Cambered Barbells: The Ultimate Guide!


Cambered barbells are one of the best tools you can use in your workouts. They work awesome for the bench press, the squat, barbell rows and many other exercises.

If you want to learn how to use cambered barbells in your training then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Cambered Bench Bar
  • Part 2: The Giant Cambered Bar
  • Part 3: The Safety Squat Bar

In this comprehensive guide I will show you the best ways to use cambered bars in your workouts.

Cambered bars are specialty barbells with a large bend or “camber” that makes the weight plates hang 4-18 inches lower than normal. Cambered barbells can be used to increase your range of motion or change the center of gravity of an exercise.

There are three different types of cambered barbells: the original cambered barbell, the giant cambered barbell and the safety squat bar.

The original cambered barbell has a 2-4 inch camber. This barbell is often used by powerlifters to increase their range of motion on the bench press. Check it out:

The Original Cambered Bar

The cambered barbell lets you lower the bar further than a regular bar. This places a huge stretch on your chest and forces your body to recruit more muscle fibers than normal.

Another great option is the giant camber bar. This barbell has a giant bend in it so the weight plates hang 12-18 inches lower than the rest of the bar.

The giant camber bar is often used on exercises like the squat and the bench press. Check it out:

The Giant Cambered Bar

The giant cambered bar is very challenging to use. The weights swing back and forth while you squat which forces your body to work harder to stabilize the weight.

The giant camber bar also lowers the center of gravity of the exercise. This takes some of the pressure off your back and gives the exercise a completely different feel.

The last type of camber bar is the safety squat bar. This specialty barbell is often used for exercises like the squat and the good morning. Check it out:

The Safety Squat Bar

The safety squat bar has a small camber which moves the weight plates a few inches forwards and downwards. This may sound like a small change but it gives the bar a completely different feel. It feels like the bar is trying to push you forward so you fall on the ground!

Many bodybuilders and powerlifters swear by this bar for developing their legs, lower back and upper back. I hope you found this overview of camber bars helpful.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Cambered Bench Bar

The original cambered bar has a 2-4 inch camber in it. This makes it a perfect choice for exercises like the bench press. You can actually lower the bar an extra 2-4 inches on the bench press which helps you recruit more muscle fibers and challenge your body in a different way.

Many powerlifting gyms like the Westside Barbell powerlifting team use this bar to build their bench press.

Here is one workout where the Westside team used the camber bar bench press. Check it out:

Westside Barbell Speed Bench Workout

  • Exercise #1: Speed cambered bar bench press with chains, 8-10 sets of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: Bamboo bar bench press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Lying DB extensions, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

There are 2 different types of camber bars. One type has a 2-inch camber in it. This is the one that the Westside Barbell powerlifting team is using in this video.

If you are using the version with the 2-inch camber then you can lower the bar all the way down to your chest.

If you are using the version with a 4-inch camber then you may want to stop 1-3 inches above your chest or perform the exercise with bench press boards to reduce the range of motion.

Using a camber bar to get an extra 1-2 inches of range of motion can be a great idea but most people cannot lower the bar an extra 4 inches without risking injury.

If you are really brave then you can also use the camber bench press bar for your heaviest workouts.

Here is Jay Fry maxing out with the camber bar. Check it out:

Jay Fry Max Effort Bench Press

The bench press camber bar can be used for anything from your lighter speed sets to your heavier max effort sets and everything in between.

Many bodybuilders have also used this bar to add muscular size to their chest. In fact the world-famous bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel sometimes uses it with his advanced bodybuilders to break through chest training plateaus.

Here is Dusty Hanshaw demonstrating the camber bar bench press at the end of his chest workout. Check it out:

Dusty Hanshaw Bench Press

Dante Trudel likes this exercise because it places your chest under a very deep stretch.

There is a ton of research coming out showing that loaded stretches have a synergistic effect on muscle growth when combined with full range of motion exercises. Dante Trudel actually has Dusty pause in the bottom position for 5 seconds on every rep!

The bottom line is the camber bar is one of the best bench press specialty barbells that you can use. It lets you train the bench press through an increased range of motion which is awesome for building size and strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps.

Part 2: The Giant Cambered Bar

The giant cambered bar is one of my all-time favorite specialty bars. This bar has a large camber which lowers the weight plates by about 12-18 inches.

The giant camber bar is usually used on the squat but some creative bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows will even use it on the bench press.

Here is a great video of the giant camber bar squat:

The Giant Camber Bar Squat

As you can see the bar has a giant bend in it which lowers the extra 45-pound plates on either side. This makes the exercise feel completely different from a regular straight bar squat.

First of all the weights are shaking forwards and backwards while you squat. The weights almost feel like they are attached to a pendulum swinging forward and back!

This forces you to recruit more muscle fibers in your legs and lower back to perform the squat.

Many powerlifters will use the giant cambered bar on their speed squats and their max effort squats. For example here is Matt Wenning demonstrating the giant cambered bar speed squat:

The Giant Cambered Bar Speed Squat

The giant cambered bar swings forwards and backwards even more when you are performing speed squats to further challenge your body.

Of course the cambered bar can also be used for your heavy squat sets. The 4x World’ Strongest Man Brian Shaw uses the giant cambered bar extensively in his training.

