Beyond the Safety Bar Squat

One Tool for a Complete Lower-Body Workout

Not Just for the Safety Bar Squat

You know the Safety Bar squat, but there are many other ways you can use this piece of equipment.

What's the point of the Safety Bar if we already have barbells? This unique bar allows your spine to stay more neutral and upright. It minimizes shear forces on the lower back and allows you to use a greater range of motion through your hips, knees, and ankles. You'll actually feel good using a full ROM.

So what else can you do with it besides a standard squat? Lots. Check out these exercises.

Walking lunges are a staple, but after a heavy session of deadlifts, your grip may struggle more than your legs. If that's the case, the Safety Bar allows you to use more load than you would with dumbbells or kettlebells.

For a more glute-intensive lunge, lean forward slightly at the torso, along with a slightly forward shin angle. At the bottom of the movement, the front of your knee will line up with the front of your shoes. Resist shifting your pelvis and make sure you can feel the glutes doing the work.

For a more quad-dominant lunge, keep a more vertical torso and shin angle. Don't step too far forward, then have to compensate to get back to neutral.

The good morning is a controversial exercise because it can put the lumbar spine in a compromised position if you don't do it right. The key is stopping if anything feels too stressful on the wrong areas of the back.

The Safety Bar version of the good morning targets the mid and upper back. It places a larger demand on the mid and upper paraspinal muscles to maintain proper spinal posture throughout the lift. It shifts gravity forward and makes it more difficult. And, just like the standard good morning, you can do it seated.

  • Position the bar on your back as if you were doing a squat.
  • While maintaining tightness in your glutes and hamstrings, hinge at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  • Drive the bar back to the starting position by pushing your hips forward and keeping your lower back flat until your knees are locked.

When you think of single-arm carries, you probably picture someone doing them with sandbags or kettlebells, but the Safety Bar adds a new sagittal plane component.

Not only is this a massive anti-lateral flexion movement for the core, but the bracing required to balance the bar front-to-back forces your thoracic spine to adjust and stabilize to avoid tipping over. Since your grip won't be a limiting factor, you can load a bit heavier.

  • Start by un-racking the Safety Bar onto one shoulder so that the middle of the bar pad rests on top of that shoulder.
  • Grab the front handle of the Safety Bar.
  • Walk any set distance, bracing the abs.
  • Turn and walk back, keeping your core and back engaged.

Hatfield exercises allow you to hold onto something – pins, spotter arms, handles, or the power rack itself – for support. This extra assistance gives you more control over your time under tension, load, and balance than a free-standing version.

  • Set the bar slightly lower than your shoulders in the rack. Secure your hand support at hip height.
  • Un-rack the bar and set yourself up close enough to the hand support so that you don't have to reach too far for it.
  • Your elbows should be bent while maintaining a secure grip. Keep your posture tall and get your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Start with a slight bend in your knees.
  • Tense your shoulders and hips and engage your core. Lock your ribs down and tuck your pelvis slightly. All reps should begin from this position.
  • While keeping your hands on the supports, begin the downward movement by bending your hips, knees, and ankles. To begin the upward movement, push through your mid-foot and heel while keeping your toes engaged.
  • You can bias the quads more by adding the heel-elevation wedge and driving the knees forward.

Try using the Safety Bar for rear-foot elevated split squats. The Hatfield variation, where you hold spotter arms or hand supports, gives you the ability to use more weight and gain more control over the eccentric.

You can bias the quads a bit more by dropping the rear foot down and adding a wedge or heel ramps to the lead leg to maximize knee flexion.

The spotter arms will also assist you during the concentric portion of the movement, especially if your intent is to overload the eccentric or isometric components. Having something to hold onto will let you use more weight than a barbell split squat would allow, increasing tension on the muscles.

Bonus: The hand-assistance will also take pressure off your back.

  • Start with a Safety Bar, rack, and bench to elevate your back foot. Step the foot under the pins. You need to be close enough to hold the rack but not hit the pins with the bar on the way up.
  • Set the back foot on the bench, laces down.
  • Get your grip about 6-12 inches below the pins. Too high and your arms interfere with the bar path. Use your hands for stability but don't pull up.
  • Use a slight forward lean to prevent the bar from falling off your shoulders. Maintain a vertical shin angle as you descend into the squat while pushing your working hip back.
  • Keep your torso straight and keep a vertical shin to make this easier on your knees.

If you don't have the wrist mobility for the front rack required during barbell front squats, this variation is for you.

  • Set the bar as if you were about to do back squats but place the handles toward you. You want the middle padded portion across the front of your chest.
  • Grab the bar where you feel comfortable enough to descend into the deepest squat possible while maintaining a neutral spine. Then return back to the starting position.

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Mike Over is an NASM Master Trainer and owner of Over-Achieve Fitness in Pennsylvania where he works with hundreds of everyday gym goers and athletes of all levels, both in person and remotely.

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