Does squatting with a straight bar give you back pain? Do you struggle to perform front squats? Even though the beloved straight bar is a training staple for many athletes, using a safety squat bar can actually help you to switch up your routine, push more weight, and also relieve undue stress on the knees, back, and shoulders. If you’re trying to hit your highest max, whether for the front bar squat, high bar squat, or low bar squat – a safety squat bar will help you get over those plateaus and get in the best shape of your life while staying safe in the process.
Safety squat bars are very easy to identify and distinguish from your average straight bar. They are very similar to the classic straight barbel with a couple exceptions. They include a camber (bend) on the ends of the bar and a padded collar in the middle section that has two handles that stick out for additional grip and stability. There is actually a variety of safety squat bars available, and in this article, we’ll help show you what to look for in a high-quality safety squat bar.
Why Invest in a Safety Squat Bar?
It is widely known and proven that squats help improve strength across the whole body, and they have even been shown in studies to marginally increase overall athletic performance (1). Why have some of the most successful powerlifters switched to training with safety squat bars?
Brian Shaw of the World’s Strongest Man (2) competition consistently trained with a safety squat bar and was forced to use a straight bar at the last minute for the competition. After his quick practice session, he couldn’t believe how much easier the straight bar squats were. He went on to squat over 700 pounds with ease under a straight bar at the event.
Even though professional competitions require the use of a straight bar, many athletes like Brian have found that training with a safety squat bar actually helps to improve the form and power of your straight bar routine. Since performing low bar squats or high bar squats with a safety bar is a more demanding movement, it translates to a better straight bar squat.
Why You Should Ditch the Straight Bar
Safety squat bars are a perfect investment because of the proven results they have for reducing stress on the lower back, knees, and shoulders. Some of the most compelling reasons to make the switch include:
Better Core Stability
Keeping a tight core when performing squats is vital for getting the full range of benefits from the exercise, and both deep and partial squats are proven to provide great results if done with proper form (3). No matter what type of squat you perform, keeping your core stable is very important. When you perform a low bar squat or high bar squat, the bent ends of the bar actually help to engage your core and keep excess pressure off of your lower back. When your back is more upright during a front bar squat, there is less pressure being applied to your back during the movement and the easier it is to stay balanced. Safety squat bars help to engage your core, quads, and glutes, minimizing pressure on the knees and shoulders to help keep your lower back healthy and your core stable.
Not only is the safety bar squat better for your lower back and joints, but it also helps you to perform a wider range of exercises more easily. Safety bar squats are perfect for front bar squats. Just flip the bar around so that the collar is resting on your shoulders. This makes for a much more comfortable front bar squat and is great for those who have shoulder pain and chest tightness when performing front bar squats. Safety squat bars can be used for low and high bar squats, walking lunges, good mornings, and more.
As the name suggests, the main goal of the safety bar squat is to keep you safe, even when going up against the highest max you have ever attempted. Squats can put bad pressure on the lower back and knees if you don’t quite have perfect form, and this is where the safety bar helps out tremendously. It helps to more evenly displace the pressure to the muscles you are aiming for rather than placing it on the vulnerable knee joints. In addition, they also help you to stay more balanced and in control of your movement.
Choosing the Best Safety Bar
Now that it is clear why you should give a safety bar a try, which one should you choose? There are a lot of different safety bars to choose from, all of which have very similar features. The main differences come from more specific design features such as the thickness and quality of the collar and the degree of camber the bar has. What is best for you depends on your personal preferences and what style and feel of safety squat bar you like best.
Some of the most well-built and highly regarded safety squat bars include:
An affordable option that does not sacrifice any quality, Ader has made a safety squat bar that is perfectly balanced, solid, and simple to use. This bar has consistently great reviews on its build quality and feel, making it a great choice for beginners and vets alike. There is nothing fancy about this product, but the important parts of the product are made extremely well.
- Comes in either 1000 or 1500 lb weight load capacity.
- Vinyl-covered shoulder support foam with hand grips.
- Cambered solid bar design.
- Sleek finish.
Who Makes It?
Ader fitness was founded in 1983 in Dallas, Texas and is a largely respected distributor of fitness products. They offer a wide variety of fitness tools and gear and are known for solid and reliable quality. Since they are trusted by gyms and fitness outlets across the country; you can trust that their products are built to last.
