Elitefts Equipment 101: New & Improved SS Yoke Bar
Equipment 101 Video
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NEW AND IMPROVED
By now, there should be no doubt that every gym should have a Yoke Bar. This bar has withstood the test of time, has proven to be extremely effective with all training programs, and has become known as a "PR Buster" with strength athletes and coaches across the globe.
In January of 2012, we took on the task of taking a great product and making it better. This was first accomplished by touching base with existing bar users and inquiring about what improvements they would like to see. This was then added to feedback from Dave Tate who, due to shoulder injuries, has been exclusively squatting with this bar since 2005.
"Since 2005, the only way I have been able to squat is with the use of the SS Yoke Bar. When you extensively rely on a product week-in and week-out, you will inevitably begin to find its flaws. I went into this project with my own personal reasons— a better bar for myself, but as time and testing progressed, I began to see just how much of an impact the changes we were making were affecting the quality and feel of the bar. It took over 10 months, MANY bars, and MANY squat sessions to get this dialed in, but I strongly feel we have the best Yoke Bar ever created.
- Dave Tate
Founder Elitefts.com Inc
As we worked through this process, we quickly discovered that a small change in one aspect created flaws in others. The goal was to eliminate these negative aspects, not to create more. For example, making the pad denser (so that it wouldn't break down like all of the others) changed how the bar would sit and move on the lifter's back. The length of the handles also affected how the majority of lifters would come out of the bottom of the squat. In turn, the length of the bar affected the stability, the handle thickness, the stress on the arms, the length of the camber, the strength of the bar, etc. Therefore, this process— what we thought would be a couple of simple upgrades, became a major project. In time, however, we did get it done. This bar now has...
* A denser and longer neck pad that will not break down and sits perfectly on the upper back.
* Shorter but thicker handles that allow the lifter to support the bar without aiding in the lift or tossing the lifter into a compromising position.
* A longer bar camber that greatly increases the strength and rating of the bar. While we know this bar is rated over 1500 pounds, this really doesn't mean anything. We already know ratings are worthless in real world applications, as we all have seen MANY 1200-pound rated power bars bend with less than 400 pounds. Our real world way to test the strength of the bar is to load it with 600 pounds and ask LiL Stevie (6'5 350 pounds) to toss it off his back and onto the rack spot pins. With the "LiL Stevie method," we were able to find out what bars would bend, break, or stand up to the challenge. NOTE: It was also a blast to watch!
* Some other upgrades include, better packaging so your bar arrives AWESOME, higher quality handle grips, and a clear powder coat.
This bar is great for...
* All types of Squatting
* Chain Suspended Good Mornings
* Zercher Squats
* Good Mornings
* Partial Arches
* Back Raises
* Plus much more...
My First Safety Squat Bar Workout
I had seen the SSB before and thought it was a total joke. I always thought that if you wanted to squat more, you simply squatted. And if you wanted to deadlift more, all you had to do was deadlift. To me everything else was just to get bigger, not stronger.
I still remember my first training session with the SSB. It was a max effort training day. On max effort days, my training partners and I would always pick one exercise and work up until we hit a one rep max. On this particular day, we performed a SSB squat off of a low hassock (which is similar to a soft box). After a few sets of 135 pounds, we proceeded to work up to three reps by adding 45 and 25 pound plates. Anything less was a sin. I knew this bar was about to kick my ass when we got up to 315. It shouldn’t have been that heavy, as I had recently squatted 760. But, it was…and my lower back was screaming! The thing that killed me was that 315 seemed like a total joke for the other guys – and they all squatted less than me! I had no idea why I was so weak. We jumped to 365 and when I unracked the bar, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it. It felt like a ton when I took it out of the rack. After I unracked the bar, there were several shouts of encouragement from the spotters. I grinded out my first rep. After the second rep, my eyes began to water and I started seeing stars. The third rep, I don’t remember.
The rest of the guys once again had no problem with the weight and I began to feel humbled. I thought I was done squatting when I heard the 45 slapped on the bar. The bar was now loaded to 405 pounds was and they were calling me back up to the bar. For the first time in my life I didn’t want to squat. The last set just about knocked my head off and now I was expected to squat 405! Being that I had never made smart decisions in the past with my own training, I figured what the hell. I got under the bar, unracked the weight and proceeded to do one of the slowest single-rep maximums of my entire life. I’m sure my spotters were yelling the whole time, but the only thought going through my head was to stand back up with the weight. After the weight was racked the room began to fade and then I saw flickering silver dust particles all around me. I held onto the bar to ensure I didn’t pass out and then walked over to the glute ham raise and held myself up for the next half hour. I watched and drooped over the pad. My world was spinning as everyone else worked up to 600 pounds.
The next day I was sore as hell from my calves to my neck. There wasn’t a single muscle on the backside of my body that didn’t hurt. When I looked in the mirror, I noticed that both my eyes were blood shot and I had broken capillaries all over my face. I hated the SSB, but realized how valuable it was. Over the next few years I saw my squat jump from 760 to 935 and I have to say that some of this increase was due to the torture of the SSB.
