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My gym has a safety squat bar, like this one:

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So far, I've been sticking with the normal bar, but was wondering if there are reasons to should switch over.

I'm not currently experiencing any pain (other than occasional soreness), but someone suggested it to me the other day.

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2 Answers 2

In the squat, the position of the bar on your back dictates the angle of your back. If you squat high bar, the back is more vertical and if you squat low bar the back is more angled. The idea being that the weight of the bar should be over mid-sole of your foot for proper balance and to keep the bar moving in a vertical path.

The "safety squat bar" lowers the center of gravity similar to what you get with a low bar squat; however, the bar is sitting on the traps (high bar) which keeps the load on the spinal column more vertical. A lower center of gravity will help you put more weight on the bar, and a more vertical spine is a happier spine.

Having squatted both high bar and low bar, I can definitely attest to the fact that you can lift more low bar. You do have to be aware of your knee position and the bar position when you are in the hole, because it is easier to cause the bar to come forward which will force your body into a "good morning" exercise. That's a lot of stress on the back for a simple mistake. I recently switched to high bar (within the past couple weeks) primarily because it has more carryover to the Olympic lifts. It's harder to get back up, but my back remains in a more upright position and I can hit parallel a little easier.

My personal recommendation is to stick with a proper bar. It's actually more comfortable than the "safety" bar, particularly with higher weights. Even with the padding, the way the safety bar cuts into your traps on either side of your neck makes them unhappy. Having the load go in the same direction as your traps allows you to handle more weight and is more comfortable.

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Usually, the purpose of the safety squat bar is just to vary the position of the squat a little bit. Variety increases the speed of improvement. I certainly don't think the padding on the bar makes it more comfortable than a normal bar. The padding is just necessary because of the shape of the bar, and where it shifts the weight. In fact, I personally find the safety squat bar to be far more uncomfortable to use than a standard bar.

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