The Bottom Line
When looking for a new safety squat bar, one of the most important aspects to keep a look out for is the quality of the shoulder pad and grips, as this portion of the bar is the main difference that separates it from a normal straight bar. Customers consistently rate this squat bar’s padding as being one of the most comfortable and well made on the market. They offer both a 1000 and 1500lb limit, and for the average lifter, the 1000lb limit is plenty and even comes in at one of the cheapest prices you will find for the quality. If you’re looking for a high-quality safety squat bar that won’t break the bank, Ader has the product for you.
The pros at Elite have created an extremely well-made safety squat bar that was designed with those who consistently squat in mind. This is a new and improved version of their initial bar and is a result of personalized upgrades from the founder of the company himself, who is an active athlete and user of the product. Elite interviewed lifters from across the country for feedback on how they thought their prototype safety bar could be improved, and the result is one of the best quality safety squat bars on the market. He upgraded and perfected the most important aspects of the bar and has created a product that was built with the interests of the common athlete in mind.
- More durable and long neck pad that won’t wear down and sits perfectly on your back, whether you are performing high or low bar squats.
- Shorter, thicker handles for support without compromising the load of the weight.
- Longer bar camber for a stronger and more resilient bar that won’t bend or place uneven stress at very high weights.
- Clear coated finish.
Who Makes It
EliteFTS has been around since 1998, and they have the motto “Live, Learn, and Pass On” that they have stood by for over 20 years. The company comes from humble beginnings. They take pride in helping keep athletes educated and outfitted with cutting edge information and equipment. EliteFTS is dedicated to the community – they work with businesses, non-profits, professional sports teams, and leading fitness educators across the country to stay ahead of the trends and bring their customers great products.
The Bottom Line
EliteFTS has really put in the time and consideration to bring a safety squat bar that is balanced, comfortable, and most importantly, will help you smash your personal records. The SS Yoke bar has consistently positive reviews for a reason, it is an absolute beast. This bar is a perfect choice for those looking to enhance their training routine and use a safety squat bar that is designed with you in mind.
Rogue continues their streak of well-crafted products with their new safety squat bar. Designed to engage the anterior chain and help you switch up the normal squat routine, you can perform any type of squat including front squats and low bar squats. You can do these workouts despite having tight shoulders or a lingering injury that makes straight bars difficult. In addition, this straight bar helps you confuse your muscles and get a fresh way to improve your squat output and set new personal bests.
- Black cerakote finish
- Sturdy and balanced
- Machined Olympic Sleeves
- Heavy-duty, resilient foam padding
Who Makes It
Rogue fitness is a leading manufacturer and distributor of fitness products for both commercial and at home gyms. They have a reputation for making extremely well-built gear. Not only that, but they give lifters the safety and peace of mind that they can rely on Rogue gear. Rogue is a true American company. This is evident because builds all of their products at home in Ohio at their own manufacturing campus. They take pride in the quality and self-sustaining environment they have created and never use cheap or outsourced material in their products. The personal touch and care they put into their products really shines through when you put their gear to the test and is one of the many reasons they are one of the most widely used and revered fitness companies in the industry.
The Bottom Line
Across the board, you will find nothing but great reviews and positive feedback on the Rogue SB-1 safety squat bar. This bar is as well-designed as they come with reinforced pads, clean finish, and perfectly balanced camber. Rogue has really made a great quality safety squat bar. It allows you to perform all of the workouts you need to in order to continue making progress in your fitness goals despite any troubles you may have with injury, tightness, front bar squats, or low bar squats. At an affordable price, you can be sure you will not be sacrificing any quality with this incredibly well-made safety squat bar.
Your Complete Guide To Picking the Right Safety Squat Bar
Now that you have some options to choose from, you can make a more informed decision on the type of safety squat bar that’s perfect for you. In order to make the best choice, we have made a list to help you check off the most important points and find the bar that fits your preferences.
Are you looking for a great at home safety squat bar, or are you looking for a new addition for the athletes at your gym? As you saw from the previous list of products, safety squat bars can vary in price from $300 all the way up to over $400. The price difference really comes in when choosing between the maximum weight load the bar can support. If you are a casual athlete who is looking to just switch up the routine and start improving your PR’s, you may not need to shell out the extra money for a bar that supports over 600lbs.
If you are a professional who owns a gym, you may want to keep your budget flexible and consider the heavier duty 1500lb bars like the Ader model so that powerlifters will be able to crush PR’s without worrying about over-bent bars and your equipment failing them when they need it most. Keep the amount you are willing to spend in mind when looking between the different products and understand that the main difference here is overall maximum weight capacity and the thickness and strength of the bar itself.
