You want to start using a safety squat bar, but you're not entirely sure why (or even how) you should use it. Safety squat bars offer a number of advantages that will improve your training routine.
If you'd like to find out what the safety squat bar benefits are, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
- What Are The Benefits of a Safety Squat Bar? (8 Proven Advantages)
- How to Correctly Use A Safety Squat Bar In Any Gym
- Common Safety Questions When Squatting
What Are The Benefits of a Safety Squat Bar? (8 Proven Advantages)
A safety squat bar is a specialty bar, popular among experienced powerlifters. This is because it allows you to lift heavy, without straining your shoulder muscles or ligaments as much as a regular squat bar would.
It's an excellent accessory for lower body exercises, including a number of squat variations, good mornings, and walking lunges.
1. Train Around Injuries
Although training through an injury isn't generally advised, a safety squat bar is ideal for people with an existing injury, particularly those with shoulder-related problems.
The primary purpose of a safety squat bar is that it's designed to significantly reduce the amount of strain placed on your upper body - particularly your shoulders, elbows, or wrists.
Take Layne Norton as the perfect example. Layne is a natural pro bodybuilder who tore his right pec muscle while doing a bench press. Using a safety squat bar, he was able to continue training while his injury healed.
When done under the guidance of your doctor or physical therapist, using a safety squat bar is a great way to avoid losing your gains and continue training while you recover.
2. Not Limited By Poor Shoulder Mobility
A major benefit of using the safety squat bar is that you’re still able to squat, even if your shoulder mobility is lacking. When doing front squats with a straight barbell, a good amount of shoulder mobility is needed in order to achieve the correct form.
However, with a safety squat bar, your shoulders and arms are significantly more relaxed. This means you’re able to reap the benefits of doing a front squat without having the necessary mobility.
Of course, you should still work to improve your shoulder mobility; this just allows you to continue to train hard while doing so.
3. More Comfortable On Your Shoulders
One of the most notable features of the safety squat bar, as opposed to a straight barbell or even a camber bar, is the padding for your shoulders. This makes a huge difference, particularly when lifting heavy!
Not only does the padding make it more comfortable to lift, but it also helps to distribute the weight more evenly across your shoulders and traps.
Although we mentioned earlier that training through an injury isn’t advised, the padding is useful when you’re doing rehab exercises for an existing shoulder injury.
Related Article - Different Types of Squat Racks For Home Gyms
4. Reduced Center Of Gravity
Since the camber of the safety squat bar brings the angle down by a few inches, the center of gravity is lower when compared to a straight barbell.
The lower the center of gravity, the less strain is placed on your lumbar spine. Therefore, if you struggle with lower back issues, the safety squat bar will greatly benefit you.
In addition to bringing the angle down, the camber also brings the angle forward. Bringing the center of gravity forward makes it easier to maintain an upright posture during the squat.
This is important for quad activation, as well as for reducing the strain placed on your lower back and knees.
Aside from that, taller lifters will find this exercise much easier to master compared to regular back squats, thanks to the reduced center of gravity.
More Training Options - Best Power Rack Exercises
5. Targets Your Spinal Erector Muscles
The spinal erector (or erector spinae (ES)) muscles are the large muscles on either side of your spine that run from the base of your neck, all the way down your back.
As you might know, targeting these muscles, particularly the middle and upper portions, through anything other than a deadlift exercise can be a challenge.
However, doing good morning exercises with a safety squat bar is an excellent way to work these muscles. If you’d like to take it up a notch further, you can also perform them in a seated position.
6. Increase In Lower Trap Muscle Activation
The trapezius muscle, particularly the lower trapezius, is important for scapular stabilization.
Studies show that exercises that strengthen the lower traps are an effective way to minimize neck dysfunction, as well as improve posture, muscle thickness, and the contraction rate of the muscle.
Over time, when the upper traps are continuously activated and shortened, the lower traps can become weak. This, in turn, leads to muscle imbalance.
However, the good news is that in 2019, another study was conducted to determine the effects of the safety squat bar on the trunk and lower-body mechanics during a back squat. The findings showed a 50% increase in lower trap muscle activation when using a safety squat bar.
