Are You a Sissy?

Darin Keesing wrote the following on the StrongLifts Fan page 2 weeks ago in reply to my Squatting Mistakes article:

I still disagree with you about towels/pads. Some skinny guys (like me) just don’t have the muscle/fat on their backs to make the bar comfortable at 200+ pounds. Please stop calling people sissys.

When I started Squatting 11 years ago weighing 132lb, I also used the sissy pad because that’s what the few Squatters in my gym did and I didn’t know better. But since the gym managers became too cheap to get new foam pads everytime they broke, I eventually got used to Squatting without bar pad.

Was I a sissy for Squatting (in the smith..) with a foam pad? I’d call it ignorant and uninformed. After all Squatting with a bar pad is a mistake for 3 reasons:

  1. You can’t position the bar correctly. This is even more true if you wrap a towel around the bar: the bar will end up higher on your back, and the higher the bar the worse your leverage. Granted, not that big of a deal with light weights, but it will be once you Squat heavier weights.
  2. You can’t “feel” the bar – it’s like Squatting in running shoes: you have to Squat barefoot/with Chuck’s to feel the difference. The only way you’ll feel the bar using a pad is if the weight is heavy enough, but then…
  3. … the bar pad will be useless when you get stronger (which you will with StrongLifts 5×5). Here’s why: the weight will compress the pad and then you’ll lose the cushion ability. So any short-term benefit, you will lose.

Squatting with that sissy pad because you don’t have much upper-back muscles yet, is like wearing gloves because you still need to grow callus. The solution is always the same: stick with it for 2-3 weeks and your body will adapt. Your upper-back will get tough if you keep Squatting without a pad.

The guys who start SL5x5 without ever using a sissy pad rarely get discomfort because their upper-back adapts as the weight increases. This is why the longer you wait to switch to Squatting without pad, the harder you’re making it on yourself. Drop the pad now instead of waiting until your back gets thicker and remember to position the barbell correctly on your back (not on your spine).

Which is what Darin did as he reported a few hours later on Facebook

I squatted 5×5 215 lbs today w/o a pad. I hope you’re all happy!!!!

I am. While we’re at it, do not use that silly bar pad to protect your shins on Deadlifts (that’s something new I read this week) – as Gabriel G. explained on the StrongLifts Fan page: “Using a bar pad would move the bar away from the mid-foot by making it thicker, effectively changing the leverage and mechanics of the movement.” The closer the bar to your body during Deadlifts, the better the leverage. So if your shins keep taking a beating, do not use a pad – read this.

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