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Safety Bar Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

Perhaps your gym has a safety squat bar or you have seen one in movies or other gyms. You can do various exercises with this bar, including the safety bar squat.

In this article, we explain what a safety bar squat is, which muscles you use and how you perform the exercise. In addition, we will cover some common mistakes and answer several interesting questions about this exercise.

What is a safety bar squat?

The safety bar squat is a squat where you use this special bar. The rod has handles that are perpendicular to the rod itself. In this way, the bar stays on your shoulders more easily. The discs also hang slightly lower than with a normal rod, so that the pressure is distributed differently. This can make the exercise feel very uncomfortable, for example when you are used to a regular squat.

Safety Bar Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

Which muscles do you use?

The safety bar squat first targets your leg muscles, especially your quadriceps. You should lower with the weight, forcing the quadriceps to work hard. In addition, your hamstrings will also have to work, but to a lesser extent. The exercise is also challenging for your abs. Your upper body must remain neatly straight and cannot hang too much forward.

Even your calves are used to performing this exercise correctly. All in all, the primary muscle group that you train with a safety bar squat is the quadriceps, but there are still quite a few secondary muscle groups that are also trained.

Execution of the safety bar squat

Below you see the step-by-step explanation of the safety bar squat. Read all the steps one by one before you start the exercise. Be sure to watch the video to get a better idea of ​​the performance.

  1. Hang the safety squat bar at the right height

    It is important that you hang the bar at the correct height so that you can easily lift it out. So test the height before you start the exercise. The bar should hang high enough for you to unpack it comfortably, but low enough to put it back down when there's weight on it.

  2. Lift the bar from the rack and stand in the starting position

    Place the pad of the safety squat bar behind your neck and grip the handles. Tighten your abs and lift the bar off the rack. Take a big step back and stand up straight. You keep your feet about shoulder-width, but this can also be a little wider if you like. This is your starting position.

  3. Pocket controlled down

    Tighten your abs on a bag now down. Move down until your knees are bent at least 90 degrees. While lowering, try not to move your knees too far forward, as this will make it very difficult to squat deeply enough. This will take some getting used to in the beginning, but you will learn this automatically by performing the exercise more often.

  4. Move up in a controlled manner

    Now move your back to the starting position. Do this in a controlled manner and evenly. You will notice that, as it gets heavier, you will automatically lean more forward. Try to avoid this by tightening your back and abs. You have now done one repetition.

  5. Repeat as many times as desired

    You can do as many reps as you want. A good goal to start with is 8 repetitions, but you can of course do more or less.

Have you noticed that you haven't quite mastered the safety bar squat yet? Be sure to read the common mistakes below. You may unconsciously make a mistake, which prevents you from performing the exercise properly.

Common mistakes

Below we have worked out the 4 most common mistakes in the safety bar squat. Do you notice that the exercise does not go completely smoothly? Perhaps you unconsciously do one or more of the things below. So read them carefully and discover what you should not do.

  1. Not keeping
    the upper body straight enough Perhaps the most common mistake in the safety bar squat: not keeping the upper body straight enough. During the exercise, you tend to hang forward very quickly. This is due to the way the weight is positioned on the bar. This is different from when you perform a back squat, for example.

    So tighten your abs well and focus on keeping your upper body as straight as possible during the entire exercise.
  2. Don't tighten your abs
    This mistake fits in seamlessly with the previous mistake, but we want to discuss it separately. The contraction of the abdominal muscles is very important in the safety bar squat. This way you remain stable in position during the entire movement. The moment you don't do this, you will notice that your upper body sags, as it were, which immediately makes the exercise a lot more difficult. So keep it tight throughout the entire movement.
  3. Not descending deep enough
    To experience all the benefits of the safety bar squat, it is of course important to perform it in its entirety. However, many people do not descend sufficiently, so that they do not make a full-fledged repetition. Do you notice that you have difficulty with this or are you in doubt about your depth? Then film yourself from the side or ask someone to judge your set. This way you can fairly easily avoid making the mistake of not sinking deep enough.
  4. Standing too narrow or too wide
    The last mistake we will cover is the wrong position of the feet. If your feet are not positioned correctly, it can quickly become difficult to achieve depth and maintain a straight upper body. So take a good look at the position of your feet before you start your set. Try to stand a little wider or narrower if you think things are going wrong here. You can also ask a trainer at the gym to look at your set. This way you prevent things from going wrong with the position of your feet.

Frequently asked questions about the safety bar squat

We round off this explanation with a number of frequently asked questions. Is your question not listed and would you like an answer? Then put it at the bottom of this page and we will answer it for you as soon as possible.

Safety bar squat vs back squat?

One exercise is not the other and this also applies to the different squat variants out there. It is therefore not the case that one exercise is really better than the other. The safety bar squat will put a little more emphasis on the quadriceps than the back squat, but with the back squat, you will, for example, use your back muscles more.

All in all, both exercises are very good for the development of your muscle mass. Since not every gym has a safety bar but often does have a barbell, a back squat will be a more accessible exercise.

What are good alternatives?

The most obvious alternative is the front squat. This exercise is a bit more difficult to perform because positioning the barbell can still be quite difficult. In addition, you can take a look at the page with quadriceps exercises, to see all similar exercises here. Each exercise has extensive step-by-step explanations, so you can get started in the gym right after reading.

Performing a safety bar squat in combination with back pain?

Many athletes indicate that they feel less tension in the back with the safety bar squat than with, for example, a regular back squat. Do you want to perform a squat variant where you use the back muscles less? Then you can definitely try the safety bar squat. However, have you had pain in your back for a long time? Then it is advisable to seek help from a therapist / professional who can assess and treat your specific situation.

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