The safety squat bars in this list are perfect for both the everyday lifter looking to stay in shape and also the competitive powerlifter. For the average gym goer, the safety squat bars with 1000lb capacities will be plenty. They are built with enough strength to keep your exercises stable and secure even at your highest max. For the competitors who are pushing the boundaries of powerlifting, keep in mind how heavy you are aiming to lift now and also years down the road.
These bars last a long time. If your goal is to hit a 5-600b max, then you may want to consider the stronger and higher capacity bars. Also, some users have reported bar bending occurring in some of the lighter models listed above. Keep this in mind when scanning through the options.
One of the most common grievances about safety squat bars is the quality of the foam shoulder pad and grips. Always make sure to check user reviews on how the pads hold up. Do the grips help to keep balance? Or are they too long? These are important questions to keep in mind. All of the products in our list were chosen because of the extraordinary quality and durability of these important pieces of the bar.
Feeling comfortable and in control under the bar is very important. This is why you should be wary of pads that wear away quickly after heavy use. Performing front squats, low bar squats, and even high bar squats can be taxing for those with shoulder tightness or lingering injuries. Consequently, you should make sure you have reliable padding that will help you stay safe.
Exercises You Can Do With a Safety Squat Bar
Safety squat bars have become so popular not only because of how they help boost your PR and reduce unhealthy stress on joints, but also because of the wide variety of exercises you can perform with them. These exercises include:
Box Squats are a variation of the typical squat where you use a box underneath you to push off of. To do this workout, place a box behind you that you can sit on at the bottom of the squat movement. Simply sit on the box and then explode upwards to do the box squat. This exercise is great for increasing explosive strength and is made much easier with a safety squat bar. It can be hard to maintain balance when sitting and exploding during this exercise, and the camber and grips of the safety squat bar make it easier to focus on the explosion upwards rather than staying centered and in control of the movement.
Good mornings are a great workout for strengthening both core strength as well as your anterior chain. This exercise consists of placing the bar on your back and slowly bending your upper torso forward. While maintaining a tight core, bend upwards to complete the motion. Using a straight bar for this workout can make it hard to stay balanced and also is taxing on the shoulders and neck. Safety squat bars help you focus on the movement and help to keep the bar centered as well as keep your shoulders and neck protected.
Walking lunges are one of the most beneficial lower body workouts you can do to help increase your squat strength. The great thing about using a safety squat bar for lunges is that it removes your grip strength from the equation and focuses the entirety of the weight on the targeted muscle groups. Just place the padded bar on your shoulders, hold the grips, and begin the lunges. Using a safety squat bar for this workout is a great alternative to both straight bars as well as dumbells.
Low Bar Squats
Low bar squats are a lesser known variation of the squat, which is most often done as a high bar squat. The position of the bar actually makes a big difference. By placing the bar higher on your shoulders or more towards your upper back you can switch up the muscles targeted. For low bar squats, the bar is actually placed between the rear deltoids as opposed to resting on top of the trapezoid muscles.
The low bar squat focuses the weight more on your posterior chain. This forces your hips back and your chest out, putting more of the focus on your glutes and legs in general. The low bar squat helps you to push more weight and remove the front of your body from the equation. It is regarded as a superior way to perform squats if you are trying to push more weight and maintain great form. Want to know the best part? Since the low bar squat can be a little more uncomfortable when initially putting it into your routine, a safety squat bar can help make the motion more effortless and comfortable and help you nail the movement much faster.
Safety squat bars can help you perform a variety of exercises, including various back exercises including bar rows, back extensions (similar to good mornings), and more, which can be found here.
Why Should You Purchase a Safety Squat Bar?
Here’s the deal – all fitness enthusiasts know that one of the main goals is to continually confuse your muscles and keep your routine fresh for the best results. Safety squat bars are the perfect way to do this while also taking away unneeded stress from your knees and shoulders, and here’s the kicker, it is also proven to help you push more weight and engage the key muscles that squats target more effectively.
Adding a safety squat bar to your gym will give you and your clients access to a wide variety of new exercises. More exercises means an easier path to the best shape of your life. Break your PR’s, add new workouts such as safety squat bar lunges and good mornings, and help those who struggle with shoulder injuries and tightness the ability to still perform one of the most beneficial movements there is. By keeping in mind the points and advice given in this article, you can find the perfect safety squat bar for your needs and put it to great use right away. No matter what your fitness goals are, there is nothing but positive results waiting for you when you add a safety squat bar to your routine.
Have you had success using a safety squat bar? What are some of your favorite products? What are your favorite workouts to do using a safety squat bar? Let us know in the comments below!