The Safety Squat Bar: Making a Tall Guy Squat Right

As badass as it looks.

As badass as it looks.

My friend Doug McGuff , author of the new book Body by Science, once made this comment at a training conference: “We tend toward the things we’re not naturally talented at.” I find this accurate in my own life, as I was a beanpole basketball player growing up who decided to try his hand at, and become really enamored with, the strength training game. I’ve been a trainer for nearly 10 years now and I’ve never felt really good about squatting…until now.My training partner calls me “Lever Man” for good reason: I’m all arms and legs, with a 6’6″ wingspan and a 36″ inseam. Pant and shirt purchases aren’t the only thing I’ve had trouble with, as squats were always a compromise. Adopting a low bar, powerlifter-stance squat helped, but because of the length of my femurs, I was almost performing good-mornings out of the hole. This means my back always became fatigued before my hips and thighs. Further, heavy squatting always left a lingering pain in my sacrum. There had to be a better way.

Enter the safety bar. This gnarly monster was pioneered by the mad geniuses at Westside Barbell, with the intent of teaching the lifter to fire the muscles that keep a neutral spine whilst squating. The damn thing wants to pull you forward, becoming a sort of front/back squat hybrid without all the nonsense of holding the bar across your shoulders. By sheer luck, I found a pair of these bad boys at my local Play it Again sports for a steeply discounted price of 120 bucks.

Using the bar is curious, as the unrack will jostle a deeply-grooved squatter. Expecting the weight to bear straight down your back and feeling it yank you forward gets your attention; groove those warm ups for sure. The next thing I noticed is that I am able to stay very, very tall in the hole…like I said, a front/back hybrid. Reading descriptions of the bar from Dave Tate had me read for my back to just cry, but that’s not the case. Perhaps my trap bar deadlifting minimized this feature…I don’t really know.

The result was what I expected the next couple days: INTENSE soreness. I don’t normally feel this sore unless I perform negative-only squats, but my quads were just fried. What I really liked was the fact that my lower back experienced no discomfort whatsoever and I felt so natural squatting. Que bueno. What I’m thinking this will do, or at least greatly accelerate, is my quest to get my vertical leap up over 40″. Though I’m working on adding muscle, increasing my horsepower is going to pay big and this (with the trap bar) are going to do just that as safely as possible for me. I’ve only used the bar 2 weeks but the weight is already up and it feels flawless to use. Great tool.

So check out my video and notice a couple things:

1. The guy spotting me just set the regional record in his age and weight group for powerlifting: 1460 total.

2. That belt is around my waist; I’m trying to bring back the high waisted pant for men. Really.

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7 thoughts on “The Safety Squat Bar: Making a Tall Guy Squat Right

  1. you look like me.

    I gave up squatting to save my back. Too many injuries over the years. Lunges are ok for me now and single leg squats

    I’ll never be a powerlifter so what the hell

  2. Chris,

    I’ve been fortunate that my back has never been hurt squatting, but was always aware of my own circumstances. If you come across one of these, at least give it a try; it makes a huge difference.

    I too am a fan of, and include, weighted step up and bulgarian split squats in my routine with great result.

  3. Never seen one of those before but would try one just for fun anyway. I’ve got short femurs though, so I don’t have any excuses for not having perfect “butt down/chest out” form every single rep. :)

  4. Brandon,

    Even if you’re built to squat well, the safety bar is a potent tool. For instance, my powerlifter coworker noted that his recent max-effort workout with the bar torched all sorts of muscles in his back that the squat doesn’t normally hit. Plus, it is a potent tool for good mornings, if that’s your thing.

  5. This could be an ideal solution for me. I am challenged in the squat by:

    1) Being relatively tall — 6′ 3″

    2) Being brutally inflexible

    I still haven’t found a real “groove” where I look like I am doing a real squat i.e. “tall in the hole”.

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