Use The Makeshift Safety Squat Bar Setup for Lunges and Split Squats
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Over the past few weeks I’ve demonstrated how you can make your own safety squat bar by simply take two lifting straps/wrist straps and attaching them to the barbell. Besides being very effective for performing standard squats, this makeshift safety bar setup is very conducive for performing barbell lunges as demonstrated by one of my awesome clients Matt Jordan.
Here’s why it’s so effective.
1. The makeshift safety squat bar setup does wonders for reinforcing the hip hinge - one of the most important cues during the lunge and split squat. The lifter will be required to keep their hips set back near maximally throughout to create a slight forward torso lean in order to keep the bar from sliding off their back. If you assume an overly upright position, pull your head up via cervical hyperextension, let your hips shift forward, or allow significant anterior knee drift, the bar will roll off your back. In other words it promotes ideal lunging mechanics as proper lunges and split squats involve a proper hip hinge and forward lean throughout the movement.
Additionally, you’ll be forced to stay in the bottom ¾ of the movement as locking out or coming up too high at the top of the lunge will cause the torso to become overly upright, again resulting in bar slippage. The amount of constant tension to the lower body during this lunging protocol is incredibly high making it very effective for eliciting gains in functional strength and hypertrophy. Just be prepared for a serious burn.
2. The makeshift safety squat bar is the most effective barbell variation I’ve used for teaching lifters how to pull the bar into their back - a common but important training cue. Rather than simply allowing the bar to rest on your back, pulling or squeezing the bar into your back is a critical component for any barbell squat or barbell lunge as it helps create increased spinal rigidity, enhanced lat activation, and a more stable bar position. With the makeshift variation if you don’t pull aggressively on the straps and pull the bar into your back, the bar will literally fall off your back. Because of the extended duration of a standard set of lunges, expect significant stimulation to the lats during this protocol.
3. This makeshift safety squat bar setup is much more unstable than any traditional barbell or specialty barbell due to the lack of rigidity in the handles/straps. As a result this forces the lifter to use very strict mechanics and dial in their form otherwise the barbell will tilt to one side or slide off their back. In fact if you have a tendency to favor one side or allow one hip or shoulder to dip, this set-up will give you immediate feedback via a teeter totter effect. Applying this to lunges does wonders for balance, stability, and motor control as the stride position is already unstable to begin with. If you’ve had trouble mastering your balance on lunges, you’ll definitely want to give this a go.
4. the make shift bar is very conducive for teaching rigid spinal mechanics. Although the arms are pulling forcefully against the straps to keep the weight anchored onto the traps, even the slightest loss of spinal rigidity or proper postural alignment will cause the bar to tilt, become unstable, or simply roll off your back.
5. The straps can be gripped as high or as low as feels comfortable (lower position is more unstable but easier on the shoulders) or they can be adjusted as wide or as narrow as you need them. This is makes it very conducive for accommodating any size lifter and varying anthropometrics. During lunges this is even more important as the arms will be held in this position for approximately double the duration (as you perform both sides). Ensuring your arms and shoulders are in a comfortable position without tension on the joints is critical for maximizing your form and mechanics as well as joint health. The make shift safety squat bar is very shoulder friendly during both squats and lunges.
On a side note, the same makeshift safety bar squat setup using simple wrist straps can also be employed on Bulgarian squats and Good mornings.
In essence, besides being very shoulder friendly, the make shift safety squat bar setup forces near perfect and strict lunging and split squat mechanics.