How I Built My Best Squat Ever-Safety Squat Bar Squats

By Greg Panora | In Squat | on January 25, 2013

I’m going to let u guys in on a little secret. I’m not that strong. I’m not a genetic freak or a phenom. Louie Simmons constantly made fun of my “uniceps” and “reverse cankles”. I’m too tall, too thin and my form is pretty bad. So how did I break the world record multiple times? How did I squat 1060? Because I have a couple of things that I learned to do really well. The mental aspect of being strong has always been more important than the physical. I watched bigger, stronger lifters crumble under squats because they couldn’t control their fear. Fear of the hole seperates a good squatter from a great one. It’s being able to push past the pain and awkwardness of that final two inches. How do you learn to do this? How do you teach yourself to think when your internal organs feel like they are going to come out your nose?

The safety squat bar, used here by Chad Wesley Smith, teaches your body to overcome heavy weights in less than ideal leverages.

The safety squat bar, used here by Chad Wesley Smith, teaches your body to overcome heavy weights in less than ideal leverages.


Anyone who has ever been to Westside Barbell knows about the safety squat bar. None of the specifications make any sense. It resembles a safety squat bar, but is a totally different entity. The neck pad is the same material as your grandparents leather couch. It smells like an old band aid and the faux leather is all frayed. If you look close enough you can see the blood stains from a thousand popped neck zits. The bar sits way to high on your neck and makes 135 feel like 505 pounds. Either you control the bar or it will control you.

So, how did I use this to squat 1060? I would use this bar for sets of 5 raw off a 12 inch box. I’m not sure if it made me any stronger, but it taught me to confront my fear. It taught me to think when my ribs felt like they were braking. It taught me to hold air while swallowing vomit. It taught me to continue my mental cues while blood was pouring out of my nose. So, that’s my big secret. I learned to think and control my body when it wanted to shut off. So, before you put on your briefs and suit to do a high box, reverse band squat, ask yourself, should I be doing something different? Am I ready to ready to ride a big squat all the way through?

Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.

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