Benefits Of The Safety Bar Squat That Are Overlooked

Benefits Of The Safety Bar Squat That Are Overlooked

I am a big fan of the Safety Squat Bar, and I actually wrote a whole article on its 4 primary benefits over on @powerliftingtechinque. These primary benefits included allowing shoulder mobility to be a non-factor, naturally creating a more neutral pelvic orientation, having a self limiting affect, and it can be used to address certain movement/muscle weaknesses in the squat. But I wanted to cover a bit more of the lesser known benefits of the SSB, much like I did with pause squats in a post last December. There are some very specific things with the SSB that provides high benefits that most other squat variants just cannot replicate.  

1.) For those proficient with the SSB, one of the things most people come to realize is how much less they have to cue certain patterns in their squat. The SSB tends to naturally create a more neutral pelvic position, it creates a forward weight bias that results in a natural forward torso lean as you descend, and it greatly simplifies your setup and bracing. There is no need for a complex setup and bracing routine, as outside of inhaling to create intra-abdominal pressure, it kind of just takes care of the rest. So when an athlete gets proficient with an SSB, they get to go on auto-pilot a bit more. Less overthinking and more squatting. For me in particular, when I use a SSB really the only thing I am thinking about is foot pressure. I find my mid-foot, I find medial pressure side to side, and I descend into that almost like the floor is a leg press platform. That “leg press” platform is lowering towards me as I descend, and then at the bottom I push it away through my feet. What the rest of my body does tends to take care of itself, so now I can worry more about that direct connection to the floor and really simplify my squat pattern. 

2.) 9 times out of 10 hip flexor pain is related to anterior pelvic orientation creating less room for femoral range of motion within the hip, creating this “pinching” in the front of the hip and causing hip flexor pain. And 9 times out of 10 the way to fix this is to improve pelvic orientation, which is easier said than done. A very common tool I use in these instances when hip flexor pain flare ups occur is increasing SSB frequency. Now if an athlete is struggling with pelvic orientation on a low bar squat, we need to fix that. But if the pain is bad enough that they can’t low bar squat, we will SSB instead, as the SSB naturally tends to create a more neutral pelvic orientation as I have mentioned. But probably more common than just completely taking out low bar squats, is that I will leave low bar squat in the program on a secondary or tertiary day. This allows technique to be continued to be worked on, while we use the SSB to drive intensity and volume on other days. I have found time and time again that this allows that hip flexor pain to decrease due to the improved positioning the SSB creates, yet never once did we have to lower volume or relative intensity to achieve that. 

3.) If you watched my video on YouTube “Understanding Hip Shift In The Squat”, you will understand that sometimes what the lower body does is a compensatory action to positioning errors with the shoulders. If we lack shoulder mobility on one specific side, this could create a chain reaction downwards, resulting in a hip shift. Well how can we know for sure with someone that shoulder mobility is the cause? Have them squat with a Safety Bar. This takes shoulder mobility out of the equation and allows us to see instead what the lower body does without the tug and pull of the shoulders/upper body. If we see a noticeable improvement with the hip shift, we can have a higher degree of confidence the shift on a low bar squat stems from asymmetrical shoulder mobility. And if this hip shift is correlating to any type of pain, then much like point number 2, we can continue to push intensity and volume on SSB while working on low bar technique during a secondary or tertiary day. 

6 Causes Of Knee Cave And Why A Hip Circle Isn’t Fixing It

6 Causes Of Knee Cave And Why A Hip Circle Isn’t Fixing It – CLICK HERE

Other than maybe back rounding in the deadlift, I don’t think there is anything else that triggers the form and injury police on social media more than knee cave/valgus. Go to @kingofthelifts and any post with just the slightest touch of knee cave will be followed by 17 people who probably don’t lift themselves having to point out how that lifter is going to tear their ACL. In my latest YouTube video, I take a deeper look into knee valgus to give a better understanding of why it occurs and from my experience, how it seems to have little correlation with injury. I work on debunking the myth of weak glutes being the primary cause, and instead give 6 potential reasons (including weak glutes, because that is a potential cause, albeit unlikely) you are experiencing knee valgus in your squat. I’ll give a hint….much of the time it is just the adductors doing their job and is just normal deviation from the norm. But with that, sometimes knee valgus can cause potential roadblocks in regards to top end strength output, so to optimize technique I look at what the potential causes are so we have an understanding of where the breakdown is occurring and what we can improve. From there, I show real life examples of 6 of my lifters that each experience 1 of the potential causes, so that you can see exactly what I am discussing throughout the video. Click the link above to view!