Dynamic Training with the Safety Squat Bar
Dynamic (speed) squat training with the SSB offers many strength benefits. First, it is a great way to build the explosive and static strength of the lower back and many have found that this bar is a great way to increase your deadlift. Second, it takes much of the stress off of the elbows and shoulders. This has a huge recovery effect for your bench training. This is of great value for lifters who are training for bench press only meets, or those who are trying to recover from pectoral, shoulder and elbow injuries. With the safety squat bar you’ll be allowed to train around the injuries and still get in a quality squat workout. Third, the SSB is great to use for GPP or lactic acid tolerance training. Listed below are some of the more popular squat cycles done with a safety squat bar:
Lactic Acid Tolerance Training Cycle
Application: This is a great cycle for off-season training when you’d like to give your arms and shoulders a break. This is also a great way to peak your bench for a bench meet without having to stop squatting. This is good for beginners, intermediate and advanced lifters.
Training Cycle (Three week version)
Week 1 – 35% for 10 sets 2 reps with 45 second rest periods
Week 2 – 37% for 15 sets 2 reps with 30 second rest periods
Week 3 – 40% for 15-17 sets of 2 reps with under 30 seconds of rest
· The rest period for this week should be back-to-back sets. Two people should squat together and as soon as one lets go of the bar, the second guy should be grabbing the bar. Each lifter should try to wear the other out and see who dies first. BE AGGRESSIVE AND DON’T LOSE.
Training Cycle (One week version)
Week 1 – 37% for as many sets as possible of 2 reps with 30 second rest periods
· With this cycle you should use a training partner that is close to the same strength as you and try to run each other into the ground. We’ve seen battles go into and beyond 38 sets! BE AGGRESSIVE AND DON’T LOSE.
- Training percent is based on current one rep max with the free squat with equipment.
- These percents are used as guidelines. The more advanced the lifters, the lighter the percent needed. If you’re a raw lifter or don’t use power lifting gear, then a minimum of 10% should be added to the listed percents.
- All sets should be performed on a parallel box.
Basic Three Week “Straight Weight” Advanced Cycle
Application: This is a very good cycle for advanced lifters for off-season training, or as a deload cycle before a competition or test day.
Week 1 – 45% for 10 sets 2 reps
Week 2 – 48% for 10 sets 2 reps
Week 3 – 50 % for 10 sets 2 reps
- Training percent is based on current one rep max with the free squat and equipment.
- These percents are used as guidelines. The more advanced the lifters, the lighter the percent needed. If you’re a raw lifter or don’t use power lifting gear then a minimum of 10% should be added to the listed percents.
- All sets should be performed on a parallel box.
- If you feel good after your sets, work up to a heavy double. This shouldn’t be done every week, but should be completed at least once through the cycle.
- You should rest no more than 45 to 60 seconds between sets.
Basic Three Week “Chains” Intermediate Cycle
Application: This is a very good cycle for the intermediate lifter who has good squat skill and form. The chains will help to develop a greater level of squat stability as well as increase the explosion from the bottom of the squat. This would be a very good off-season strength cycle for the intermediate lifter.
Week 1 – 50% for 8 sets 2 reps
Week 2 – 53% for 8 sets 2 reps
Week 3 – 55% for 8 sets 2 reps
Squat Max: 200-400 Pounds – 60 total pounds of chains
Squat Max: 400-500 Pounds – 80 total pounds of chains
Squat Max: 500-600 Pounds – 100 total pounds of chains
Squat Max: 600-800 Pounds – 120 total pounds of chains
Squat Max: 800-950 Pounds – 160 total pounds of chains
Sample Exercises with the Safety Squat bar
Team Elitefts™ demonstrates some of the exercises you can do with these bars, including: suspended good mornings, hammer curls, walking lunges, tricep extensions and many others.
The Yoke bar has been used very successfully over the past 15 years for training. Think of it this way. If you miss a squat or deadlift, what usually happens? In the squat, most people will shift or fall forward. This bar will help you develop two things that can make a huge difference. It’ll increase your static strength and keep you from falling forward in the first place and it’ll help you develop the strength to help you recover if you do fall forward. Here is a list of some of the most popular movements you can do with the yoke bar.
Chain Suspended Good Mornings
This is a great max effort exercise to help your deadlift. There are two ways to set up this exercise. One way is to place the barbell on the safety pins. The other is to place the barbell in 3/8 inch chains. For the latter, place the two chains at the top of the power rack and loop them so that the barbell is suspended. The bar can be set at any height, but is usually slightly above the navel. To perform the exercise, place yourself under the bar and simply perform a good morning. This is a great exercise to help build your deadlift because both lifts are a concentric-only lift. Don’t get caught up in maintaining your hips at a certain level. Simply get under the bar and get it up! Be sure that your hands do not get caught under the chains or the safety pins. Any width stance can be used.
