Question about squats

Can I get the same benefit squatting with a hex bar versus placing a bar on my shoulders?

Hey @patrick.orourke4!
Which plan are you following?

Traditional squats are what we recommend as it allows you to lift the heaviest weights, thus promoting the greatest gains. We have also noticed over the years that athletes using the hex bar are at a greater risk of experiencing an injury. That said, it can be used. It just is not as good as a traditional squat rack.


I’m using the off-season plan that includes 10 weeks of weights. I followed the plan last year as well. I had shoulder surgery in 2015 after a crash in a crit. No issues other than not being confident in holding the weight on the shoulder.

Thank you,

Patrick S. O’Rourke

I agree with @Lacey_Rivette and think if the plan made you faster last year, stick with it (the squat).

I have too many example of athletes pulling a muscle in their back performing dead lifts. Its a great exercise but so is the squat at much less risk of injury. If your shoulder tolerated the movement last year, I wouldn’t see this year as being any different…


Thank you, Frank.

This is one of my favorite parts of off-season training.

Thank you,

Patrick S. O’Rourke

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Last year I was far too terrified of the barbell, and so used dumbbells for the squats and that went pretty well although grip strength was the limiting factor and I think I topped out at 85# dumbbells.
I’ve been working on shoulder flexibility the last 6 weeks, and air squats, but still aren’t confident on flexibility for regular back squats, and are looking at alternatives. One that has jumped to the top of the list is the safety squat bar, any thoughts on going down this route? I intend to leverage a personal trainer this time around, and will be heading to the gym in the next week or two to get started with the adaptation phase. I’ll see what the trainer recommends also of course.

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The dumbbells will definitely limit your ability to lift heavier weights and therefore impact your gains during the 10 week resistance plan, so I would stray away from that.
I’d lean to say the safety squat bar is a feasible alternative though and better than using a smith rack.

@lacey.rivette thanks for the feedback!

I have been using the safety squat bar as I have a dodgy shoulder and it has certainly been ok. I’d be interested to know if there was any meaningful difference between using this and a straight bar?

Hi @tim.scott-ellis - I don’t think there is any difference in the muscle groups used but I am also not sure I have ever seen a “safety squat bar” - can you post a picture or provide a link.

Still if you are staying true the movement of a squat I think you are fine. Hope that helps -

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@FRANK I haven’t used one yet but am leaning this way. The videos and write-ups I’ve seen suggest you maintain a more upright position through the back vs the back squat. And of course it takes care of the shoulder issues since you hold the bar differently. Here is a picture of one that google threw at me.

Screen Shot 2020-11-05 at 10.30.18 AM And someone, not me, using one.

Yep, thems the ones. I think so anyway, I’ve never seen them with that much weight on… :grinning:

This looks like a bad idea to me - you are not trying to set the Guinness book of world records squatting .

This setup actually puts more weight on your shoulders bc you are not counterbalancing the weight like you do a traditional bar

I have a grade 3 shoulder separation and have no trouble with a traditional bar…

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That most certainly isn’t me lifitng that much weight! I’m not sure I understand the point about counterbalancing the wieght? Where is the wieght from a traditional bar if it is not on the shoulders? I have looked up as much as I can find about these safety bars, it seems they are popular with many people and used to improve form. I would also ask you to remember that your shoulder injury is not mine, I can’t use a traditional bar. This is due pain that is currently being investigated, but initially diagnosed as arthirtis.

Hey @tim.scott-ellis !
With a traditional bar the weight is spread evenly across your shoulders and neck. It also allows you to distribute the weight or reduce it from putting too much pressure on you in one spot. I dont think you will be able to do that with the safety bar. But you are correct in that no one athletes situation is alike. If you struggle with possible arthritis, the best option actually could be the smith rack. However if you are to use this option, I would highly suggest having a personal trainer or other expert watch you and ensure that you have proper technique.

My experience with the Safety Bar has been very positive-- weight is balanced on the shoulders, with the grips primarily to help with control (I keep a very light grip on the handles). I read somewhere that there is a little less hamstring and abdominal recruitment with the safety bar, but otherwise was pretty comparable to the straight bar, with three-rep max being slightly higher with the straight bar. Coming into lifting season with shoulder mobility issues, I could manage to use a straight bar, but the safety bar is just so much more comfortable.

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excellent reference material @cwben :+1:

I’m looking forward to giving the safety bar a try. In my first trip to the gym this week I was introduced to the squat belt machine, and tried this out instead, since a good trainer wasn’t present for the safety bar instruction. My first impression of the belt squat machine was that this would be a better option than the dumbbell squats I used last year. So I’ve got at least two alternative options to experiment with during adaptation phase since my shoulders won’t yet let me get into position for a regular barbell back squat.

BTW for anyone else interested in the safety bar, I think this video is pretty good at laying at the why and the how of it all:

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I have asked a coach I know who has some actual experience with and knowledge of using the safety bar, when I have their response I’ll let you know. The reference material looks very good, thanks.