The safety squat bar is an amazing piece of equipment that produces massive benefits in terms of strength gains, injury prevention, and upper extremity preservation.
It’s a very versatile implement that has carry over to many different training modalities, including powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, etc..
Now, I’m a big fan of specialty bars in general. I use them with regularity to round out my training and because I think they’re a lot of fun to use.
In my opinion, the safety squat bar is one of the best types of barbells you can own.
Here’s the top 5 reasons why:
#1. It’s Incredibly Functional
One of the absolute biggest benefits of the safety squat bar is that it’s so flippin’ versatile.
There’s simply no shortage of movements you can accomplish with this bar:
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Zercher Squat
- Good Morning
- Seated Good Morning
- Single-Leg Good Morning
- Front Lunge
- Back Lunge
- Split Squats
- Hip Thrusts
- Overhead Press
- Triceps Press
- Calf Raises
- … and whatever else you can come up with
Bottom line is this bar has multiple uses that can translate to serious strength gains.
#2. It Will Get You Really Strong
Speaking of strength gains, the safety squat bar is a brutally awesome tool designed to test your body in unique ways.
The end result? Serious gains.
You see, the bar has a camber at the ends which actually drops the collar below the midline and at an angle to the vertical axis. This anatomical nuance, coupled with the fact the bar actually sits a little higher on the shoulders, tends to pitch the lifter forward. In doing so, the lifter has to fight to stay upright to prevent folding like an accordion… and bringing great shame to their family in the process.
This fight absolutely demolishes the upper back, and I mean that in the best of ways. Your traps and lats are going to get extremely strong with this bar. They have no choice. This bar is like CT Fletcher… it commands you to grow!
Of course your traps and lats aren’t the only thing that are going to get strong by using this bar. Depending on how you use it, you can ignite the entire posterior and anterior chains. With the front squat, you’re going to get serious anterior core activation along with the quads and glutes. With the back squat, you’re really going to hit the posterior hard while still stimulating the quads due to the vertical spine position. As for the other variations listed above, you can target more specifically the quads, erectors, etc…
I should mention, you likely won’t be able to lift as much weight with the SSB as you do with your back squat. It will humble you, and that’s OK.
#3. It’s Safe and Comfortable
As the name implies, the safety squat bar is… safe (when used properly of course).
Safer, at least.
The primary benefit from this perspective is that it significantly decreases stress on the upper extremities, particularly the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
The way the bar is designed, there is a padded section that sits around your neck with two handles extending over each shoulder. This allows you to easily hold the handles directly out in front of your body. There is no need to externally rotate the shoulders, which is something many people have issues with on a traditional straight bar. The length of the handles depends on the bar you purchase and on personal preference. I personally prefer shorter handles (EliteFTS, Crepinsek, Rogue, etc…) to longer ones (Edge Fitness, BWTG, American Barbell, etc…).
Also important to note is that some of those movements in the video above couldn’t be performed with a fixed long-handle SSB. That’s another big reason I like the shorter handles.
So if you have shoulder or elbow pain while back squatting with a straight bar, or if you have wrist pain when front squatting, this bar will help you tremendously.
BUT, it’s not just the upper extremities that it helps. When squatting with the safety squat bar, your spine position will actually be more vertical. It looks more like a front squat or a high-bar back squat. This positioning minimizes shear forces on the lower back and also allows for improved range of motion through the hips, knees, and ankles.
As it relates to the padding, some are more comfortable than others, but all provide some type of protection between your delicate neck and raw steel. ‘Delicate’ is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but being that the bar does sit higher on the neck, it would actually be torture without a pad.
#4. It Has Great Carry Over to Other Lifts
As a specialty bar, you would expect the safety squat bar to have a carry over into your other lifts.
Rest assured, it will.
Being that this bar was created by powerlifters, it’s not surprising that it has an awesome carry over to both the straight-bar squat and the deadlift.
Going back to the whole camber design and pitching you forward concept, the bar will actually create a positioning that mimics that of the deadlift. Because of this, and because of the SSB’s ability to strengthen your posterior chain, your deadlift is primed for a big boost. Furthermore, the safety squat bar is absolutely going to help your regular back squat due to it strengthening your entire leg musculature and core.
Don’t think that the SSB is only for powerlifters though. Strongmen use it extensively in their training. Look at Brian Shaw and Brian Alsruhe as prime examples. They have gone through training cycles where they completely replaced the back squat with the safety bar squat because it’s so good at building strength and carrying over into their contests.
By the way, if you’re a competitive powerlifter, I’m definitely not suggesting you ditch the back squat entirely. I do, however, think it has a place in your training as an excellent accessory movement.
#5. Your Technique Will Improve
Because of the way this bar is built, you’re going to have to fight your ass off to stay upright. Brian Alsruhe said it well when he compared the SSB to someone grabbing you by the back of the head and trying to shove your face into the ground.
As you use this bar and become stronger, your ability to stay upright under a straight bar is going to be improved. Similarly, you’re probably going to be able to hit depth easier with a safety squat bar because it does promote a more ‘sit down, not back’ movement. This can also translate well to your straight-bar technique, as you should have a greater range of motion.
If you’re a lifter who struggles with chest caving, you’re probably going to benefit the most from this bar as it relates to straight-bar technique. That’s not to say that lifters who have different sticking points won’t benefit, because they absolutely will. This bar commands growth and strength (remember, CT Fletcher). That growth and strength will inherently help your technique.
Where to Buy
I’ve owned, tested, and reviewed many SSBs. If you’re looking to buy one, I recommend checking out our article outlining the best safety squat bars.
With different features, specs, price, and more, there’s an option for anyone interested in training with an SSB.
The safety squat bar is without question one of my favorite tools in the gym. It’s versatile, it’ll get you strong as hell, it’s safe and comfortable, and it will improve not only your other lifts, but also your main lift technique.