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Posted by Scott_Herman - June 2nd, 2017

Many of you have been asking me for help when it comes to eliminating hip, knee and shoulder pain when squatting, so I decided that I wanted to tackle this head on and give those of you training in pain some hope! Obviously, the clear solution is months of proper stretching and mobility work to loosen up.  But until that happens there is a quick fix you can utilize today.

Now, to the majority of you I’m sure the straight barbell is king when it comes to squatting. But is that because it’s the only thing available to you or because there truly is nothing better? Well, I want you take a moment to think about just how much your training gear has progressed since you started your fitness journey. You probably went from hitting the gym with running shoes, shorts and a tank top to now wearing dry-fit clothing, proper weightlifting shoes, a weight belt, wrist straps and maybe even bringing your own little bag of chalk.

My point is, there are always ways to enhance your workouts and that’s what we are going to talk about in today’s video. Four Reasons why the safety squat barbell can help take your leg training to the next level!

Anatomy Of The Squat

But before we get started, let’s have a quick recap of the anatomy of the squat. Now the squat is by far one of the best lower body exercise you can do to build muscle and strength in your legs, there’s no disputing that. It’s a push movement that heavily activates your glutes, quads and hamstrings and there are actually TWO variations of the barbell squat depending on the position of the barbell on your shoulders. If you rest the barbell high across your shoulders/neck, it’s called a High-Bar Squat and if the barbell rests more on your mid back, it’s called a Low-Bar Squat.

I’m not going to go too deep into detail now so if you want to learn more about each variation I do have an article about it and you can check it out HERE later.

But the key difference between them has to do with the positioning of the torso. With the high-bar squat your torso moves up and down extremely upright, almost like a Front Squat. With the low-bar squat however, your torso assumes a much more bent-over position, similar to a deadlift.

Now having said that, both variations require three things:

  1. Excellent shoulder & chest mobility, to get under the barbell and grip it properly.

  2. Excellent core control & low back strength, to prevent a lower back injury.

  3. And lastly, there are other smaller yet very important form tweaks, such as hip and knee positioning that can really make a difference when it comes to injury prevention and performance during the lift.

But when does the safety squat barbell come into play? Well, the main reason why the safety squat barbell is often times superior to the standard squat is the fact that you DON’T have to worry about shoulder or chest mobility when grabbing the barbell because of the position of the handles and most importantly, the mechanics of the safety squat barbell automatically lock your body in basically what can be called “perfect form”. So, the question is… should you make the switch from the barbell to the safety squat barbell?

Well, let’s dive in and take a look at the FOUR main benefits of the safety squat barbell.

1. The Safety Squat Barbell Offers Better Core Stability, Less Stress On The Lower Back As Well As Less Hip & Knee Stress.

This is because the safety squat barbell sits a bit higher than a standard barbell and the camber pushes you forward, forcing you to fight to stay upright. Therefore, you will be a bit more upright than a high-bar squat and a lot more upright than a low-bar squat.

In general, the more upright your torso is, the less pressure is placed on your lower back and with the safety squat barbell, the pressure will be displaced more towards your glutes and quads. Because of this, the safety squat barbell helps prevent your core from collapsing which will allow you to open up your hips and knees more freely offering a mechanically advantageous position to squat with a much lower chance for an injury.

In order to best demonstrate this, think about the difference between the deadlift and the squat. With the deadlift, the weight is in front of your center of gravity, which means that you absolutely need to use your back to pull the barbell off the floor.

With the squat however, the weight is almost directly on top of your center of gravity which means there will be basically zero lower back strain when squatting.

This is also super important to know because due to the fact that the safety squat barbell places the load exactly on your center of gravity it locks you into perfect form when squatting. So, if you have a really hard time with squat form, the safety squat barbell can help you take full advantage of all the benefits of squatting.

2. The Safety Squat Barbell Is A Comfortable Squatting Solution For People With Limited Shoulder Mobility.

Now it should be no surprise that due to our mostly sedentary lifestyle, many people tend to be tight around the shoulders and chest area which is certainly not natural but it IS typical. Even if you train every day, that is still only a few hours compared to the rest of the day where you work a desk job not moving much at all.

In fact, 99% of the time beginners will not have the shoulder mobility to get in a straight barbell squat position and their elbows will start pointing backwards instead of down. This then results in their entire upper body collapsing over making the squat particularly inefficient and very dangerous.

Of course, the long-term solution is to work on your mobility utilizing a series of dynamic and static stretches, but that might take a while. So, in the meantime, the safety squat barbell can be an excellent alternative because there is zero external shoulder rotation due to that the handles are right in front of you.

However, even if you have excellent shoulder mobility, it’s good to note here that being able to take your shoulders completely OUT of the equation when squatting can help with your overall shoulder preservation and recovery. Especially if your chest and shoulder workouts are very taxing on your body.

3. The Safety Squat Barbell Can Help Fix Your Kyphotic Posture.

This is because, over time, your body will adapt to what proper form feels like while simultaneously strengthening your core and legs. But most importantly, the safety squat barbell will force you to maintain an upright torso position preventing your chest from collapsing thus strengthening the right muscle groups that help you hold a nice, upright posture.

In fact, as an overall movement, you should think of the safety squat barbell as the ultimate combination between front squats and deadlifts. Similarly to the front squat, you’ll be in an upright torso position but you won’t have to fight your shoulders in order to keep your elbows and chest up throughout the movement.

In comparison to the deadlift, the safety squat barbell will allow you to train your mid-back, thoracic extensors and rhomboids & traps without compromising your lower back.

So for those of you who can’t squat or deadlift well, the safety squat barbell can really help take your training to the next level.

4. The Safety Squat Barbell Is Highly Versatile Making It Compatible With Many Other Lower Body Movements.

It should be obvious that anytime you can train with an exercise that can help make you stronger with other exercises in your training, you should be doing it. When it comes to the safety squat barbell, because of how upright the form forces you to be, transitioning the strength and muscle you gain with it can help you perform better at other exercises like:

  • Box Squats
  • Suspended Squats (TRX)
  • Good Mornings
  • Zercher Squats
  • Front Squats
  • And Walking Lunges

However, you could perform the walking lunges with the safety squat barbell if you wanted to. Now I know most of you probably prefer dumbbells, but you’ll be able to use more weight with the safety squat barbell without being limited by your grip strength. Also, if you do have shoulder mobility issues, you can’t exactly perform a walking lunge with a straight barbell to its maximum potential if you’re constantly fighting keeping your torso from collapsing.

Final Thoughts: Should You Ditch The Straight Barbell?

Well, as always, the answer is not a simple yes or no. The correct answer has to do with your preference, mobility, past injuries and overall goals.

Let’s look at it this way. The safety squat barbell offers the same benefits as using a straight barbell when squatting in terms of leg power, strength & development. However, some people are limited by their shoulder or lower body mobility and they cannot effectively and safely perform a squat using a standard barbell. If this sounds like you, the safety squat barbell is exactly what you need.

But even for a guy like me that can squat with near perfect form when using a straight barbell, I still find the safety squat barbell useful from time to time when I want to either give my shoulders or lower back a break. Even some of the world’s top powerlifters and strength athletes train their squats almost exclusively using the safety squat barbell for the same reasons I mentioned in this video.

So, if your gym has a safety squat barbell or you’re thinking about getting one for your home gym, definitely go for it and I will link you guys to the Gronk Safety Squat Barbell I use in my gym HERE. (10% Off Coupon Code: mindright-15)

And as always guys more good stuff coming soon! See ya!

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