This post was last updated on May 14th, 2017 at 04:36 am
How many types of barbells are there?
From the top of our heads, there are the regular old straight barbell, the EZ curl bar and…well, that is all you can find in most gym.
Yet there is another type of bar that we don’t get to see as often, but is still very useful, both in the gym and at home.
That is the tricep bar.
What is a Tricep bar (hammer curl bar)?
A tricep bar is an oval shaped bar with two or more handles inside of it.
It is mostly built for isolation movements like bicep curls, tricep extensions and front raises (and others), but can also be used for compound exercises like the close grip bench press.
How much does a tricep bar weigh?
The weight of various tricep bars varies between 15 and 45 pounds, but most are around 20 to 30.
I’d recommend not going below 20, as that means that the bar will be either hollow or of lesser quality, neither of which you want. The heavier ones will be made of sturdier materials, but for a beginner, 45 lbs might be too much to use for exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions. Consider that before making a decision to buy.
Tricep bar benefits
The tricep bar has one major benefit over regular bars: the grip.
Most bars in the gym are straight. This works well with most exercises, but in some it puts unneeded and potentially dangerous pressure on the wrists. Many people experience pain from doing straight bar bicep curls or tricep extensions: a tricep bar is meant to fix that very problem.
The grip that you have on the tricep bar is called the hammer grip or the neutral grip. In the hammer grip, your palms would be facing each other, as opposed to the overhand grip (palms facing away from you, like with pull-ups) or the underhand grip (palms facing towards you, like when doing chin-ups).
This grip recruits the greatest amount of muscle mass and is the strongest position in most people. Usually, you will be able to do more pull-ups or bicep curls with the hammer grip. It is a great grip to use when you are developing strength: for example, with weighted pull-ups or heavy bicep curls.
Another benefit specific to the tricep bar, which is also connected to the grip, is the ability to target the brachialis, which is a muscle just between your bicep and triceps.
When this muscle grows bigger, it pushes the other two arm muscles out, making your arm “pop” and look bigger. Training it could be the missing piece in your training and finally lead you to bigger arms.
Hammer grip curls are the best way to target the brachialis. By not turning your arm out (supinating your grip) during the movement you are putting the bicep in a mechanically disadvantaged position, which is exactly what we want to target the brachialis.
If you are one of the people who have tried doing tricep extensions with a straight bar (or even with an EZ curl bar) but found them too painful, using a tricep bar will likely solve this problem. A straight bar puts the wrist in a bad position if you do not have a very mobile wrist. The tricep bar works around this by using the hammer grip.
How to use the tricep bar
The tricep bar can, despite the name, be used for more than just training the triceps. It can be used in a variety of exercises that hit every part of your body.
You can see one in use in the video below:
Tricep bar exercises
Hammer curls with tricep bar
One of the best exercises to target the brachialis. If you want to add size to your arms and make them look bigger, this should be one of your isolation movements. Done with a slow eccentric for sets of 15, you will get a serious pump going on.
Front raises with tricep bar
These are your go-to when you really want to hit the front delts. Done with the tricep bar these will even target the biceps in the extended position, which is generally their weakest position – and the source of potential gains. After all, gymnasts get their huge bicep peaks from straight arm work like the planche, iron cross and the maltese.
Overhead tricep extensions
A problem that is common with a lot of tricep exercises, like the close grip bench press and skull crushers is that they don’t work all of the heads of the tricep equally. The long head needs to be trained with overhead work. Since you will be using both hands, you can go quite heavy on these.
Close grip bench press with tricep bar
The position of the handles on the tricep bar makes it ideal for close, hammer grip bench press. This is another great exercise for the triceps and again, is more comfortable on the wrists due to the parallel grip. Starting to see the pattern?
A favorite of old time bodybuilders and a real classic. Fun fact: in the time before weight stands for the bench press it was customary to do a pullover to get the bar in the starting position. Needless to say, it was a time when some seriously heavy pullovers were done. Today, we don’t do that anymore, but the pullover is still a very useful exercise to target the lats.
Here is a simple tricep bar workout you can do. Combine the above exercises in a circuit; feel free to add your own. Do the circuit with little rest three to five times for an effective and quick home HIIT workout that will build your muscle at the same time it burns fat.
Tricep bar vs EZ curl bar
The EZ curl bar is another popular bar shape commonly used for isolation exercises. The bar is made with many kinks, which can be used to alter the grip angle.
Both the tricep bar and the EZ curl bar are useful for different purposes.
Tricep bar pros:
- Allows for a hammer grip
- Puts you in the strongest position for curls and extensions
- Excellent for isolation work
Tricep bar cons:
- Only allows for one grip
- Harder to do some exercises due to the oval shape
EZ curl bar pros:
- Multiple possible grips
- Easier to do some exercises like the deadlift
EZ curl bar cons:
- Doesn’t allow for a hammer grip
- Better than a straight bar, but can still cause wrist issues
All in all
The tricep bar a great tool to have in your arsenal. It is not as necessary as the straight barbell, but it does perform a useful function in the gym.
If you are looking to add one to your home set up, it is a great multi purpose bar that can be used for a wide variety of exercises while being small enough to tuck behind a drawer.