Few exercises are as notorious for shoulder pain as the incline barbell bench press. Problematically, few exercises are as effective at building a shelf of an upper chest as the incline bench. In this guide, we will show you how can reap all the benefits of the incline bench press without any pain by using the swiss bar incline press.
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What Is A Swiss Bar?
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.
Traditionally, the swiss bar has been heavily associated with the swiss bar bench press. 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.
Pain During The Incline Barbell Bench Press
There is a number of reasons why the incline bench press is associated with injuries and pain. Essentially, the incline of the bench places more of the load on your delts and upper chest. This shift in weight distribution is great for hypertrophy but does put your shoulders in more of a vulnerable position.
If you do not have the proper mobility in your shoulder joint or suffer from some previous shoulder injury, the incline press can be quite uncomfortable. You can try to push through the pain, but the reality is you are only going to exacerbate your current condition.
For lifters with this problem, it can be quite frustrating. The incline bench has been proven to activate the upper chest more than any other exercise. So they are left with few options if they want to develop a great upper chest.
Benefits Of The Swiss Bar Incline Press
If you are one of those people that suffer from pain or are simply looking for another great exercise for your chest, the swiss bar incline press has a number of amazing benefits:
When you are performing the incline bench, you want to be sure to retract your shoulders and engage your upper back to provide a good passe for pressing. Thanks to the neutral grip, you can more easily retract your scapula to protect your shoulders.
Furthermore, the neutral grip will force your elbows to tuck limiting elbow flair which is often associated with shoulder pain.
Wrist Are Stable
One of the most common technical mistakes during the incline 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 Upper Chest Pain-Free
As we have already established, the incline press works your upper chest like no other exercise really can. Considering how crucial the upper chest is for having an aesthetic, strong chest, targeting your chest on some sort of an incline is needed.
The swiss bar allows you to target your upper chest without the common drawbacks of the incline barbell variations.
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.
With enough time, anyone will experience a plateau on the straight bar bench press or incline 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.
How To Do The Swiss Bar Incline Press
Swiss Bar Incline Press Step-By-Step Guide
How To Do Swiss Bar Incline Press
- Set up the bar and bench
The bar should be over your forehead. For the bench, any angle between 15-45 degrees will target your upper chest.
- Get into a bench position
Grop the swiss bar at around shoulder width. Retract your scapula and keep your upper back tight.
- Unrack the bar and lower the weight
Unrack the bar and slowly lower it towards your chest. The bar should be flat on your chest, do now allow it to tilt or lose balance.
- Drive the bar up
Push the bar up, it may help to envision punching the bar up
The exercise may feel foreign or weird at first, but that is normal. As you get more reps, you will better develop the form and mind-muscle connection.
Swiss Bar vs Straight Bar Incline 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 pec and shoulder and placed on the tricep. Your tricep will not be able to produce the same amount of force so you will lift less.
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 upper chest 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.
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.
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 incline barbell bench 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 incline 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.
If you cannot do the regular incline barbell bench press without pain, the swiss bar variation is a great solution. Thanks to the neutral grips, your shoulders and wrists will be in a much more stable position allowing you to build a shelf of an upper chest while staying injury free.
Find The Best Swiss Bar
After weeks of testing, we have compiled a list of the best swiss multi-grip bars on the market
Yes, you can expect to lift less with the swiss bar. This is because more of the load is transferred to your triceps which are not as strong as your pecs and shoulders.
When pressing with a swiss bar, you can expect to work the same muscles as a regular barbell: pecs, shoulders, and triceps. The difference is that the swiss bar will place more of the load on the triceps.
Swiss bars are great for helping you press with less pressure on your shoulders or simplly adding another variation to your routine.
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