Brian says he uses the giant cambered bar, the safety squat bar or the spider bar for most of his squat workouts.

Here is one example of a heavy squat workout where Brian used the giant cambered bar. Check it out:

Brian Shaw Cambered Bar Squat Video

  • Exercise #1: Cambered bar box squat, 5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Hip extension machine, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Alternating one-leg leg press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Lying leg curl, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

People ask Brian Shaw all the time why he uses the giant cambered bar and other specialty bars in his training. Here is Brain’s response:

“I get a lot of questions about why I use all the specialty bars and why I don’t just squat with the straight bar. It’s because every specialty bar has a different purpose. And for me it has a different purpose in my training.

So for example with this cambered bar, I feel it different than with a safety squat bar or a spider bar and it has a different effect. What I’m going for right now is the leg drive getting off the box.

I feel like it is a little easier to lock up when I’m underneath this bar and sit back to the box and then really emphasize driving my hips as I’m getting up off the box.”

If you are extremely creative then you can also use the giant camber bar for different exercises like the bench press or the overhead press.

Here is the bodybuilding coach John Meadows demonstrating the giant cambered bar bench press:

The Giant Cambered Bar Bench Press

This exercise is harder than it looks! The giant cambered bar completely changes the feel of the movement. The center of gravity of the exercise is actually below your hands.

Most people find that you get a better contraction in the target muscle when the center of gravity of the exercise is lower.

This is one of the reasons that different training methods like the hanging band method are so effective.

Part 3: The Safety Squat Bar

The safety squat bar is one of the most popular specialty barbells in the world. It has a small camber which moves the weight plates forwards and downwards by about 4 inches. This completely changes the feel of the exercise compared to a regular back squat.

Here is the world class powerlifter Larry Wheels demonstrating how to squat with the safety squat bar:

As you can see the bar has a small bend in it which moves the center of gravity for the exercise downwards and further out in front of your body.

The bar literally feels like it is trying to throw your entire body forward onto the ground! The only way to stay upright with this bar is to use your lower back and core muscles to stabilize your body.

This bar also lets you squat with a more upright posture and reduce some of the compressive forces on your lumbar spine. The strength coach Charles Poliquin says that this bar is fantastic for anyone who is dealing with lower back pain.

Many strongman competitors like Brian Shaw and Hafthor Bjornsson will rotate between the safety squat bar and other specialty barbells in their training. Check it out:

Briant Shaw’s Squat Training Schedule

  • Week 1: Safety Squat Bar
  • Week 2: Spider Bar
  • Week 3: Cambered Bar
  • Week 4: Repeat!

Brian says that these specialty bars do a better job of building his leg and back strength vs a regular 45 pound barbell. Here is Hafthor Bjornsson demonstrating the safety squat bar:

Hafthor Bjornsson Squat

Hafthor used this bar almost exclusively while he was training to break the all-time deadlift world record of 1,102 pounds! Of course this bar can also be used by bodybuilders.

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows says that the safety squat bar is one of his all-time favorite barbells. He almost never performs the regular back squat due to lower back pain. Instead he relies on different specialty barbells like the safety squat bar.

Here is one workout where John trained heavy on the safety squat bar squat:

John Meadows Safety Squat Bar Workout

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 20 reps
  • Exercise #2: Safety squat bar squat, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #3: Walking safety squat bar lunges, 4 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: Sissy squat machine with bands, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Glute ham raise, 3 sets to failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

And here is John talking about why he like this piece of equipment so much:

“My favorite exercise is the squat and I really like the safety bar squat, that’s what this bar is. It’s a little easier on my lower back. You can stay more upright.

I really like the safety squat bar, it’s very easy on your lower back. It’s a very underrated piece of equipment.”

The safety squat bar also gives you the chance to perform some unique exercises. One of my favorite options is the Hatfield overload squat.

For this exercise you are going to use a safety squat bar. However, instead of holding onto the handles you are going to hold onto the vertical posts of a squat rack.

Your goal is to use your arms to help pull yourself up on the positive phase of each rep. This lets you handle a heavier than normal weight for a stronger overall training stimulus. Check it out:

The Hatfield Overload Squat

Don’t worry – the safety squat bar rests on your shoulders without you having to hold onto it. This exercise is absolutely unbelievable for blasting through training plateaus in the squat.

Here is Josh Bryant describing this exercise:

“They’re holding the squat rack so when they hit a sticking point they can blast right through it.

This let’s you pull through your sticking points and overload your legs with a heavy weight.

If you’re a bodybuilder this is like constant time under tension with a huge overload.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! The safety squat bar is easily one of the best cambered barbells ever invented.

I highly recommend it if you are looking to blast through training plateaus in the squat.

Conclusion

Cambered barbells are some of the best tools you can use in the gym to build size and strength. In my experience there are three cambered bars you should know about:

  • The camber bar
  • The giant camber bar 
  • The safety squat bar

All three of these specialty bars have their own advantages and disadvantages.

I especially like the safety squat bar for building up your leg and back strength while taking some of the pressure off your lower back but all three have a place in your training.

If you want to take your training to the next level then investing in one of these bars is the obvious choice.

Here is a great quote by the OG Louie Simmons to pump you up even more:

“Just when your body has all the answers, you have to change all the questions.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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