiss bar at shoulder width apart and engage your core and upper back

Unrack the bar

Unrack the bar and take a few steps back. Your entire body should be rigid and engaged to give you a good platform for lifting the weight.

Press the bar

Press the bar up. While you are pressing, move your head back so that the bar can travel in a straight line.

Lower the weight

Slowly lower the weight back down and move your head back so the bar can pass. At the bottom of each rep, the bar should be resting flat on your chest. Do not allow the bar to tilt or lose balance.

The exercise may feel weird at first but that is perfectly normal. The more sets and reps you get in, the more natural it will feel.

Swiss Bar vs. Straight Bar Overhead Press

There are a few key differences between the swiss and straight bar variations:

You Will Be Weaker With A Swiss Bar

Do not expect to lift as much with a swiss bar as you can with a regular barbell. This is because more of the load is taken off your shoulder and placed on the tricep. Your tricep will not be able to produce the same amount of force so you will lift less. You also have to consider that your body has to work harder to balance and stabilize this bar as well.

This is not really a bad thing as it allows you to get more out of less weight. As long as you are training hard, you should still see shoulder gains and direct strength carryover to straight bar presses.

You should also be aware that depending on the swiss bar you use, the bar can weigh more or less than a regular barbell.

More Tricep Activation

As we have already discussed, the tucked elbows mean that more of the weight is placed on your triceps. This is exactly what you want if you are trying to address muscular imbalances or improve lockout strength.

No Knurling

Most swiss bars will not have any knurling on the grips. Since these swiss bars were developed primarily for pressing, it makes sense. Knurling is usually used to help with grip on deadlifts or rows.

The lack of knurling can feel weird at first, but it should not really impact your grip.

Less Pain

For the vast majority of people, the swiss bar will provide some relief if they suffer from wrist or shoulder pain.

Why Not Just Use Dumbbells?

Another common solution provided to those that cannot do the straight bar overhead press is to simply switch over to dumbbells. For many people, I think that this is good advice as dumbbells provide many of the same benefits as the swiss bar. With dumbbells, you can control the path of the weight so you can keep your elbows tucked while minimizing stress on the shoulders.

If you have access to both, I think both the swiss bar and dumbbells variation of the shoulder press are great variations. However, I still the swiss bar is useful for the following reasons:

Most Home Gym Owners Do Not Have Dumbbells

A full dumbbell set can be very expensive. Most home gym owners do not have the space or budget to get dumbbells. Meanwhile, most already have a squat rack, bench, and weight plates. Since swiss bars are relatively inexpensive, they can get all of the same benefits for much cheaper.

Total Weight Overload

If you want to go really heavy, the swiss bar is superior to dumbbells. Dumbbells require more stabilization and will simply not allow you to lift as heavy as you can with a swiss bar.

Final Thoughts

If you struggle with shoulder pain but still want to maximize your shoulder gains and strength, the swiss bar overhead press is a great solution. The neutral grips ensure that your shoulders are stable and safe. If you are ready to make the jump, check out some of the best swiss bars on the market.


Find The Best Swiss Bar

After weeks of testing, we have compiled a list of the best swiss multi-grip bars on the market


Is the Swiss bar good for overhead press?

Using the swiss bar for the overhead press is a great way to strengthen your shoulders. The neutral grips will allow you to switch up your overhead pressing and potentially provide some pain relief if you suffer from shoulder pain.

What is the point of the swiss bar?

The point of the swiss bar is to allow you to do traditional barbell exercises with a neutral grip. The benefit of a neutral grip is that it often puts your shoulders and wrists in a safer, more stable position.

Is the swiss bar worth it?

Swiss bars often called football bars or multi-grip bars, are great specialty bars with a number of benefits. The neutral grips on the bar put your shoulders in a more stable position which helps many people press with no shoulder pain. Even if you do not suffer from shoulder pain, the swiss bar is still great for adding exercise variation by allowing you to use a neutral grip on the bench press, incline press, and overhead press.

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