Cambered bar squats are an interesting way to switch up weighted squats. Find out the benefits and downsides of this version.
Because the cambered sleeves with the weight plates hang lower than the main bar resting on your back, the weights swing more compared to squatting with a regular bar.
In turn, the instability works a variety of stabilizing muscles to a larger extent. More specifically, your inner thighs, outer thighs, core muscles, and ankle muscles have to work harder in cambered bar squats.
A benefit of the cambered bar is that it can help reveal areas for improvement in your technique because the swinging amplifies your movements.
Additionally, the camber allows you to keep the bar in place with your hands in a lower position. This can be helpful for individuals with shoulder issues.
One potential downside of cambered bar squats is that the instability makes it harder to use a lot of weight.
To grow and strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves a lot, you may need to implement back squats with other equipment too.
Additionally, good cambered bars require an extra investment.
How to do a cambered bar squat
You will need a cambered squat bar, a squat rack, and enough weight plates for this exercise. Additionally, a box squat box and/or spotters can be helpful to play it safe.
Once you have these things, take the following steps to do a cambered bar squat:
- Find a squat rack and rack the cambered bar at about chest height.
- Stand under the cambered bar, push your shoulders up so that the cambered bar rests on your upper back, and hold it there with your hands. You can hold either the bar resting on your back or the vertical/angled bars of the camber.
- Unrack the cambered bar and take a few steps back. Stand up straight with your feet more or less shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by folding your knees. Keep your spine more or less straight and your knees above your feet.
- Slowly push yourself up until your legs are slightly less than stretched.
- Rerack the cambered bar after your desired number of repetitions.
It is typically smart to keep your movements controlled. This can benefit your balance and really puts a lot of tension on your muscles.
Additionally, people who are new to cambered bar squats likely want to start with very light weights.
Even if you keep the relatively heavy cambered bar weight in mind, the extra swinging of the weights will make the movement harder.
The cambered squat bar is not really used to achieve 1RM records. However, you can still increase the weight as you get stronger to keep the exercise challenging enough.
Cambered bar squat muscles worked
Similar to the regular version, cambered bar squats still mainly work your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves.
On top of that, the swinging of the weights works your inner thighs, outer thighs, core muscles, and ankle muscles more than a regular barbell back squat.
Due to the instability, you will likely use less weight in the cambered bar squat.
This can be a downside because you still need to challenge your muscles with enough resistance, reps, and sets to grow and strengthen them.
Cambered bar squats will generally be less effective than something like a barbell back squat for growing and strengthening your quads.
At the same time, you can likely still see great results from this variation too. Especially if you approach the cambered bar squats with a smart workout program.
Benefits of cambered bar squats
Even if they are not as optimal in certain areas as more standard variations, cambered bar squats can still offer valuable benefits. A few examples are:
- Can reduce injury risk: Strengthening stabilization muscles by squatting with a cambered bar can reduce your injury risk.
- May feel more comfortable: You can hold the cambered bar in a lower position than a regular barbell. This can be more comfortable on your shoulders. That being said, if this is the main benefit you are interested in, a safety squat bar may be a better choice.
- Can reveal technique improvement areas: The swinging of the weights amplifies your movements. This can reveal what areas of your technique can use improvement.
- Keeps things interesting: Always doing the same workouts may sound boring to you. If that is the case, using unusual equipment like a cambered bar for squats can help you enjoy your exercise sessions more.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Strengthening your core muscles with exercises like cambered bar squats can help prevent back pain. People with issues in this area likely want to talk to an expert first.
- Balance & coordination: It is typically possible to improve balance and coordination by challenging yourself in these areas. Cambered bar squats could be enough to see results.
Squats are one of the main exercises cambered bars are good for.
At the same time, you could also consider movements like the cambered bar bench press if they align with your training goals.
Additionally, it can still be worth doing squats with more standard pieces of equipment like a barbell too.
While cambered bar squats can still be a good addition to your exercise routine, you want to keep in mind that there are potential risks too.
Similar to regular squats, the movement of the cambered version can be hard for your knees, back, and ankles.
Besides that, you want to keep in mind that cambered bar squats tend to be more challenging in terms of balance.
You likely want to get used to this exercise with lighter weights before you start swinging around your barbell back squat 1 RM.
This makes it likely you fall down and get all of the negative consequences that come with that.
Is the cambered bar squat a good exercise?
Cambered bar squats can be a good exercise to strengthen a variety of stabilizing muscles, improve squat technique, and work important muscle groups like your quadriceps at the same time.
On top of that, switching up what (specialty) barbells you use can make your exercise routine more fun. This could also help you stay more consistent with your plan.
The potential increase in shoulder comfort due to the lower handles of the cambered bar can be a nice addition but if this is your main goal, a safety squat bar is likely a better choice.
Something to keep in mind is that you may also want to do squats with more stable equipment to really grow and strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
Besides that, cambered squat bars also require an extra investment (or a good gym) to do.
What does a cambered squat bar do?
A cambered squat bar makes the movement more challenging in terms of balance, can help you figure out where your technique is the most lacking, and can offer some variation.