If you already have a SSB and Multi-Grip bar, want a multipurpose specialty bar out the gate, or are looking for a specialty bar that more closely mimics a straight bar back squat without the shoulder strain, the Edge Fitness Cambered Squat Bar might be a good choice at a market leading price.
When I started my garage gym journey, I only saw a few specialty bars as providing any “difference” in terms of functionality. As I’ve explored and expanded my thinking, and used more bars, I’ve grown to learn that one-size does not fit all, and that with each twist, turn, camber adjustment, etc. we can get a vastly different bar and thus training effect. I’m still a firm believer that specialty bars, unless you are injured or otherwise permanently messed up, are mostly a Want opposed to a Need. Plenty of people did and still do get insanely strong using a standard straight bar and nothing else. That said, I think if you have specific weaknesses (either aesthetically or strength based), simply enjoy some variability in your life, or have zero intent on competing and are simply looking for the best fit for your structure, specialty bars can provide a change of pace and help you break into new found territories. Let’s look at the Cambered Squat Bar and how it stands out.
The Cambered Squat Bar
Often called a Giant Cambered Car, Cambered Squat Bar, or something similar, this bar can be used for both Squats AND Bench, as well as probably a number of other exercises like curls, overhead press, you name it. Essentially, you take your standard barbell, hang the weights from about 2 feet below the bar on your back, and you have the general concept of a cambered bar. This provides two unique functions compared to your standard Olympic bar, both due to the pipe/steel running from the top portion of the bar (what lays on your back in a squat) to the bottom portion of the bar (where the plates slide on).
First, the connection piece from the top to the bottom provides the ability for those with limited shoulder mobility, or simply those that would like to refrain from straining their shoulders week in and week out on back squats, to grab the bar in a more comfortable position. Essentially, you are grabbing the bar IN FRONT and BELOW your shoulders, instead of BEHIND and ABOVE. If you’ve seen a Safety Squat Bar, it provides similar (not the same) function.
Second, is with the weights hanging that low, the bar has a different “feel” to it. For squats, you get this “pinned forward” feeling where the bar is drastically trying to crumple your upper back and throw you forward. With bench, because your arms and the top bar act like a pendulum, the bottom weights “swing” back and forth. This forces you to lock tight and really own your bar path, speed, and overall technique. Each exercise is going to have a different “feel” from the bar depending on the weight used, your stance, where you hold the bar, the bar path, etc. So the bar creates a very unique training environment where you can get really creative and test out a bunch of exercises.
The Edge Cambered Squat Bar
So now we know the cambered bar, but what about THIS bar from Edge Fitness Systems?
First, Edge is a small shop. If you are accustomed to Rogue, their lightning fast shipping times, and their abundance of communications, you aren’t getting that here. You’ll get confirmation of order, confirmation of shipping, and that is it. It’ll take a few weeks too, depending on how backed up he is. Their packaging is ok. My bar came wrapped tight in a TON of cardboard, bubble wrap, and tape. But there is an art to packaging a bar properly. Overdo it, and it creates a nightmare for the person getting the bar out. Under do it, and the bar gets trashed in delivery. Edge seems to have overdone this one. I ended up leaving a few scratch marks in the powder coat trying to get the bar out of the package. Nothing horrible that likely won’t be there in a few weeks of use, but upsetting to see before I’ve even racked the bar.
The powder coat itself is good, just like every other bar I’ve received from Edge. Clean and black, it’ll hold up well even to your iron plates sliding on and off. You’ll of course see some initial paint transfer on the sleeves and the usual suspects around where the bar gets racked, but that ends after a week or two and the bar doesn’t look any worse for wear (the powder coat dust wipes right off). The welds on the bar are relatively clean, and they use a couple of rubber stops. I actually prefer the rubber ends to the welded end caps, I think they look cleaner. But it’s not a make or break item.
After using the bar for the past three months for multiple squat and bench sessions from 5 reps down to 1RMs, with and without bands and chains , I have a few realizations.
