Many people have asked me lately what grip do I use for my front squats?  A Clean Grip or a Cross-Over Grip?  My answer?  Neither.



You see, years of gymnastic and cheerleading did a number on my wrists and I struggle very much trying to use a clean grip.  I am also majorly claustrophobic (I used to struggle wearing turtlenecks… no joke) so a crossover grip feels like I am about to choke to death.


I am sure many people want to tell me to, “Man up!” and get over it, and that’s fine.  I would much rather figure out an alternate solution to my problem… one that I am much more comfortable with.  

Enter: The Safety Squat Bar.  

I started using the Safety Squat Bar at my gym for Front Squats and Front Loaded Step-Ups several years ago.  It’s more comfortable, I don’t feel like I am choking, it doesn’t bother my wrists, and I am never going to Front Squat in competition… so why does it matter?  Why let my “grip woes” affect the effectiveness of my lower body workout if it doesn’t have to?  Sure, not using one of the other grips may be considered “less cool” or “easier”… but my lower body and my core still have to lift the weight… so who cares?

If you don’t have a Safety Squat Bar, you can try using wrist straps to hold the bar.  I haven’t done this with much weight so I can’t comment on how it feels, but some of my friends have done them this way with much success.



So there you have it.  2 wonderful alternatives for Front Squats for those of us that just can’t get comfortable using the other grips.  Now you have no excuse as to why you don’t Front Squat.  My only warning:  be prepared to set some major PR’s on front squat when you use a Safety Squat Bar.  You’re welcome.


PLEASE NOTE:  Safety Squat Bars weigh more than regular Olympic bars.  The one I use weighs 70 lbs.  Keep that in mind when loading up the weight!

ADDENDUM:  If your gym doesn’t have a SSB, you can find them at the link above for only $370.  Most gyms have a “new equipment” budget and often times if you ask the GM to buy something they will do it.  They want to keep the members happy… and remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease!  Keep bugging them about it until they get you your safety bar! =)

Have you tried using a Safety Bar for Front Squats?  What about Back Squats?  Do you like it? Love it? Hate it?  Do you have any other options for Front Squats?  Let me know what you think below!  Thanks!

19 Responses to Safety Bar Front Squats

  1. Josie says:

    You are my hero for this post. I hate doing front squats, but only because it kills my wrists. This post left me thinking, “why didn’t I think of that!?!” So anxious to do some front squats next time my program calls for them. 😀 THANKS!!!

    • molly says:

      Josie – so glad that this helped! It takes a little getting used to at first…. but let me know how it goes!

  2. Morgan says:

    Hi Molly, looks cool for super heavy loads but wouldn’t that retard you ability to squat clean? However, a 205? front squat is nasty!

    • molly says:

      Morgan – Why would it retard my ability to squat clean? Obviously I couldn’t squat clean with the safety bar… but why would it have a detrimental effect on that lift? Maybe I am confused about what you’re saying…? 😉

      Also I don’t squat clean so it doesn’t really matter either way. =)

      In fact, I don’t do any barbell cleans, jerks, snatches, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with them… they are fantastic exercises. They are just extremely technical lifts and I am a form nazi. For the time being, spending the time learning them to be able to perform them correctly doesn’t have the cost:benefit ratio I am looking for.

      And the safety bar is 70 lbs, not 45, and my clips are 2.5… so that was 235 for 4 not 205. =) And tonight I hit 245 for a triple:

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  4. Dawn says:


    I’ve been following your posts thru GGS and love them! You and the other ladies have been a major inspiration to me. I’m a beginning lifter, still pretty weak but seeing changes, who happens to be 6 feet tall. Not only am I that tall but I have short arms and a 36 inch inseam. Not a good combo for squats! I find that I just can’t effectively front squat even 65 lbs (less than half my BW) with any semblance of proper form, and they make my low back hurt, which is delicate due to an old injury. I have been working on the remedial squat stuff like split lunges, lumberjack/goblet squats, etc… Any advice for how I can work up to squats other than this, given my anatomical disadvantages? Should I even be trying squats at this point? Thanks!! Keep up the awesome posts!

    • molly says:

      Hey Dawn!

      Thank you so much! I can totally feel you on the 36 inch inseam! Mine’s only 34-35 but still! I have to be honest, I am a little leery of giving advice since you have mentioned being in pain. Since I am not a PT… it’s not my place to dole out advice about fixing pain. That being said, it sounds like you are doing the right things in terms of building up to front squats… and while being tall makes squatting more difficult, it should not preclude you from squatting (back or front) completely.

      However, I would DEFINITELY stay away from anything that causes pain and continue to focus on getting stronger on exercises where you can be successful.

      You may have some other issues that need addressed. Have you been thoroughly asses by a professional? Where do you live? I may be able to recommend someone in your area.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. B says:

    Hi Molly. Because of the camber in the SSB, doesn’t this cause the front squat to load more similarly to a back squat? It seems that this variation of a front squat doesn’t tax the quads and anterior core in the same way that a straight bar front squat would due to where the weight is loaded. I’d even wonder whether a standard SSB back squat would be more similar to a traditional front squat. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • molly says:

      B – I think you’re correct in saying that ye, this does cause the front squat to load *more* similarly to a back squat, but I personally still feel like it taxes my anterior core and quads significantly more than a barbell back squat or a safety bar back squat. Maybe it’s just my specific biomechanics?

      Have you tried the safety bar front squats vs. back squats? What’s your observation? Thanks for commenting!

  6. haha too funny I was doing front squats the other day with a client and really struggled with my grip and hand position.. totally “why didn’t I think of that” Great tip! Thanks for being on the cutting edge Molly:)

  7. Megan Segraves says:

    Unless I’m going really heavy, trying to PR I’ll do a front squat by loading the bar to the racked position using a clean curl. That brings my hands in close but not crossed. When taking it from the rack I try do use the same central hand position you’d get with a clean curl. It’s way more comfortable for me.

  8. Margo says:

    I am trying to see where your hands are doing the front squat. Are they under the bar, on top of the bar just touching the bar? Once you get the bar on the “shelf” of your shoulder area, where do you put your hands? I dislike front squats too since my wrists hurt being bent back like that. I love back squats though (yep I am weird haha). I back squat 235 but not nearly as much front. It would be great to see pics of you from the front and back doing the front squat so I can see what and how I need things for placement.

    Thanks !

  9. Shannon says:

    I get the “suffocated” feeling you mentioned. Turtlenecks are the worst! Question — what’s the difference, in terms of which muscles work the most, between a front or back squat?

    • molly says:

      Shannon — it depends on a lot of things… where are you more dominant (some people can force certain muscles to take over in exercises you’s never imagine! i.e. my boyfriend’s physical therapist always says that my bf’s calves have been acting as his glutes in a lot of exercises and everyday tasks for years!)

      It also depends on your stance, what type of bar you’re using etc. But generally front squats hit more quads and anterior core, and back squats hit more glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

  10. Michelle says:

    This is perfect, Molly! I can’t stand back squats – short torso, long legs here too, so I end up leaning WAY forward on back squats. I’ve dumped them for goblet squats and double KB front squats. When I front squat with the bar I feel like my wrist are going to break or like I’m choking myself, so the SSB may be the answer. Now to justify that $370. Ha!

    Thanks for the great article!

    • molly says:

      Michelle – You’re so welcome! It totally is! Start a $1/day fund and get yourself one next year! 🙂

  11. Nolah says:

    Hi Molly whenever I do squats,I feel the pain in my knees all the time.I love squats but I find it so difficult to do them.

    Looking forward to your response

    Thanks for the great posts!

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