When you hear the name "Football Bar," the first thing that pops into your head is probably a drinking establishment with big TV's on every wall with football fans everywhere.
Well, this is NOT that kind of bar...
The Football Bar is a barbell designed with a very specific purpose in mind...to make it possible for football players with all-too-common shoulder injuries to bench press again.
The bar itself looks like a regular straight bar with two "bubbles" (sort of loops in the bar). These bubbles have three short diagonal bars in them in a pattern that looks like this:
The angled bars change how the shoulder joint functions during the bench press movement. It results in a more neutral grip, which is designed to be easier on the shoulder joint during the bench press movement.
Does the Football Bar Work?
Now, I read the excellent testimonials on the Football Bar site and was very impressed with how players who thought they'd never bench again were able to find a groove with this bar and really make progress on the exercise.
Having somewhat bad shoulders myself (not through injury but through anatomy - they're just not put together all that well), I wanted to test the Football Bar to see how it would feel on my shoulders.
When I do regular flat barbell bench press, I generally don't get shoulder pain right away - it generally happens only when I do it too much or push it too hard. In fact, my whole first year training, I was unable to flat barbell bench at all - I would feel a sharp pain in my shoulder whenever I unracked the bar. I did dumbbell bench press instead so my shoulders could find their own groove.
So I set up the Football Bar in my rack to test it out.
Here's the thing...for me, I actually found the angled grip to be MORE painful on my shoulder joints than the standard grip. This is totally contrary to the experience of almost everybody who has used this bar.
I played around with the grip and grip width a little to see if I could make it feel better but was unable to. For my particular (and no doubt bizarre) shoulder anatomy, the neutral grip didn't work well.
What I DID find, however, was that when I lightened up the weight and focused on really feeling the pecs work, I actually got MUCH greater pec activation with the Football Bar than I could with the straight bar, especially in the inner pec area.
There was still some tension in the shoulder joints for me, but the increased tension on the pecs was substantial.
Now, just to be clear, I actually DO believe the bar would be good for most people with shoulder injuries. A neutral grip SHOULD allow for reduced tension and torque in the shoulder joint. For me, that doesn't seem to be the case.
I don't want to slant your opinion of the usefulness of the bar based on my own messed-up structure (to give you an idea, when I hold my arm directly out to the side and rotate it, I can hear and feel continuous grinding and popping...and this is without any injury to the area).
So to give the Football Bar a fair test, I moved from bench pressing with it to seeing what other exercises could be done with it.
HERE is where the Football Bar REALLY shines, in my opinion.
The creator of the bar mentioned to me that it works very well for Front Squats. So I set it up in the rack and got myself under the bar for Front Squats.
And let me tell, it worked GREAT for Front Squats.
Those bubbles and diagonal bars sit right on your shoulders, creating a wide base of support for the bar. It eliminates any tendency for the bar to roll and really helps distribute the weight over a great area, making the exercise more comfortable (it can only be used for the crossed-arm setup, just FYI, if you've ever done Front Squats).
Next, I tried it for Barbell Curls. The position your hands end up in will be more of a Reverse Curl but let tell you...GREAT again. You can focus on different aspects of the upper arms depending on which direction you hold the bar.
I set the bar on the floor and lay down in front of it, reached back and grabbed it for Lying Tricep Extensions. LOVE it for this exercise. The angled bars allow for a neutral grip in this exercise, which really targeted the long head of the triceps. I felt this one VERY strongly - my triceps were like Jello after a few sets.
These are just a few of the exercises I used it for - there will be a link at the end to a page with all the exercises I tried out with the Football Bar.
Two exercises I wouldn't recommend the Football Bar to be used with would be Deadlifts and Shrugs, though. The structure of the bar (with those bubbles I mentioned), means you have to keep the bar a few extra inches away from your body, will can put extra torque on the lower back.
The bar itself is constructed EXTREMELY well. It has a very solid feel to it and will be able to support more than enough weight for whatever you use it for (rated to 500 lbs).
The Football Bar, while not working great for ME on the bench press, I believe has great potential for those with shoulder injuries. The diagonal structure of the grips allow for more neutral positioning in the shoulder joint, which SHOULD be easier on a normal shoulder joint.
The Football Bar is also very versatile which, for me, more than made up for the small shoulder discomfort I experienced with it. The range of exercises that are actually better when done with the bar makes it a good investment.
Where Do I Get a Football Bar?
They're not cheap ($300) but if you've got the money and are interested in a very versatile and effective piece of equipment, it's a good investment.
Football Bar Exercises
Just FYI, the Front Squat exercise, which I mentioned in the article as being one of the best alternative uses of the bar is, of course, the one exercise I forgot to get video for.
Football Bar Flat Bench Press
Football Bar Incline Bench Press
Football Bar Curls
Football Bar Lying Tricep Extensions
Football Bar Rows
Football Bar Shoulder Press
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