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Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat – Which Should You Do?

Sep 18, 2018

Which is better and more beneficial when it comes to the safety bar squat vs back squat?

Are there actually any real reasons to choose a safety bar squat over traditional squatting?

safety bar squat vs back squat - barbell neck pad

Is there anything to gain from a safety bar squat outside of, well, safety?

What are the advantages? Disadvantages?

Not many people are familiar with the safety bar squat and only do back squats.

In this article, we are going to illustrate the benefits of both types of squats and let you choose a winner.

Of course, I have my opinion on which is better, but you may have a different preference.

The other thing I want to recommend is using our Dark Iron Fitness extra thick barbell pad.

Implementing the use of this barbell pad, with standard back squat and safety bar squat, you will be as comfortable as possible.

But, without using a barbell neck pad for comfort, can one of these squat styles be more comfortable on their own?

Let’s get to the bulk of the article and break down squats, form, barbell types, and reasons to do the safety bar squat vs back squat.

You may be interested in our...


Our premium bar wrap has just enough padding to provide superior comfort during those squats and lunges—yet it’s thin enough to keep the bar in an ideal position, close to your body. Eliminate discomfort & stay focused on your form with this durable, non-slip barbell pad.

View Product


Why Do We Do Squats?

Squatting to Gain Leg Strength

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Squat for Leg StrengthOne of the reasons we love to do squats is the fact they give us immense leg strength.

There’s no question, especially in today’s society, that a lot of us are less active.

In comparison to the past, the amount of hard labor jobs to dormant jobs has flipped.

This is partly (maybe mainly) due to technology and also a shift in social mindstate.

Before, hard labor was considered the norm and respected.

Now, if you are physically working harder than what you’re being paid, it’s highly looked down upon.

People think you are wasting your time and often you will feel like you are too.

Trust me, I’ve been in this situation several times — but I still respected the work, due to it being active.

Sure, you may be able to make 100,000+ a year coding at a tech company, but how often are you moving?

Very rarely, I assume, which is why a lot of desk job companies incentivize with gym memberships.

Not all employees take advantage of this, but they should.

As a people, our bodies are getting weaker; as a society, our technology is getting stronger.

This is why I think squatting for something as simple as keeping your legs active and strong is beyond beneficial.

If we can’t work our legs during our 9-5 like they did in the past, we better strive to work our legs in the gym, at the very least!

Related: Heavy Squat Benefits – Going Big to Get Big


Squatting for More Aesthetic Legs

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Aesthetic Legs from SquatsOn the other hand, many people squat to chisel at their legs.

I’m talking get them cut and shredded, or if you are overweight, get them nice and toned.

A majority of us are plagued by having a gut, which is so common it doesn’t stick out too much (get it, stick out?)

But, some have the misfortunes of having flabby arms and legs — which is very noticeable.

Don’t get it confused, though. Many people also suffer from chicken leg syndrome, which is just as bad!

The purpose for squats in these scenarios?

Well, you need to either gain weight and work your legs or lose weight and work your legs.

This is how you define them and chisel away at the flab or build up those toothpicks.

Trust me, the more you squat and the better you do it, your likelihood of aesthetically pleasing legs increases.

Related: How Many Squats Should I Do to Lose Weight Quickly?


Squatting to Build an Awesome Butt

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Squat BootyLastly, a great reason to squat is to build an amazing butt.

This applies to both men and women, but let’s be real, it is more coveted by women.

And for good reason — not only will it be aesthetically more pleasing, a stronger but will be more comfortable.

As someone who grew up having a bony butt and weak hips, I know the pain of getting comfortable in a seat.

Actually, that’s one of the reasons I even partake in squatting; I am trying to shield my bony butt with muscle.

So, for all the women out there who want a nice butt, don’t think the benefits are only skin deep.

The squats will also help with comfort, health, and building a foundation for other exercises.

With that in mind, any and all women or men looking to get a nice booty — get to squatting ASAP!

Related: Benefits of Squats for Women


Why is the Back Squat so Popular?

The Beauty of the Back Squat

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Back SquatI love the back squat, you probably love the back squat, we all love it.

But, why?

In my opinion, it is one of the classic, versatile squatting movements.

There’s a level of comfort to it, you can do high-bar or low-bar back squat.

You can keep your grip close or wide; your legs can be close or wide as well.

It feels like the safest option to perform your free weight squats.

And, it’s probably the best squat variation to help build that butt we were talking about earlier.

But, I believe we prefer back squat naturally because of two main things: natural placement and the laws of gravity.

Let me explain…

Related: How to Master the Back Squat


Natural Placement

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Natural Squat PositionNaturally, when we carry heavy items, we get the most bang for our buck using our backs.

When you see all of those old pictures of people balancing two buckets of water from a well back to their village, they have the post strung across their shoulders and upper back.

It would be ridiculous to try and carry that in a front squat position, placed on your upper chest.

