How many times have you racked a barbell after a kill set of squats only to find that your traps had blue and purple marks on them? Have you ever walked away from a set of front squats to scratches and burn from the barbell? While the barbell is an essential part of your workout routine, it’s also capable of causing some damage. The solution is simple: use a squat pad. Still, a lot of guys and girls refuse to use a squat pad because of their egos.
Maybe you won’t warm-up to the idea of using a squat pad for barbell squats, but there are plenty of other reasons to use one. From protecting you from bruises to challenging your grip strength, let’s review four uses for the squat pad outside of performing the barbell back squat.
YOU BRUISE EASILY
The most common reason that weightlifters – beginners and experienced alike – use a squat pad is to avoid bruising the traps. When performing a barbell back squat, your traps form the shelf for the barbell to sit on. Even if you use a low-bar style of lifting, the middle back is still at risk for bruising.
A high-quality squat pad can help to reduce the rubbing and pressure from the barbell on your skin so you can go home bruise-free.
LOADING UP ON WEIGHT
Stacking those 45-pound plates on both sides of the barbell is going to put a great deal of pressure across your traps. When you get to the point where you need two spotters on either side of you, it could be time to use a squat pad to alleviate some of the pressure from the barbell.
Continuing with the point above, with a greater weight load comes a higher risk for bruising. A squat pad can help to prevent bruising.
PERFORMING EXERCISES (OTHER THAN THE SQUAT)
Although it’s called the squat pad, it can be used during several other exercises to cushion and protect. Here’s a rundown of some exercises to consider using a squat pad for:
Bridge: If you’re adding weight to the bridge exercise, having a barbell lay across your hips isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. A squat pad allows you to securely and comfortably place a barbell across your lap in order to make the exercise more challenging. The squat pad will protect against bruising while helping to stabilize the barbell.
Are you still struggling with your bridge form? Check out our article on how to perform and evolve the bridge exercise.
Deadlift: It’s easy to spot someone who loves to deadlift; aside from having monster legs and a strong lower back, their shins might look like they’ve been scratched to hell. An Olympic-style barbell has a series of rough and sharp patches that can rub against your shins, causing scratches, cuts, and bar burn. Place a squat pad in the center of the barbell so that it doesn’t affect your grip, then do your normal lifting routine. We guarantee you’d rather have a soft cushion hitting your shins than a sharp patch of metal.
Are you new to the deadlift? Are you hitting all of the points when performing a deadlift? Read our deadlifting checklist to make sure your form is flawless.
Explosive T-Bar Row: The T-Bar Row is an excellent exercise for developing your back, and when you use explosive pulls, you are dramatically increasing raw power. Pulling a barbell towards yourself at that speed increases the chances that you’ll bash yourself in the chest. Use a squat pad on the barbell to prevent hurting yourself.
Skull Crushers: We’ve all had that moment while targeting our triceps where the barbell slipped or we lowered it a bit too quickly, and our forehead bared the brunt of the weight. If you’re loading up your barbell for skull crushers, we highly recommend using a squat pad to prevent crushing your skull. It might not tickle, but dropping a barbell on your head with a squat pad in place is going to be better than the alternative.
Seated Calf Raises: Although it’s one of the best pieces of equipment to target your calves, many gyms do not have a seated calf raise bench. Thankfully, with a little creativity, a few weight plates, and a squat pad, you’ll be able to get the same results. Place two weight plates on the ground in front of a bench. Sit on the bench, prop the balls of your feet on the weight plates. Now bring a loaded barbell with a squat pad on top of your legs and complete your sets.
CHALLENGE YOUR GRIP
Several exercises such as the farmer’s carry, hanging leg raise, and forearm wrist curls are notorious for causing your grip to fail before the targeted muscle. Think about it: How many times have you been performing pull-ups or bicep curls and you feel your grip start to give when your back or biceps haven’t even started feeling it?
Grip strength training is essential if you want to increase the endurance in your hands and see a set to its end. Thick bar training is an excellent way to increase grip strength, but if your gym doesn’t have these specialized barbells and dumbbells, you can use Alpha Grips or a squat pad.
If you have two squat pads, you can wrap them around the area of the barbell where your hands will go. It’ll feel awkward at first, but this will greatly improve your grip strength.
DO YOU USE A SQUAT PAD?
How do you incorporate a squat pad into your workouts? Have a video of you setting a new personal best on the barbell back squat while using a squat pad? Tag us on Instagram so we can share it.