Bells Of Steel Safety Squat Bar Review

I was recently contacted by Bells Of Steel to test out a piece of their equipment.

I chose their SS3 Safety Squat Bar as I was looking to replace my awful Titan Fitness V1 SSB.

After using their safety squat bar for a couple of weeks, I’m definitely a huge fan!

However, like any piece of garage gym equipment, it has its positives and negatives.

So in today’s review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar so you can decide if it’s right for your garage gym.

Let’s get started!

Most Versatile Safety Squat Bar
Safety Squat Bar – The SS3

The SS3 is one of the most versatile Safety Squat Bars on the market! With three removable handles included, you can adjust your grip for different movements to fit your training style.

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Pros

  • Includes a couple of different removable handles makes this safety squat bar versatile.
  • Weighs less than other specialty bars which makes it easy to track your progress.
  • Combining the multiple handles, solid price of $350, and free shipping that Bells of Steel offers makes this safety squat bar a great value.
  • Rotating sleeves are a nice addition for some movements.
  • The camber angle of 22 degrees is similar to other high quality bars on the market
  • Standard Olympic sleeves means any barbell collar will work with them.
  • The yoke is thicker than other models, making it super comfortable on your back.
  • The camber not being as steep shortens the distance of the load from the bar, reducing how much you have to fight the pulling you down.

Cons

  • The padding is so thick that it kicks the weight of the bar back and makes it hard to perform exercises hand free.
  • The sleeves are 4″ shorter than the average safety squat bar which reduces the overall loading potential.
  • At only around 48″ around the inside of the camber, it won’t fit as well in any racks wider than this.
  • The black zinc finish looks nice but chips and scratched off too easily.
  • The plastic grips on the removable handles aren’t the best and I’m sure most would prefer standard barbell knurling instead.
  • There are some minor quality control issues such as the end caps and the stitched logo missing letters. They don’t affect the performance of the bar though.
  • The balance for hands free movements is not great and something I hope they fix in the future.

Specs

First up, let’s cover the basic specs of the Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar so you have an idea of what we’re working with.

  • Bar Weight – 47.5 lbs/21.5kg
  • Total Length – 86.6″/2,200mm
  • Loadable Sleeve Length – 11.4″/289mm
  • Rackable Length – 47″/1,194mm
  • Camber Angle – 22°
  • Camber Length – 4″/102mm
  • Shaft Diameter – 1.2″/32mm
  • Shaft Finish – Black Zinc
  • Sleeve Diameter – 1.97″/50mm
  • Sleeve Finish – Bright White Zinc
  • Sleeve Assembly – Bushings & Snap Rings
  • Tensile Strength – 190,000 PSI
  • Weight Capacity – 1,500lbs/680kg
  • Yoke Internal Width – 18″/457mm
  • Removable Handles – Standard, Long, & Chain

From the specs listed, it definitely has a lot going for it.

A high weight capacity, dual tone finishes on the shaft and rotating sleeves that look really nice, and the close yoke to fit more lifters’ shoulder positions.

Bells of Steel also offer swappable handle options that come with this safety squat bar which is nice but they have some issues that I’ll go over later.

This is the 3rd Version of the Bells of Steel SS3 safety squat bar and is definitely a step in the right direction for sure.

Construction

All in all, from a construction standpoint, I definitely think Bells Of Steel did an amazing job.

It has a couple of hits and misses but overall it’s absolutely solid.

Bar Weight

The Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar weighs around 47.5 lbs or 21.5 kg with the standard medium length handles.

If you use the longer handles or the chain versions this will change but for simplicity’s sake, I always recommend just counting the bar as 45 lbs to make things simple.

endcap mistake

If you have the version with the 58lbs end caps just know you’re not alone and it’s actually an issue on their end that Bells of Steel is working on fixing.

Total Length

bells of steel ss3 safety squat bar full view

It is definitely a great deal lighter than other safety squat bars due to its length.

It’s only around 86.6″ long which is a few inches shorter than standard safety squat bars.

One issue you might need to consider is that the distance between both cambers is only 48″ which won’t fit as well in wider racks.

if your rack is too wide, the bar will sit in the j-cups a little weird

In my PR-4000 Power Rack, which is 47″ wide, the j-cups do rotate in a bit but it isn’t a huge problem honestly.