I know a lot of long distance carrying is done on the head, but we aren’t really talking about long distance carrying and nobody squats with a barbell on their head (at least I hope not).

So, again, there is a sense of natural placement to keep the heavy barbell on your back as you squat down.

Essentially, it makes the squat as easy as it can be — but don’t confuse this for being less beneficial.

Back squats have withstood the test of time and have been celebrated by many successful lifters.

Ask any powerlifter — they know how important and serious the back squat is!

Related: Correct Posture for Squats – 16 Steps to Follow


Laws of Gravity

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Gravity for SquatsThe other key reason we love the back squat, in my opinion, is based on the way gravity works.

We are drawn downwards when we squat heavy weight, obviously.

But, we also tend to naturally lean forward when we do squats or squat-like movements.

With the barbell on your back, your natural inclination to lean forward is balanced by the weight being loaded to your backside.

This is why I think people who aren’t experienced in front squats can really put themselves in danger of falling forward if they aren’t prepared.

So, really, it’s the laws of gravity that make the back squat feel more safe, comfortable, and natural.

If you don’t believe me, grab a backpack with your school books (or your gym bag) and get down in a squat.

For 2 minutes, wear the backpack normally on your back and then for 2 minutes wear it on your front (or hold it to your front) and tell me which one feels more natural, or for that case, easier.

I promise you, we love doing back squats partly because of how gravity works.

Related: How to Squat with Proper Form: The Definitive Guide


Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat — Why Choose the Safety Bar?

What is the Safety Bar?

The safety bar is designed in a way where the bar cradles over your shoulders.

Two handles jet off from the shoulders in front of you to give you the placement for a neutral grip.

Essentially, the safety bar is made to put you in a comfortable and safe squatting position.

Usually, most safety bars will come pre-padded for your neck and shoulders.

It may look funny, but it is definitely designed with purpose.

Related: Tip: Master the Safety Squat Bar


Is the Safety Bar Squat Done Solely as a Way to Remain Safe?

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Safety Bar SafeIn my opinion, the safety bar squat is done for a few different reasons.

Yes, to remain safe.

But, I also think it hits these critical points as well:

  • Comfort
  • More Control and Purchase on the Bar 
  • Balanced
  • Natural Positioning

Due to the safety bar’s padding and shape, it lends itself to be fairly comfortable.

Furthermore, the neutral handles that stick out in front of you give you better control during the squat.

Also, these handles allow for more grip and purchase on the barbell.

And, since the bars have some weight to them, they distribute the overall weight you are lifting in a balanced manner.

Lastly, the use of a neutral grip position, in the front of you, is far more natural than a straight bar.

With a straight barbell, doing back squat, your arms are bent upward with a pronated grip.

When you go down into a squat with the safety bar, it’s a similar position to how you would crouch down in preparation to do a huge jump — it feels natural.

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat — Is it Even Comfortable to Use?

For those who have been squatting forever and have become accustomed to back squat, front squat, Zercher squats, etc. this may not be that much more comfortable.

But, for those who hate squats or are just learning, the safety bar can actually be helpful.

I’ve seen several beginners train with a safety bar in order to learn and perfect their form while using weight.

Sure, you can use an empty straight barbell to learn back squat, but it doesn’t really feel the same with no weight.

So, with a safety bar, you can add more weight as a beginner and still try to refine your form.

For a beginner, I would rate these types of barbell squats in order from most comfortable to least as such:

  1. Safety Bar Squat
  2. High Back Squat
  3. Low Back Squat
  4. Front Squat (I’d also throw the hex bar squat somewhere between 3 & 4)
  5. Zercher Squat

Comfort levels will vary from person to person — but I see this progression into squatting as a good way for beginners to learn if all of the necessary tools are available.

Speaking of availability, how many of you have actually seen a safety bar in person?


I’ve Never Even Seen One of These in the Gym!

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Safety Bar in GymA lot of you will fall into this category.

Safety bars are often rare, if not at all present, in most commercial gyms.

If you do see one — it’ll literally be one.

What this means is that you’ll probably never even use a safety bar to squat unless someone provides it for you.

If that’s the case for you, it may be beneficial to learn about the safety bar squat vs back squat, but you might never be put in a position to choose between the two.

Watch Below: How to Use a Safety Bar for Squats

Related: Why Every Gym Should Have a Safety Squat Bar


Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat — The Pros and Cons Compared

Overall Pros and Cons of Back Squat

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Barbell Back Squat

The back squat can be broken down to reflect certain pros and cons.

These are my opinion on the positives and negatives (you may feel differently or discover less or more)


  • Universally done
  • Straight barbell readily available
  • One of the most comfortable forms of squatting
  • Versatile with high-bar and low-bar positioning
  • Can be done with a close grip and a wide grip
  • Compatible with accessories like the Dark Iron Fitness extra thick barbell pad
  • Feels natural and balanced
  • Best squat variation to implement a spotter


  • Uncomfortable for beginners trying to learn squat form
  • Easy to hit a plateau if your body gets too accustomed to it
  • Can get boring if you don’t mix in other variations
  • Potential injuries to your back from the use of improper form

This is a very general and basic list, but I’m sure those who are familiar with the back squat can add a lot more to both categories!


