Safety Squat Bar Benefits and Uses
The safety squat bar is a unique piece of equipment with several benefits for developing strength and improving weaknesses. This is also referred to as the SSB for short, and generally used for training programs focusing on powerlifting and strongman competitions.
Does this limit the benefits to these populations? No. But from an athletic standpoint, using equipment like the safety squat bar has lots of impact for lifters that use the low bar position for their back squats.
What is a Safety Squat Bar?
I’m sure some of you are cringing at the word “safety” within the name, and even worse the pad on the bar that resembles the “p*ssy pad” that we despise for barbell squats. However, this is an effective tool for developing power and strength, plus the pad on SSB acts differently than the squat pad for people with sensitive traps putting.
The bar looks different because it’s cambered at the ends, which means the bar drops down placing the collars below your shoulders at midline instead. The pad lifts the SSB from your shoulders at a higher position, and is not there simply to make your traps feel better.
This unique design causes your body to fight against the weight trying to force your body forward, resulting in an upright position being held throughout the movement.
Safety Squat Bar Benefits
Aside from making squats relatively safe, you can gain a lot from programming this exercise into your training, or for client use if you’re a coach. The following list goes over what benefits to expect using the SSB.
Safety Squat Bar Benefits in a nutshell:
• Improves leg and core strength
• Decreases lower back use
• Carries over to your deadlifts and squats
• Better joint range of motion
• Keeps the weight center gravity
• Great for those with limited shoulder mobility
• Teaches you proper squat form
• Strengthens your posterior chain
Better Use of Leg Muscles
Maintaining a position where your spine is vertical reduces the ability to use your back to assist with the squat, which is the main reason people utilize the low bar position.
This causes your leg muscles to be recruited significantly more, especially your quads, thighs, glutes, and hamstrings. Activation of your legs muscles carries over to having a better leg drive during deadlifts too.
Less Stress Placed on Your Joints
The position and design of the safety squat bar automatically reduce the stress placed on your hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. You probably didn’t think about it much, but barbell back squats are a compound lift because they use all these joints and the muscles that activate to control them.
Anybody with limited shoulder mobility, or experiencing pain here, will have significantly less pressure placed on them during SSB squats.
The bar places the load center gravity, which helps your body sit down and not back into the squat. This places some of the usual joint stress more on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes making them stronger and develop better.
If you are having difficulty hitting full depth squats, then the SSB is for you as well. Learning to sit into a squat is essential for getting those 3 white lights. So if you want to maintain your low bar position, improve your squat form and teach your joints the proper range of motion.
Core Strength and Stability from SSB Squats
Your anterior core muscles have to engage fully to maintain the upright position necessary for SSB squats. Without doing so will cause your body to collapse and fold like a piece of paper.
Stability to go into and out of your squats fully on your feet is improved a lot. Many become unstable by leaning more towards the front or heels of the feet. Though this could be a mobility or strength issue, the position of the load forces you to stay feet fully planted. Unless you want to face plant.
Strengthens the Posterior Chain
Posterior chain refers to all the muscles on the back-side of your body. SSB squats target your traps and lats effectively through use. However, due to the position you receive less shearing forces against your lower back, but still strengthens your spinal erectors with less chances for injury.
Teaches Proper Squat Form
Having bad habits form doing back squats? Then place SSB squats into your training. All the benefits above correlate to better squat form and position regardless if you utilize high or low bar position.
Your posterior chain assists with holding the squat position, but are not the moving force for executing the squat like normal barbell squats. For high bar position, many often collapse at the shoulders. Holding the handles and executing this exercise forces your chest to remain open.
It’s truly hard to perform this exercise improperly when using the proper resistance. Obviously overloading the first time ever using an SSB will probably result in a bad day. Be humble and realize that with ANY new movement, you should never go full supposed strength.
A research via EMG with competition powerlifters found that their 3rm is 11% less using the safety squat bar, and the mid-back muscles were activated better compared to back squats.
What does this mean? Don’t put your damn rep max on the bar.
Uses for the Safety Squat Bar
You can do a large variety of exercises using the SSB. Although it’s hyped as just for back squats, you can also do:
• Front Squats
• Good Mornings
• Split Squats
• Box Squats
• Seated Good Mornings
People also use them for other exercises due to the design of the bar, but these are the only ones I utilize for myself and athletes’ programs.
How to Perform SSB Squats
Put it on your back and squat? A pretty simple answer, but many find difficulty doing these for the first time, and if you want a heads up on what to expect and do then this will help a lot.
• Place the SSB on the rack. The handles should be angled out away from the direction you face
• Insert your body under the pad ensuring it’s snug against the traps.
• Grasp the handles and lift the barbell off of the rack.
• Taking a few steps back, clear the rack and place your feet shoulder width apart, or whatever your squat position is.
• Allow your feet to angle slightly out to allow better alignment of your knees and toes.
• Take a breath into your diaphragm and brace for the squat.
• Drop your hips down bending at your knees simultaneously.
• Keeping your body upright and handles grasped firmly, descend below parallel position.
• Drive your feet down and come back up to the starting position.
Don’t round your back to perform SSB squats. That defeats the purpose of using it. If you feel your leaning forward as you come out of the hole, simply pull down on the handles and it will help straighten your position.
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Programming SSB Squats
These can be utilized as an accessory exercise or as the primary squat position for off season use. For example, on a squat day you perform your 2×2, 3×3, etc. heavy top sets. Then when you drop down resistance you switch to the SSB instead.
Another variation would be on deadlift day for conventional pulling. You can use these first with less resistance to warm your body up prior to pulling, or as an accessory exercise following pulls since the lower back is not affected much.
Sets, reps, and resistance is totally depending on your program and needs. I rarely go over 80% with these unless for box squats.
The Bottom Line for Safety Squat Bar Squats
Be humble with the weight and get used to the movement first. This bar holds true potential for training programs when utilized correctly. Add them in time-to-time and notice how much they help your squats and deadlifts. If you have any questions shoot me a message via my contact box. Stong Fit Living. Live it. Do it.