If you have a wider rack such as a 49″ Rogue rack, it will most likely be lopsided in the j-hooks.

I think if Bells of Steel did a steeper drop in the camber like typical safety squat bars or even just starting the camber further out this wouldn’t be an issue.

I assume Bells of Steel built it like this to fit their racks perfectly though so it’s understandable for that point.

Still, making equipment that’s compatible with other brands is a good idea that all companies should be striving to do.

Shaft & Sleeve Finishes

One of the coolest features of the Bells Of Steel SS3 safety squat bar, is the black zinc finish on the shaft.

Black zinc definitely looks cool but the main problem is it feels slightly slick in your hand.

Considering you aren’t going to be holding onto the shaft while using this, it’s a non-issue.

The rotating sleeves have a bright zinc coating instead which gives it a nice dual tone contrast that I think looks great.

It also offers better abrasion resistance than the black zinc on the shaft.

This is great considering you’ll be loading/unloading plates a lot over the bar’s lifespan.

Weight Capacity

The Bells Of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar has a tensile strength of 190,000 PSI and a loading capacity of 1500 lbs or 680kg.

This is absolutely plenty for any type of lifts you’ll be using this for.

Mainly safety bar squats, good mornings, lunges, split squats, Hatfield squats, and more!

Plus, because of the camber that safety squat bars are known for, you won’t be able to squat anywhere near as much as a straight bar.

The overall 1,500 lb weight capacity should give you peace of mind for any exercises you perform with the Bells of Steel SS3 safety squat bar.

Camber

4" camber closeup

The camber of a safety squat bar is one of the most important features you need to concern yourself with.

If the camber isn’t built well, the bar isn’t going to balance well on your back.

So while the camber angle of 22 degrees is similar to other high performing bars on the market, the camber itself is still one of the Bells of Steel SS3 safety squat bars’ main weak points.

camber angle

A great safety squat bar should be capable of balancing perfectly on your back without any weight or the support of your hands.

If you don’t do Hatfield squats or other movements that require you to hold onto the rack or your safeties to stabilize, then this isn’t going to be an issue for you.

However, for me, I do calf raises using a safety squat bar as it’s easy to load up and safe to dump the weight for whatever reason.

I also do different lunges and split squat variations while holding onto my safeties and it isn’t as stable as I would like.

However, one of the better aspects of the camber is the shorter 4″ length.

It’s not quite as long as other SSB cambers, which means it isn’t going to try and pitch you forward as much.

This makes it a little easier to perform SSB Squats as you don’t have to fight back against the bar nearly as much.

So it’s perfect for those types of movements and actually provides more balance overall.

However, if you plan to use it similarly to what I use it for, you’ll notice the bar can tilt back if you aren’t holding the handles.

If there was a slightly better balance on the camber to allow for both types of lifts I would love the bar much more. Even with it’s standard camber angle it just isnt the best.

However, for most people that don’t do those types of exercises, it’s actually a positive and will serve you well!

Yoke

The inside of the yoke is around 8″ wide which is going to be perfect for most lifters.

This gives plenty of room for larger and wider lifters like myself, while also being comfortable for smaller lifters like the girls that train in my garage gym with me.

close up of yoke

The yoke circumference near the neck is around 5″ which is a little wider than other similar safety squat bars.

So while the SS3 safety squat bar might have more padding due to its width, this might be why the bar is less balanced.

If it were a little smaller overall, it would most likely prevent the load from pitching backward as much.

However, other than that it’s super comfortable!

foam used inside yoke

It’s much denser than other pads I’ve used and the one piece construction is obviously a must for a solid safety squat bar.

The vinyl Bells of Steel used has a textured surface that is grippy enough to prevent the bar from sliding around a lot.

This is important as crappy Safety Squat Bars are just slick vinyl which can move around on your back while squatting. Not good!

I noticed an issue with the Bells of Steel logo that I was hoping was an isolated incident, but others have reported the same thing.

typo on the logo of the yoke

Instead of it reading “BELLS OF STEEL”, it says “LS OF STEEL”.

Hopefully, bells of steel fix this in future bars because I’m sure some customers are probably bummed considering it looks like a knockoff.

While the overall width of the pad could be less to improve the balance, it is very comfortable on your back which I’m sure most users will appreciate.

Shaft

close up of shaft finish and construction quality

The Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar has a 32mm diameter with a sleek black zinc shaft finish.

