The cambered squat bar is an advanced, but a highly effective squat accessory that can help increase your squat strength and technique.
So, what is the cambered squat bar? The cambered squat bar is a specialty barbell that has the weight plates hang 14 inches lower than a normal barbell. Its design makes it easier for those with shoulder mobility issues or upper body injuries to hold. However, the cambered squat bar is much harder to balance compared to a regular barbell.
In the article below, I’ll explain the difference between the cambered squat bar and a regular barbell. I’ll also explain why the cambered squat bar deserves a place in your program due to its benefits, along with other exercises you can do with it. Finally, I’ll show you where you can purchase one if you’re interested in investing in a cambered squat bar.
If you’re interested in buying a cambered squat bar, I’d suggest that you buy from Rogue. Their products are made in America, they have a solid guarantee, and their product quality is top-notch. Here’s their cambered squat bar (click for today’s price on Rogue Fitness).
Cambered Squat Bar: Overview
The cambered squat bar is often referred to as the “camber bar”. These names can be used interchangeably for this type of specialty barbell.
The cambered squat bar consists of an upper horizontal steel bar with two vertically-welded steel posts that extend under it. As the name implies, there’s a camber to the barbell. This results in the weight plates being positioned slightly off-center from the upper part of the barbell, instead of directly underneath.
The existing camber makes it much more difficult to balance with this barbell. This is because the weight plates are more likely to swing forward and back as you move. Any swing in the plates can result in you becoming off-balance and misgrooving the bar path. For these reasons, the cambered squat bar should be limited to intermediate and advanced lifters only.
Due to its design, lifters can choose to place their hands on the upper part like they would with a standard bar. Alternatively, the hands can be placed on the vertical posts at varying heights. This grip modification allows for athletes with significant upper body limitations (shoulder injuries, usually) to still perform a squat exercise.
If you can’t use a straight bar due to shoulder issues and you’re a novice-level lifter, I’d suggest that you avoid the cambered squat bar for now and try the safety bar squat instead.
Although we’ve only talked about using the cambered bar for squats, you can use it for these exercises too: bench presses, overhead presses, lunges, step-ups, and good-mornings.
The cambered squat bar is just one type of bar you can use for squats. Check out my complete guide on the 8 Different Types Of Squat Bars & Their Uses.
Related Article: Cambered Bar Bench Press: Benefits, How-To, Muscles Worked.
6 Cambered Squat Bar Benefits
The 6 benefits to using the cambered squat bar are:
- Easier on your shoulders
- Improves your technique
- Great for deload or technique emphasis
- Reasonably priced
- Works well for low ceilings
- High exercise versatility
1. Easier on Your Shoulders
For lifters who have injured or immobile shoulders, the cambered squat bar is your best friend. Instead of placing your hands on the bar like you normally would, you can hold the vertical posts.
Holding the bar in this manner demands much less mobility. As a result, you can still keep a good enough grip and get some squatting done.
Keep in mind that this barbell won’t actually solve the problem you’re having (immobile shoulders). However, it will act as a great temporary work-around so you can continue to squat pain-free.
If your shoulders hurt when you squat, check out my article How To Fix Shoulder Pain While Squatting (9 Solutions)
2. Improves Your Technique
The biggest complaint of the cambered squat bar is the instability while moving. This comes as no surprise; after all, that’s the point of this barbell. That being said, the inherent instability can actually work in your favour for your straight bar back squat.
Any time you lose your tightness or bar path while using the cambered squat bar, you’ll immediately struggle on the ascent. This rapid feedback will help reinforce a more efficient bar path, since it’s not so fun to struggle more than is required to complete a set.
Because of this highly demanding practice, you’ll likely find your straight bar back squat technique improves.
3. Great for Deload or Technique Emphasis
As mentioned previously, the cambered squat bar is great for learning to detect small technique inefficiencies and learning to avoid them. This benefit makes the cambered squat bar a great squat accessory for an entire training cycle.
Additionally, the cambered squat bar makes a fantastic squat variation for a deload week or training cycle. This is because you’ll naturally have to use lighter weights, which will reduce the training stimulus that you’ll accumulate — allowing you to recover better while preserving your fundamental squat mechanics.
4. Reasonably Priced
Overall, the cambered squat bar is reasonably priced for a specialty barbell.