Yoke Bar Box Squats
This movement is performed the same as the regular box squat, except you’ll be using the Yoke Bar. This bar is designed to keep the bar high on the traps and force more of the weight forward on the body. This places more stress on the muscles of the upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings. The best way to use this bar is to hold the yolks on the front of the bar. This keeps the stress on the muscles we’re trying to develop. Most people miss a squat because the bar shifts forward and they end up trying to do a good morning. The bar will help to develop the muscles to keep it from happening in the first place. The box used on max effort day can be a low box (one to three inches below parallel), parallel box, or a high box (one to three inches above parallel).
This is a great exercise to build your deadlift and teach you to maintain proper position when squatting. Because of the position of the barbell, it forces the lifter to maintain tight abs, an arched lower back and proper chest position. Begin by placing a bar in a power rack just below your armpits and unrack it in the crook of your elbows. Keep your back arched, stomach pushed out and chest up. Squat back until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your elbows and arms close to your body – this can also be done by using a box. A shoulder-width stance is usually used. The amount of weight you can hold in your elbows will limit the bar weight used during this exercise. However, the Yoke Bar makes it easier because of the thickness of the bar.
Backwards Bar Yoke Bar Box Squats
This is the same as the “Yoke Squat Bar Box Squats” except the bar is placed backwards on your shoulders. This alters the camber of the bar and makes for a completely different movement.
Done with a Yoke bar, good mornings are one of the most difficult exercises to perform, but also one of the most effective. Begin by unracking a barbell the same as you would a squat. Your feet can be set at a close, medium or wide stance. This can change depending on what you feel works best for you. For example, a wide stance seems to work the hips more. Get into a tight position (arched back, shoulder blades pulled together, knees slightly bent and abdomen pushed out against your belt). This is the starting position. Slowly bend forward at the waist until your torso is slightly above parallel to the floor, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. This is usually done between 5 -10 reps and used as a second exercise. You’ll have to fight to maintain position throughout the entire movement, so make sure you start with a light weight.
While it may seem weird to perform a tricep movement with the Yoke Bar, try this for a little variation on an otherwise boring movement. The bar should be set up so that when racked, the yoke is pointed toward your feet. Unrack the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and bring the yoke to just above your nipples. Let the points of the yoke hit your chest and the bar will rotate towards your chin. Then, let down until your forearms are almost parallel to the floor and extend up. Because the bar is a little thicker than a standard bar, your elbows will take less of a beating. You also may want to place a folded towel on your chest to prevent the points of the yoke from bruising your chest.
Shrugs – With the bar on your shoulders, attempt to raise your shoulders to your ears. This is a great variation to standard shrugs with a barbell. You can try placing your hands down at your sides or place them out in front of you, holding the rack.
This exercise is great for your entire back. One of the best ways to do this exercise is to place the bar on your back and sit on a box. While sitting on the box, arch your lower and upper back. After holding this position for a few seconds, roll your upper back forward and round your lower back. Make sure to stay tight in this position. Hold this for a few seconds and arch back to the original position. Concentrate on arching hard and rounding over because it’ll exhaust the muscles of your back. This exercise will not only build a ton of muscle, but allow the lifter to feel what it’s like to arch at the bottom of the squat.
Lunges are frowned upon simply because they’ve been embraced by the fitness community and have been the main exercise of housewives everywhere. But, this is one of the best exercises to develop overall leg strength. Done correctly, lunges work your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Make sure you don’t short-stride your reps just so you can add more weight. Too many times people perform lunges by taking short six inch steps and then brag of the weight they can handle. This is not a lunge! This is a squat done with bad foot position. Try doing walking lunges, backward lunges or standard lunges; all work well and the benefits will make you wonder why you ever dropped this exercise in the first place. However, the soreness you get the next day will probably answer the that question. There are many different variations of lunges you can try: walking lunges, backward lunges, side lunges and lunges done with your front foot elevated.
Walking Yoke Bar
This is an old exercise that is used to build overall endurance and is pretty simple. Place a Yoke Bar on your back and begin walking a prescribed distance. A good way to do this is to take turns walking with your training partner from the squat rack to a certain point and back. This can turn into a contest and is great for overall body strength, as well as mental strength. It’s recommended that you begin this exercise with light weight. Also, be careful when performing this exercise as it’s very difficult to dump the bar when you’re tired. Still, this exercise will build your traps and legs like no other. Don’t perform this exercise often – it will absolutely annihilate you!
This is done like a regular glute-ham raise except the Yoke Bar will be across your back. This is an exercise for very strong lifters only!
45 Degree Back Raises
By putting a SSB on your back during a 45 degree back raise, you’ll greatly increase your low back, hamstring and glute strength. Also, it will hit your upper back and add some serious mass to this region. This can also be done on a standard back raise or back hyperextension piece of equipment.
Pushups with Yoke Bar
With this exercise, you’ll need a partner to help stabilize the bar on your back. Place the bar on your back the same way you’d squat and perform pushups. This can be a very challenging exercise.