7. Improves Your Squat And Deadlift
When it comes to the safety squat bar, it can be thought of as the ultimate combination between front squats and conventional deadlifts.
Just like in a front squat, you’ll be in an upright position, but you won't need the same shoulder mobility needed in regular squats.
Additionally, the safety squat bar allows you to train your posterior chain muscles just like you would when doing deadlifts but without compromising your lower back. This means that if you're not able to squat or deadlift very well, using a safety squat bar can help to improve your form.
Added to this, the shift in the center of gravity causes you to overload your muscles in totally different ways than what you’re currently accustomed to.
This helps you to strengthen weaker, less activated muscles, which in turn will improve your squats and deadlifts as well.
Learn More - Dumbbell Squat Vs Barbell Squat
8. Variety Of Exercise Variations Available
One thing I really like about the safety squat bar is that you’re not limited to just back squats. There are a wide variety of different exercises you can do, including:
Most of these exercises are more comfortable and/or better to do with a safety squat bar than a straight barbell since there is padding over the bar.
Lunges, in particular, are an ideal exercise to do using the safety squat bar, not just because the padding offers more comfort than a straight bar would, but because you’re not limited by grip strength (if you’ve been using dumbbells).
This means you can focus on the muscle activation involved with the lunges themselves and not your limitations in doing the exercises.
Read More - How To Use Lifting Straps
How to Correctly Use A Safety Squat Bar In Any Gym
- 1Set Up
With the safety squat bar on a squat rack, position the bar between your collar bone and the top of your breastbone. It should be around 1-2 inches below the height it will be when you stand up. Lean forward and place your head between the two handles, with the main bar resting on your upper back. Grab hold of a handle with each hand. Stand up to unrack the bar and take a step back. Position your feet to be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and turn your toes out to about 20 degrees. Ensure that the handles are aligned horizontally and that you’re not pulling them down.
Taking a deep breath in, ensure that you're breathing into your stomach while pushing your chest out and engaging your core. Next, drop down into the squat, bending your knees and driving your hips back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure that you keep your lower back straight throughout the descent and avoid rounding your back when you reach the bottom of the squat. If you find this happening frequently, you’re likely dropping down too low.
Reverse the movement, driving your feet into the ground to rise back up into the starting position. Be sure not to pull the handles down at any phase of the squat, as doing so changes the mechanics of the exercise and actually makes it easier/ less effective.
Common Safety Questions When Squatting
Is squatting with a safety bar harder?
Squatting with a safety bar isn't necessarily more difficult or easier, but rather another squat style that challenges your strength differently from a straight bar. However, a study of competitive powerlifters found that the safety squat bar placed less strain on the lower back than a straight bar does, making it easier for people with back problems.
Can you squat more with a safety squat bar?
Yes and no. For a front squat, you can usually load up the safety squat bar much heavier than a straight barbell. However, for a low bar squat, you’ll usually be able to squat more when using a straight bar. In my experience, you should be able to lift anywhere between 85-90% of your 1RM (rep max) for low bar squats.
Will a safety squat bar improve my deadlifts?
Yes! A safety squat bar is an excellent tool for training all of the essential deadlifting muscles, particularly the spinal erectors. Additionally, the safety squat bar allows you to train these muscles without compromising your lower back. This makes it perfect for use in-between your heavy straight bar deadlifting days to keep the same muscle groups activated.
What muscles are targeted for workouts with a safety squat bar?
The quadriceps and glutes are the primary muscles targeted, while the calves also help with knee extension, and the hamstrings help with hip extension. Other muscles, such as the abdominals, erector spinae (the back muscles), and the traps (lower, middle, and upper), all help to keep your torso sturdy and prevent you from falling forward.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to the benefits of a safety squat bar. We hope that all of your questions and concerns were addressed.
Now that you know what the benefits are and how to correctly use a safety squat bar - you’ll be able to achieve your weightlifting goals in no time!
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Last Updated on August 22, 2022