Multiple companies offer different price points for varying levels of quality (from $185-$350usd).
Chances are that you’ll almost certainly find a cambered squat bar that fits your budget and the specs that you’re looking for.
5. Works Well for Low Ceilings
Out of all the benefits of the cambered squat bar, one of my favorite features is its compatibility with low ceilings.
When you’re training in a room with low ceilings (7 feet high), the weight plates will make contact with the ceiling if you’re using a standard barbell. Even though the shaft of the bar might not touch, the diameter of the plates will inevitably cause them to hit your ceiling.
On the other hand, the cambered squat bar doesn’t suffer from this problem. With this specialty bar, the weight plates hang lower than the upper part of the barbell. This means that you’ll likely get very close to touching the ceiling with the upper part, but the weight plates will have plenty of space and avoid contact with the ceiling whatsoever.
6. High Exercise Versatility
The final benefit of the cambered squat bar is its versatility.
There are at least a dozen additional exercises that you can safely do with the cambered squat bar. If you also count paused variations and tempo versions of each exercise, the list easily grows to +30 exercises.
Clearly, this barbell isn’t just a one-trick-pony.
The swiss bar is another highly-versatile specialty barbell, read all about it in my article Swiss Bar Bench Press: How-To, Benefits, Muscles Used
Types And Where Can You Get A Cambered Squat Bar?
I personally believe that a cambered squat bar should be a lower priority on your collection list — let me explain why.
With the exception of the bench press and overhead press, you can do all the same cambered squat bar exercises with a safety squat bar. Plus, the safety squat bar allows you to remove your hands from the barbell if needed (like when you’re doing Hatfield squats).
For this reason, I think more lifters would benefit from investing in a safety squat bar instead of a cambered bar. That said, some lifters might still want to invest in a cambered squat bar. If that’s you, here are some options.
Rogue stands behind their products, and this cambered squat bar is no exception. Great quality at a reasonable price.
Budget-Friendly Option ($184.99 USD)
This is one of the lowest-cost options for a cambered squat bar. If you want a bar that will be “just good enough”, this is the option for you. That said, don’t expect high quality.
This is one of the lowest-cost options for a cambered squat bar. While it’s a great price, it has no knurling to help it stay in place on your back. Cheaper bars also tend to have a lower quality powder coating, which might cause small bits to flake off over time.
Some reviews have said that the steel is only good up to around 300lbs. So if you plan on lifting more weight than that I would stay away.
Most Expensive ($350 USD)
EliteFTS has one of the most expensive cambered squat bars. If you want a slightly longer barbell (91.5” vs 88” from Rogue) that is also lighter (it weighs 65 pounds, which is 20 pounds less than Rogue’s), this is the option for you.
My personal recommendation is that you buy from Rogue. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better bar at a lower price.
However, I have the perfect solution if you want to do cambered bar exercises but don’t want to buy an actual cambered squat bar.
Rogue Fitness also produces cambered bar attachments (click here to check today’s price on Rogue) They sell as a pair and slide onto the sleeves of your standard barbell. They have small (14 inches) and large (16 inches) versions. After you tighten them, you’ve basically transformed your regular barbell into a cambered squat bar.
Using the cambered attachments, you get all the benefits of a cambered squat bar at a lower cost. You also eliminate the need to find more space to store a huge barbell like the cambered squat bar.
Cambered Bar vs Regular Bar
The cambered squat bar differs from the straight bar back squat in 4 ways:
- You will most certainly squat less with a cambered squat bar
- You will use more stabilizing muscles with a cambered squat bar
- Almost all cambered squat bars are made without knurling
- Less upper back tightness
1. You Will Most Certainly Squat Less with a Cambered Squat Bar
For almost all lifters, squatting with a cambered squat bar will result in you lifting less weight than with a straight bar.
This is because of the huge decrease in stability from the swaying of the cambered squat bar. As the instability of the exercise increases, your ability to produce force decreases.
2. You Will Use More Stabilizing Muscles with a Cambered Squat Bar
The instability of the cambered squat bar will increase the activity of stabilizing muscles.
As instability increases, more smaller muscles ramp up their activity. This is done in order to attempt to help the lifter control their body position more.
After using the cambered squat bar for the first time, many lifters find that they’re a little more sore in their abs and back muscles than usual.
