You ever ask yourself, what is the point of specialty bars? Especially if you powerlift, and in competition, you use a straight bar, so why shouldn’t you keep training as specific as possible and only train with a straight bar? In this article we’re going to talk about why utilizing specialty bars can be the right move when trying to improve performance and reduce injury risk.
Using specialty bars can improve your performance by helping you reduce injury risk. How? Well, let’s say you have a lifter that has bad shoulder mobility. Then let’s say that because of that they start to develop shoulder pain, elbow tendinitis, etc. A few ways one would address this would be through volume management, load management, technique work, and mobility drills. While all of these are appropriate ways to try and address the issue, specialty bars are a great way to work around the pain and still get in the volume and intensity necessary to continue to progress. For example, using a Transformer Bar or a Duffalo Bar for squats instead of a straight bar would be a great way to reduce the shoulder mobility needed to get into a good position when setting up, and therefore decreasing the likelihood of any issues popping because of that lack of shoulder mobility.
Specialty bars can be a great way to increase overall squatting, benching, and deadlift volume without forcing a lifter to use a straight bar even more than they already might be, or to give them a break from them entirely in a given block. Why would you do this? We can go back to my first point and the example referencing a lifter with bad shoulder mobility. Let’s say they’re in a higher specificity strength block, which means, hitting heavier lifts and performing how you’re going to compete, with a straight bar. But let’s also say that the lifter can only manage so much workload before they find themselves in pain. The easy solution? Do what you can do under the straight bar then make up the work they’re not able to, elsewhere. Giving that athlete a chance to work on hitting heavier lifts and practice how they’re going to compete, while also making sure they’re getting in enough work to continue building strength. While the example is referencing the Transformer Bar, the same can be said when trying to find ways to utilize a Duffalo Bar, a Kadillac Bar, a Trap Bar HD, etc. for more benching and deadlift volume.
Break up the monotony of using a straight bar and do something different. This may sound like the weakest of the points I’ve mentioned so far, but I’m a big believer in the fact that training should be fun and that lifters should do their best to break out of monotony! While some lifters are content and even happy training with a straight bar and doing the same movements over and over again as long as it helps them get strong, for the rest of us, it can get pretty boring doing the same thing for a long period of time. Not only do you run the risk of just being bored and seeing training as a chore rather than something you enjoy, but also the risk of just burning out of the sport or the gym completely. While it might sound unthinkable for some of the more competitive minded and enthusiastic gym-goers out there, some lifters, quit not because it was too hard, but because they just got bored and they didn’t know how to, or that they could, change things up and still reach their fitness goals. How does this relate to performance? Well, if you quit, you’re likely not going to be performing better. And if you do get to the point where training is boring, you’re likely just going through the motion. And if you’re just going through the motions, and there’s not full intent towards what you’re doing, then you’re obviously not going to be performing to the best of your ability. To go along with that, a lack of intent likely means a lack of focus on your form. While it’s more than possible to lift heavy weight with disadvantageous form, it definitely won’t help your chances of staying injury-free. So switch it up, make training fun, and stave off monotony.
Maybe you’re not a lifter that cares to compete and your focus is simply to get strong and stay in shape? There’s no reason that you absolutely must use a straight bar when trying to accomplish those goals. I’d even go so far as to say, that if you’re not a competitive powerlifter, you can completely ditch a straight bar and you’ll likely be better off. Benching with a Duffalo Bar or a The Trap Bar feel better on your shoulders? Why not use solely use that for your pressing movements and force yourself to use a straight bar if you don’t need to?
So, whether you’re a competitive powerlifter, a regular gym goer, or an athlete training to get strong for another sport, there are a dozen reasons, even outside of what I’ve mentioned above, to use a specialty bar along with, or in substitution of a straight bar.