Overall Pros and Cons of the Safety Bar Squat

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Safety Bar Pros Cons

Since the safety bar squat is still a squat, some of the pros and cons are similar to that of the back squat.

However, it’s still good to list these out as a way to see if some of the benefits and downsides push you towards one or the other in the battle of safety bar squat vs back squat.


  • Possibly the most comfortable for beginners (and others)
  • Natural positioning that utilizes a neutral grip
  • A bar that balances the weight distribution in a unique way.
  • Pre-padded neck and shoulder areas
  • Potential to squat more weight
  • Much safer to use (less likely to slip off your back)
  • Great for people with injuries


  • Extremely bulky and inconvenient to transport the bar
  • Potentially an uncomfortable position for some
  • Nearly impossible to find at most commercial gyms
  • Pushes you forward more than the back squat
  • More of an obstacle getting out of after racking the safety bar

As with the barbell back squat, you guys will probably pick out several more pros and cons that coincide with your body and squat style.

But, hopefully, these quick breakdowns give you an idea of which squat you’d like to do more.

It’s an easy way to see what you’d want to give a shot and what you want to avoid.

Related: Why You Should Be Squatting with a Safety Squat Bar

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat — Valuation Between the Two

Let’s keep this simple — when it comes to the safety bar squat vs back squat, I personally think the back squat is the winner.

There are three main reasons I’ve come to this conclusion.

  1. The back squat is overall more versatile
  2. Back squats use a straight barbell which is at all gyms
  3. You are better off learning to barbell back squat because it uses less “assistance”

But, this doesn’t mean the safety bar is a moot point.

Quite the opposite — the safety bar squat is super beneficial for all people, but particularly newbies and those with injuries.

When it comes to the valuation of these exercises, I give the back squat a 10/10.

And personally, I think the safety bar squat gets a 6.5/10.

Remember, I am factoring in everything here, not just the movement itself.

The whole problem with finding a safety bar to use for squatting is one of the reasons I can’t give it a higher score.

If you’ve made it this far, what are your scores for safety bar squat vs back squat?

Have you done both types of squats?


Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat — Final Thoughts

Where are You in Your Squat Journey?

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Squat JourneyI believe one of the most important things to realize is where you are in your squat journey.

Are you just starting off?

Do you consider yourself an intermediate lifter who is consistent?

Maybe you are someone who lifts but avoids squats like the plague.

You need to be honest with yourself in order to figure out what is best for you.

Like I said, beginners can really benefit from at least trying a safety bar to do their squats.

Figure out where you are in your journey with squatting and train accordingly.

Related: Is it Good to Do Squats Every Day?


What is Your Goal?

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Legs GoalThe next step is to clearly define your goals in squatting.

Do you just want to achieve progressive overload?

Are you working towards powerlifting and competing in meets?

Maybe you simply want to gain leg strength and build nicer aesthetics.

Your training methods, techniques, and tools all play a part in achieving these goals.

If you are competing and know you’ll be doing back squat with a straight barbell, it may be best to train that way, too.

For those who hate squats and just want to get it over with, maybe safety bar squats, bodyweight squats, Smith machine squats and the like are a route you’d rather take.

Related: The Best Powerlifting Belt for Deadlifts and Squats


Are You in Perfect Health?

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Neck PainThis is also a really important question to ask yourself when it comes to safety bar squat vs back squat.

If traditional barbell back squat puts you in pain and irritates any injuries, you should give the safety bar a shot.

However, if you find the pain occurring differently while doing the safety bar squat, maybe the back squat will actually be better for you — just test both out.

My best advice is to train squats according to your physicality and don’t try to impress anyone.Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Dark Iron Fitness Barbell Pad

If you aren’t in 100% health, you need to be more cautious and train for strength and to heal.

To gain more comfort, especially for your neck, shoulders, and upper back — check out our foam barbell neck pad.

You should always focus on your health, form, and safety above all.

Related: Why Do Squats Hurt My Lower Back?


Always Stay Open to Change

Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat - Squat to Depth It doesn’t matter if you back squat, safety bar squat, Smith machine squat, front squat or bodyweight squat.

Just squat!

And, try to be someone open to change.

The fitness industry is always evolving and innovating.

Who knows, there may be some new types of barbells in the future that totally change the landscape of squatting again.

Safety bar squat vs back squat may be a conversation left in the dust with how fast everything changes.

But, I do hope this article has given you more insight into the safety bar squat vs back squat.

You may be interested in our...


Our premium bar wrap has just enough padding to provide superior comfort during those squats and lunges—yet it’s thin enough to keep the bar in an ideal position, close to your body. Eliminate discomfort & stay focused on your form with this durable, non-slip barbell pad.

View Product

Related: The Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats