Owning a collection of speciality bars will give you the opportunity to target different muscles than if you were to just stick with regular barbell workouts. Not only that, in some instances, they can offer benefits such as being easier on the back and shoulder muscles making them good options for rehabbing. In this article we’ll focus on the safety squat bar and why it’s a worthwhile addition to your barbell collection.
A safety squat bar, sometimes abbreviated to an SSB bar, is a barbell with a camber at each end which keeps the centre of weight mass lower when compared to a regular straight bar. This throws the user off balance making a squat more challenging.
The design of the safety squat bar is to encourage you to squat whilst staying as upright as possible. If you have a weak core, then you may begin to fold forwards as you squat down, this could then cause an imbalance.
During regular squats with a straight bar, the issue that most people have is holding the weight load in position with the upper back. By using the safety squat bar, this will exacerbate this problem. This is one of the reasons why people typically squat less when using an SSB bar.
One of the key differences between a safety bar and straight bar is where the bar would sit. When un-racking a regular barbell, it should be resting along the back of your shoulders. By comparison, the safety bar would sit higher up.
From a user experience, the padding and positioning of the bar makes it more comfortable. However, during the exercise the bar path makes the leverage on the spine more inefficient so that your upper back muscles need to work that much harder.
A common mistake with using a safety squat bar is usually at the bottom of the movement. An inexperienced user could drop their head forward causing the lower back to round. This makes it much more difficult to return back to a standing position. By learning how to correctly use the safety squat bar you will eventually improve your technique, keeping your back straight with the sternum and head in an upright position.
IS THE SAFETY SQUAT BAR EFFECTIVE
The safety squat bar is one of the most effective bars for improving squat technique. It does this by helping to address any weaknesses such as rounding of the back and chest fall. Furthermore, it encourages a better squat path helping to keep your torso in an upright position.
Thanks to the front positioned handlebars, it’s also ideal if you have limited shoulder mobility or have recently suffered an injury to the shoulders or wrists.
SAFETY BAR SQUAT BENEFITS
It can correct movement deficiencies that may occur when squatting
As mentioned above, when undertaking a regular back squat, it is very common to round the back. For best performance you want to aim to keep your spine neutral throughout the squat exercise. Back rounding can be caused by a number of factors such as weak back muscles, tight hips and even a poor positioning of the barbell. By utilising a safety bar during squatting, this will encourage you to stay in an upright position so that you can execute the movement properly. This will help to strengthen your back and improve overall stability.
It can be a better choice if you have shoulder mobility issues
Nowadays it is not uncommon for people to have poor shoulder mobility. This is largely down to our lifestyle. A tightness across the shoulders, upper back and neck is seen more and more. These issues can make back squatting difficult and sometimes painful.
The positioning of the safety squat bar handles means that there is no shoulder rotation necessary when grabbing the bar. They are located immediately in front of you at chest height, so when un-racking your bar there is no need to reach back and potentially cause any strain to the shoulders. This makes it much more comfortable to use.
Effectively targets the upper back muscles
When you’re about to undertake a safety bar squat, the bar will be sitting in quite a high position. This, coupled with the fact that the weight sits lower, really taxes the upper back muscles.
What’s more, when squatting this way, the spine remains neutral throughout the exercise. This helps to limit any potential for injury.
Helps to improve strength to stabilisation muscles.
As well as working the upper back muscles extremely hard, you’ll also notice that your core will be taking a good brunt of the exercise. An improvement in core strength will not only allow you to squat bigger numbers, it will also aid with a better posture helping to reduce ailments such as back pain.
Better range of motion when compared with a back squat
As you are forced into a more upright position when executing a safety bar squat, this will allow the hips and knees to open-up more so that you can achieve a deeper squat.
Sometimes during back squatting, the pelvis can roll which is not great for form. However, during a safety bar squat, the pelvis will remain in a neutral position. Not only is this what allows for a deeper squat, it also feels much more natural.
SAFETY SQUAT BAR VS BACK SQUAT
Whilst they are very similar, below we have listed a number of differences between the two squat variations.
- The weight being slightly positioned in front of the lifter during a safety bar squat makes for a quad dominant exercise.
- There is much less stress placed on the delts and wrists with a safety bar squat.
- You’ll be able to squat more with a back squat due to where the weight load is positioned.
- A safety squat bar can help improve form for when you want to back squat.
- You will improve stability and core strength much more with safety bar squats.
- There is a better range of motion when squatting with a safety bar so you can squat deeper.
HOW MUCH DOES A SAFETY SQUAT BAR WEIGH
As a general rule, the weight of a safety squat bar can range from 20kg up to 31kg (44lbs to 70lbs). The difference in weight would lie in the materials used and subsequent manufacturing processes. As a guide, most standard Olympic barbells weigh 20kg (44lbs).
HOW TO USE A SAFETY SQUAT BAR
- Position the bar as you would for a back squat, in your power rack or squat rack
- Ensure you achieve the best bar placement before un-racking. Ideally the bar should be positioned along the upper traps (similar to a high bar squat).
- Keep your feet just wider than shoulder width with your toes pointing outwards
- Squat down as with a regular back squat. You’ll automatically find that the weight sitting lower encourages you to keep your chest and head up, with a straight back.
- Be sure to keep the handles in a neutral position. It can be common to pull the handles down towards your chest. Whilst this may make the exercise a little easier, it defeats the purpose of using a safety squat bar.
- Once you’ve reached below parallel, power back up through the heels.
It’s worth noting that the bar position is very important in order to get the most out of the exercise. If it’s too far up (resting across the back of your neck) this could negatively affect your posture and put undue stress on your neck. Conversely, if it’s too low down, posture could again be affected resulting in poor form.
A good way to test that you have the best position for the bar, is to get into place and un-rack as you normally would. Then let go of the handles. The bar should stay in place. This is a good indicator to know you have the ideal starting position.
Adding safety bar squats in as part of your lower body training is going to offer a number of benefits as we mentioned above, and doing back squats doesn’t have to be the exclusive way you squat.
Research states that the safety bar squat is better at working the upper and mid back muscles, this is due to the upright position maintained during the squat. It will also give your quads and core a great workout.
Not only will it tax your muscles in a different way when compared to other squat variations, it will improve your form and is a great rehab bar for those who have any shoulder and wrist weaknesses.