This thickness prevents the bar from flexing as much which you definitely don’t want when squatting heavy weights.

The ends of the shaft are curved down 4″ into the 22 degree camber which I’ll cover more in depth later.

shaft black zinc finish scratched up

Even though black zinc looks nice, it does get scraped up really easily which isn’t that nice at all.

Other than that, the shaft is built well and does what it’s supposed to do, handle heavy weight without flexing.

Sleeves

The Bells Of Steel SS3 safety squat bar has a pretty good overall sleeve assembly.

They look super nice, are Olympic sized so you don’t have to worry about getting specialty collars, and don’t have a black powder coat that chips off in five seconds.

The one major difference they offer compared to pretty much every other safety squat bar out there is rotating sleeves.

Rotating Sleeves

This is important for the Olympic lifts as the bar is being turned over and rotating sleeves prevent all that force from being directed into your hands, elbows, shoulders, upper body, etc.

However, for movements done on a safety squat bar, I’m not really sure it’s that big of a benefit.

For movements like squats and good mornings, it can provide a better feel than a fixed sleeve.

Other than that, it’s a nice feature and the rotating sleeves are smooth so there’s that.

Loadable Sleeve Length

closeup of ss3 sleeves

My biggest issue with these rotating sleeves is that the loadable sleeve length is only 11.4″ or 289mm.

This might be fine for some people depending on how much weight you can lift and the types of plates you have.

If you have thinner plates or aren’t super strong then you’re probably fine.

If you can squat 600+ lbs or have a bunch of thicker plates, you might run into issues.

Most high end safety squat bars have 16″ loadable sleeves which is a huge difference in the amount of weight you can load.

Sleeve Finish

Finally, we have the sleeve finish which is a really nice bright zinc that looks great!

Considering the shaft is finished in black zinc, it provides a really cool contrast which gives the Bells Of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar a unique look.

Not only that, but this zinc finish will provide much better abrasion resistance than powder coats will.

Something that might be hit or miss is the grooved rotating sleeves.

closeup of grooved sleeves

I think they look nice but if you’ve ever used grooved sleeves before, they make a lot of noise when adding and removing plates.

This might be an issue for some people but it doesn’t really bother me.

Considering the alternative is requiring special bar collars to clamp down on smaller sleeves, this is a fair trade off for sure.

Removable Handles

This is actually one of the coolest features of the Bells of Steel SS3 safety squat bar, removable handles!

Everybody is going to have their own preference for the handles they like on a safety squat bar.

this is where the removable handles screw into the ss3

The Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar comes with three different options: standard short handles, long handles, and chain handles.

image 25 edited

I think this is a really great idea that adds a ton of value to the bar compared to others where you’re stuck with the one handle welded onto it.

I personally prefer the short handle because it puts my hands in the best position to stabilize the bar on my back.

image 26 edited

I’ve tried the long handles and they felt awkward. Plus its actually kind of difficult to screw them in and get the handles lined up in the same direction.

image 27

The chain handles are a cool addition if you’re interested in them but I recommend a more stable handle like the previous ones.

I do have a couple of issues with all of these though.

Black Zinc Coating Isn’t Great

Each of the handles were already chipping out of the box when I received it.

If Bells of Steel could use something more durable like stainless steel that would be a huge upgrade to increase their durability.

On top of that, the long handles are just too long and feel weird while in use.

black zinc coating on long handles already look rough

It’s something that many lifters will probably agree with when they use them.

The other main issue I have with the handles is the grips on them.

grips used on handles are plastic and not great

They’re a weird hard plastic that does not feel good in the hands, unfortunately.

I would greatly prefer standard barbell knurling with stainless steel or even an e-coat finish to provide a more solid grip.

If you’re not sure what the best barbell knurlings are, check out my barbell buying guide where I cover those and everything else you need to know about barbells.

This is just a small gripe but if you want and prefer regular old knurling as I do, I would get a different bar.

Other than that, including multiple handles, is pretty awesome and should provide way more positives than the negatives I mentioned here.

If Bells of Steel could just make them a little more high quality to match the bar itself, they would be perfect.

Conclusion

What do you think of the Bells of Steel SS3 Safety Squat Bar?

Are you a fan of the removable handles, rotating sleeves, and overall look of the bar?

Let me know in the comment section below right now!

Until next time,

-Dante

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