Squat Bar Protective Pads - Protect Neck, Shoulders and Back
Squat bar protective pads protect neck, shoulders and back during heavy squats. They can be used for other exercises, like various bench and shoulder presses and various thrusters. Protective pads increase contact surface between weight and trainee, decreasing the local pressure on the body.
When choosing squat bar pads, there are few things to consider:
- bar thickness: most of the protective pads fits easily on olympic and slightly thinner and thicker bars. Just to be sure, before buying these pads, check diameter of your bar(s) and verify if pads you like fit you bar(s).
- easy slide-on design: some squat pads are just piece of dense foam with simple cut alongside the pad. Such pads are really cheap, but they can slide off the bar easily. Protective pads with velcro or similar strap are easy to put on the bar, are easy to remove off the bar, but they stay rather firmly on the bar. They tend to cost more, but they last for a really long time.
- protective pad materials: the best pads are made using dense foam (absorbs shocks and help to distribute weight) with tough, anti-slip and moisture resistant rubber or nylon finish (protects foam core and pad in general). Good rubber or nylon finish also helps in reducing the maintenance of the bar pads - to remove the sweat, just clean the pad with dry or even wet cloth and let it dry for awhile.
- pad dimensions: thicker protective pads absorb the shocks and stress better than thinner pads. However, thicker pads can prevent lifter in positioning the bar properly and can hamper proper lifting form. 3.5" (~9 cm) diameter pads are common squat pads. Width of the pads varies from 16" (~40 cm) to 20" (~51 cm) and this depends on personal habits, size of the transport bag (if you don't workout only in your home gym), lifting technique and similar.
- pad design: most protective pads are just hollow foam tubes with outer layer of nylon and/or rubber with or without velcro strap. Some companies take matters even further and offer protective pads with 'ergonomic' design, which (at least in theory) distribute weight better and protect neck and shoulders better than 'common' protective pads. Which type of protective pads will one use is highly individual - personally, I have tried both of them and there is no big difference. Old school: 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it' :)
Protective Pads and Bench Press
Although protective pads are mostly used in heavy squats, they can be used in lunges, various thrusters and of course, bench presses (incline, decline, flat).
Protective pads prevent injuries if something should go wrong and loaded bar falls on the chest of the trainee, so it is not so bad to use them, especially if you are working out alone, without a spotter. However, there are few hidden dangers one must be aware of:
- when lowering bar on the chest, without protective pad, bar is actually little bit lower to the ground when compared with bar on the chest with protective pad - protective pad in this situation decreases the range of motion, which is not the best thing when doing bench press.
- some trainees tend to bounce the bar off the chest when doing bench press type of exercises. Using protective pads, this bouncing can be even more pronounced - yes, pads will decrease the danger of hurting the chest and breaking few ribs, but that is not the way bench-press is done!
Long story short - protective pads are cheap accessory for any home gym and highly recommended one. Most of them are very durable and often come with lifetime warranty. However, don't be the guy/girl that ends up on YouTube 'Gym Fails' videos for bouncing the bar during bench press, or falling down during squats! Whatever you do, be safe!
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