The Why, When, and How Of Programming A Deload Week

The Why, When, and How Of Programming A Deload Week – CLICK HERE

Within powerlifting programming, there are pretty strong opinions both ways in regards to the need to program deload weeks. Some say it is a waste of a week where you could be training hard, while others program deloads on a structured and/or reactive basis. I am in the camp of having regularly scheduled and/or reactive deload weeks. From experience, I see a lifter’s longevity increase from deload weeks not only due to physiological reasons, but maybe even more so due to the mental and psychological benefits it provides. In my latest Youtube video I cover the 6 reasons, physiological and psychological, of why I program deload weeks. I detail how to determine the frequency of deloads needed on an individual lifter basis. I break out Google Sheets once again to give a conceptual template of how to program deload weeks, including me screen recording myself programming a deload week as an example. I explain how to individualize the extent of the deload not only to a particular lifter, but to each one of their lifts separately. And lastly, I take a look into how deload weeks can be one of the best tools for determining how to taper and peak into a meet. Click the link above to view!

Understanding Retraction and Why Your Elbows Are “Soft”

Understanding Retraction and Why Your Elbows Are “Soft” – CLICK HERE

 

Shoulder retraction is a fairly well known topic, but I think misguided in its application within powerlifting and the bench press. In my latest Youtube video, I dive fully into this topic and how we should have active retraction and protraction throughout our bench press range of motion. Pinching your shoulder blades back as hard as you can from the get go and holding them there throughout the press has for some reason become this supposed magic trick for shoulder health and decreasing range of motion, but both are fallacies. While there are a lot of factors of why we need a moving shoulder blade, one of the biggest that most do not know is from the relation of the long head of the tricep to the scapula. I break down how this relation affects our bench press movement, I look at how to keep ourselves accountable during our initial setup to make sure we do not over-retract, I describe the two main cues I use to promote active retraction through the eccentric phase, and then the main cue I use to promote protraction through the concentric phase. And lastly, per my title above, I give you the answer for why you can’t lock your elbows. Especially the often seen 1 elbow that just stays “soft” no matter what you do, and how you can fix that to not only get the start command, but also hopefully prevent or fix some nagging pec minor issues. Click the link above to view!

Understanding Distance Traveled When Equating Volume

Understanding Distance Traveled When Equating Volume

I posted this crazy 700lb. deadlift for almost 5 reps by Lorenzo (CLICK HERE), but I figured I’d give a little more insight into this, as recently we have tried a different approach for Lorenzo’s deadlift and it’s obviously working with great success. And really the game changer lately has been higher rep deadlifts. This was almost semi on accident, as recently due to the pandemic we had to switch gears a bit, because Lorenzo simply did not have enough weight in his garage to be doing anything competition specific below the 7 rep range on sumo deadlift. But I believe what we are seeing here, and I’d say with many sumo deadlifters, is the same thing I see on bench press with high arch benchers.

When we discuss volume, we typically see that accounted for in the equation of sets x reps x weight. But if we are going to be more precise with that equation, distance traveled needs to be accounted for as well. I’ve posted before about how I generally program with an understanding that based on someone’s height or range of motion, we then tend to see individual differences in how someone performs within reps at a given percentage. A great study I remember seeing in MASS a year or so ago in regards to bodyweight/femur length being directly correlated to how many reps someone can perform at 70% of their 1RM on squat, and that ranged anywhere from 8 reps to 26 (CLICK HERE FOR STUDY). So coming back around to Lorenzo, sumo deadlifters, and high arch benchers, we see in comparison dramatic decrease in distance traveled per rep compared to the norm. Take someone who is conventional deadlifting and has short arms, and they may be traveling twice the distance per rep as Lorenzo travels in 1. So while I am not advocating that we all need to track distance traveled to have a more precise volume equation, as this would be incredibly hard and tedious to do. But what I am saying is that it is a variable that needs to be accounted for in regards to understanding total workload for a given athlete and their training response to that.

Now for Lorenzo, I could in sense do 7×3 or 3×7 to equate volume, but I already know from experience that 7×3 is going to beat Lorenzo down. So to manage enough total distance traveled within a workout, these higher reps are proving to be extremely efficient for increasing total sets x reps x weight x distance for Lorenzo. He is a high arch bencher as well, as we’ve seen this to be true on his bench as well.

At the same time, I have lifters who do not respond well to high reps. Patrick is another 93kg lifter (CLICK HERE) who is very similar in strength to Lorenzo, yet anything over 5 reps on deadlifts and squat seems to destroy him. So that is why we need to think critically as to why this works for Lorenzo. Rather than seeing higher reps work for him and applying it universally, from my theorizing, what I can take away from this is that due to his range of motion we are seeing a good uptick in strength due to finding ways to increase true volume in factoring total distance traveled within a workout into the equation. Is this the only reason high reps may work for someone? No, as there are plenty of other variables as well. But for someone like Lorenzo who is at an advanced training age and very muscular, the benefits of high reps for hypertrophy are going to be less advantageous than for a beginner. So for him I believe what we are seeing is a different variable of high reps allowing for greater degrees of distance traveled to be attained, equaling higher “true volume” added.