I was recently contacted by Bells Of Steel to test out a piece of their equipment.
I chose the SS3 as I was looking to replace my first Safety Squat Bar as it was quite awful.
After using their safety squat bar for a couple of weeks in my home gym, 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 so you can see if it’s one of the best safety squat bars in this price range.
Let’s get started!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Specs
- 2 Construction
- 3 Weight Capacity
- 4 Camber
- 5 Yoke
- 6 Padding
- 7 Shaft
- 8 Sleeves
- 9 Removable Handles
- 10 Bells Of Steel SS3 Bar vs Elitefts SS Yoke Bar
- 11 Bells Of Steel SS3 Bar vs Titan Fitness SSB V2
- 12 Can a Curl Bar be Used for Bench Pressing?
- 13 Conclusion
First up, let’s cover the basic specs of the Bells of Steel
- Bar Weight – 47.5 lbs/21.5kg
- Total Bar 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
- Handles – Standard, Long, & Chain Handles
From the specs listed, it definitely has a lot going for it.
A high load 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
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.
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.
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 Bar Length
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.
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 camber drop 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.
One of the coolest features of the
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 a safety squat bar, 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.
The Bells Of Steel
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 an Olympic bar.
The overall 1,500 lb max capacity should give you peace of mind for any exercises you perform with the
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 drop itself is still one of the SS3’s main weak points.
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 its standard camber angle it just isn’t the best.
However, for most people that don’t do those types of exercises, it’s actually a positive and will serve you well!
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.
The yoke circumference near the neck is around 5″ which is a little wider than other similar safety squat bars.
So while this 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!
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.
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.
The Bells of Steel
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.
Even though the zinc shaft 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.
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.
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
My biggest issue with these rotating sleeves is that they only have 11.4″ or 289mm of space to load weight plates onto.
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 Olympic 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.
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 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.
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 barbell collars to clamp down on smaller sleeves, this is a fair trade off for sure.
This is actually one of the coolest features of the Bells of Steel
Everybody is going to have their own preference for the handles they like on a safety squat bar.
The SS3 Safety Squat Bar comes with three different options: standard short handles, long handles, and chain handles.
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 handles because they put my hands in the best position to stabilize the bar on my back.
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.
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.
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.
They’re a weird hard plastic that does not feel good in the hands, unfortunately.
I would greatly prefer Olympic bar 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.
Bells Of Steel SS3 Bar vs Elitefts SS Yoke Bar
The Elitefts SS Yoke bar is one of the best specialty bars currently available. Elitefts is known for making great equipment by lifters, for lifters so they absolutely know what they’re doing.
However, when comparing it to the SS3 bar, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The SS Yoke is superior in terms of balance due to its camber drop, while the padding provides a far more comfortable experience than the SS3.
However, the SS Yoke has a clear coat finish, which chips way more than zinc finishes. The SS3 is the “clear” winner in this regard with its black zinc shaft and bright zinc sleeves combo.
Another benefit of the SS3 bar is that the sleeves are the right size to use standard barbell collars so you don’t have to invest in specialty ones.
The SS Yoke bar needs slightly tighter specialty barbell collars if you don’t want them to slide off with heavy loads.
My biggest issue with the SS3 bar from Bells of Steel is the length of the sleeves. They’re 4″ shorter than the Elitefts bar and while they might have rotating sleeves, this really isn’t that big of a benefit compared to a lower loading capacity.
RELATED - Rogue vs EliteFTS Safety Squat Bar
However, if you want more variety in the grips you can use, the SS3 has three different handles you can swap out. While the SS Yoke bar has handles you can remove, they don’t actually make different handles to replace them.
Finally, we get to the price, the Bells of Steel SS3 is priced at $349.99, while the Elitefts SS Yoke costs $458 (excluding shipping). Although at the time of writing this, it’s priced at $339 making it the better value overall.
I’m not sure if that’s a temporary price or if they reduced the price in preparation for a new bar, but you can’t beat the value you’ll get if you can snag it much cheaper.
Overall, while the SS Yoke is the superior bar when it comes to build quality, performance, and overall feel; the SS3 provides excellent value for the money if you have a use for the different handles.
Bells Of Steel SS3 Bar vs Titan Fitness SSB V2
The Titan Fitness SSB V2 is a massive improvement over the first safety squat bar version that I personally owned. It had a split pad that is inferior in every way compared to a single pad design.
The Titan SSB has 6″ long grips that are molded out of plastic similar to the SS3. However, if you want variety in the grips you can use, the SS3 is superior in that regard with its three handle options.
While the SS3 only has around a 32mm shaft diameter which is comparable to a specialty squat bar, the Titan Safety Squat Bar is 38mm which should give it a much higher loading capacity as a result.
Another area the Titan SSB beats the SS3 is the length of the sleeves. Titans bar has 16″ loadable sleeves while Bells of Steel is only 11.4″.
Longer sleeves equal more plates and more dates as the saying goes.
The Titan SSB V2 weighs around 61 lbs which makes sense considering the longer length and thicker shaft diameter. The Bells of Steel SS3 is much closer to an Olympic bar at 47.5 lbs as a result.
While the zinc finish on the SS3 is better than the clear coat of the SS Yoke Bar, the chrome coating on the Titan bar is better overall.
Another benefit of the Titan SSB is the shaft length of 48″ compared to the 47″ of the SS3. The Titan bar will fit in most power racks much better than the Bells Of Steel bar on average.
Finally, we have the price. Titan offers free shipping just like Bells of Steel, so their safety squat bar is around $285 shipped. The SS3 is around $350 shipped, so while it’s a good value, the Titan SSB V2 is even better.
If you want different handles and rotating sleeves, the SS3 could be a good option. However, on all the points that actually matter for a high quality Safety Squat Bar, the Titan SSB V2 is the clear winner and much cheaper overall.
Can a Curl Bar be Used for Bench Pressing?
When it comes to bench pressing with a curl bar, it’s not the most ideal choice. While a curl bar can target specific muscles during bicep curls, it’s not designed for heavy pressing movements like the bench press. To maximize your gains and safety, it’s best to use a standard barbell or dumbbells for bench pressing.
What do you think of the Bells of Steel
Are you a fan of the different handles, rotating sleeves, and overall look of the bar?
Let me know in the comment section below right now!
Until next time,