3. Almost All Cambered Squat Bars Are Made Without Knurling
Good quality straight barbells have knurling to help you hold onto the bar, but the cambered squat bar is rarely made with any knurling.
Although knurling is most beneficial for deadlifts, it’s helpful for squats as well. When the bar is on your back, the knurling will dig into your shirt slightly as extra grip. When using a bar that tends to swing, more grip is a very useful thing.
4. Less Upper Back Tightness
Many lifters note that using the cambered squat bar leads to less of an upper back shelf to rest the barbell.
Since the diameter of the cambered squat bar tends to be thicker than the average barbell, it often needs to be placed lower (across the rear delts).
Additionally, the lower hand placements (along the vertical posts), tends to decrease the amount of upper back tightness.
How To Train Using A Cambered Squat Bar
Here’s how to squat with the cambered bar:
- Place your grip across the upper part of the barbell or on the vertical posts if you struggle with shoulder mobility
- While holding onto the bar, dip underneath it and set the upper part on top of your rear delts
- Bring your feet forward, so they’re positioned directly under your hips
- When ready, push the floor away to stand tall and let the bar settle to minimize any swinging
- Slowly take one step back, then a second step back to clear the hooks
- Pause to allow the bar to stop swinging, then widen or narrow your stance width to your preference
- Take a deep breath into your abdomen and begin squatting down
- Once the crease of your hip dips below the top of your thighs from the side, you’ve gone deep enough
- Push the floor away to accelerate back to the starting position
- Pause for a couple seconds between reps, and before walking forward to re-rack the bar
Important note: When doing cambered bar squats for the first time, perform your reps much more slowly. Once you get a feel for the swinging effect of the bar, you’re welcome to speed up your reps to match your previous rep speed.
Other Exercises You Can Do With The Cambered Squat Bar
The cambered squat bar is quite versatile and can be used for much more than just cambered bar back squats.
Here are some other exercises to try:
Bench Press Variations
The flat bench press is the most common pressing exercise that lifters perform with this barbell. However, you’re welcome to perform incline or decline bench presses too.
Good Morning Variations
Multiple good morning variations are possible: standard good mornings, paused good mornings (on the safety pins at the bottom), or tempo good mornings (2-5 second eccentric).
There are dozens of potential exercises here with the cambered bar: forward lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, split squats, and bulgarian split squats — just to name a few. Add in a pause or some tempo work, and you can easily make the perfect lunge variation for you.
The Zercher squat or the front squat can also be performed with this barbell. Although they’re certainly more challenging, the most difficult likely goes to the cambered bar overhead squat (for advanced lifters ONLY).
Step-ups of various heights (low, medium, or high box) can also be performed while keeping the cambered bar on your back. If you thought step-ups were hard before, the swinging of the weight plates will make this into a new beast altogether.
Yes, deadlifts are possible with the cambered squat bar but the cambered zercher deadlift will be your best (and probably only) option.
Want to learn more about the zercher deadlift? My article Zercher Deadlift: What Is It? How-To, Benefits, Drawbacks will cover all there is to know about it.
Other Helpful Squat Guides
- Isometric Squat: How-To, Benefits, & Should You Do It?
- Tabata Squats: How-To, Common Mistakes, & Workout Sample
- High Box Squat: 5 Reasons Why It Makes Sense
- 7 Reasons To Do Tempo Squats (Plus, How to Program It)
- Cossack Squat: What Is It? How To Do It? Benefits
- Jefferson Squat: How-To, Benefits, Should You Do It?
- Partial Squats: Benefits, Muscles Worked, Are They Safe?
- How To Pause Squat (Technique, Benefits, Muscles Worked)
The cambered squat bar is a special bar that adds an element of instability to improve your squat technique and body control. It’s particularly useful for lifters who are dealing with shoulder injuries or immobile upper bodies.
While this barbell should not be used by beginners, it’s a great alternative for athletes training in rooms with low ceilings and can be used for dozens of additional exercises.
If you’re ready to put your squat technique and control to the test, consider adding the cambered squat bar to your arsenal.
About The Author
Kent Nilson is an online strength coach, residing in Calgary (AB). When he’s not training, coaching, or volunteering on the platform at powerlifting meets, you’ll likely find Kent drinking coffee or enjoying his next Eggs Benedict. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.