The bar seems like it is meant for a monolift, or at least adjustable monolift hooks. Because of where you grab the bar with your hands, you have the very real likelihood that you’ll accidentally pinch your hands between the bar and your rack. Add to that, that this pinch will be more like a slam, facilitated by a swinging bar with a few hundred pounds driving it. It also just FEELS like the kind of bar that is meant to get under, squat, and rack without a walkout. Not sure I can explain that feeling exactly, just that it is. So yeah, monos might be an awesome addition to the bar for squats.
The bar doesn’t have any knurling. So if you are accustomed to low bar squatting with an aggressive center knurl, this bar might fall flat. I personally haven’t had any issues, and that’s with wearing some relatively slick attire, but I also had no issues squatting with an Ohio bar and no center knurl for a few years. I’ve heard of people adding skateboard grip tape, or spray on bed liner to give a knurl effect, but I’m not there yet.
The bar almost forces a low bar position, or at least feels like a low bar squat even in a higher bar position. I’m not sure if it’s the Schedule 80 pipe, or the general design of the bar itself, but it seems to fit perfectly right at the bottom of the traps, giving you a bit more forward lean, instead of an upright position. And this is coming from someone who has VERY little natural forward lean in the SSB and other squat variations.
Because of the fact that the bar actually sits on your back, opposed to a Safety Squat Bar, it feels like this bar could be a very suitable replacement for back squats, even in a competitive lifter, for all but the final weeks before a competition. That same general bar placement just feels like a natural back squat.
The schedule 80 pipe makes the bar a pseudo axle/fat bar. This is really nice for most people, as it’ll reduce some wrist, elbow, and shoulder strain. In fact, pair that with the need to actively stabilize the bar to fight that shake and you have a very joint friendly bar.
With the bar itself being in your hands, and the weights being a solid 2 feet below that, it’s going to make setting up safety pins for the bench rather difficult. I have a Thompson fat pad which gives me an extra couple of inches off the ground, I’m 240lbs so decently thick through the upper torso, and my spotter arms don’t work in their normal fashion inside the rack. I have to resort to my pin and pipe safeties which sit one or two spots above the lowest setting. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what safety pins would really do in this situation. The bar doesn’t function like any other bar in terms of “racking”. So be aware that safety with this bar is going to be a little awkward.
Other Options on the Market
Pretty much every custom fabricator shop makes a cambered squat bar, because it’s just a few pieces of pipe tossed together. No need to worry about proper camber angles, padding, or the other intricacies of a safety squat bar. There are some unique pieces you can find in different companies though, for instance American Barbell has a design that seems to offer multiple hand positions (might alleviate part of the racking issue). And then there are small variants in terms of whether they clip the extra pipe at the top, whether it’s curved, flat, or round in the connection piece, etc. I’m not sure I’d really consider any of it that drastic of a change though. Rogue and a bunch of the others are going to put you into the $300 range after tax and shipping. The Westside version is $545 BEFORE tax, and really unless you are pushing 1000lb squats is likely more overkill than function. Edge is going to run you around $200, give or take depending on your shipping address, for what I can tell is the exact same bar and function you’ll get everywhere else.
Overall and Final Thoughts
I like this bar. I like it a lot actually. I’ll likely use it for squats, bench, curls, front delt raises, and a bunch of other stupid stuff I’ll try in the future, mixed in regularly with my other specialty bars. The Safety Squat bar is likely still the best 2nd squat bar to own, but you aren’t going to bench with an SSB or do much else for that matter. So from a pure multi-purpose perspective, this bar beats the SSB in my book. From a comfortable feel, the SSB reigns supreme. Considering the other options on the market for a cambered bar are about $100 more than Edge, for exactly the same bar (schedule 80 pipe welded together and powder coated), I see no reason to go elsewhere unless of course you are setting world records or simply must have the greatest of all things.
I’ll be back in a year to let you know how it holds up, if my thoughts have changed, etc. Maybe I’ll have tested the mono attachments theory at that point. Who knows?