T Nation

Thinking of Competing. Advice?

Hey everyone,

As a rugby player I have always lifted to improve my performance and I really enjoy strength training. Recently, an acquaintance of mine suggested that I try competing because I no longer play rugby. I like this idea, however, I had my shoulder reconstructed 2 years ago preventing me from comfortably putting the bar on my back for a back squat. Before my surgery my lifts included a 130kg benchpress, 180kg squat and 210kg deadlift at a bodyweight of 82kg. I believe that I am stronger now because I have front squatted 152kg, zercher squatted 142kg for a 5RM, and trap bar deadlifted 220kg for triples.

I can put the bar on my back (high bar) however my shoulder feels tight afterwards and I cannot get a tight bar position with the bar. Do any of you know any ways to loosen up the shoulders to make this comfortable? Also how to increase external rotation?


I just did my first meet last week and it was a great experience. Do it! Don’t worry about how strong you are, just sign up and use it as a learning experience. I also squat Olympic/high bar just because that’s how I learned and it probably only cost me 5-10% so you shouldn’t worry too much. Make sure you pick your opening lifts conservatively and have a plan worked out for the increases for the second and third attempts. Also, make sure you practice lifting with commands. I jumped a squat command and the start command on one of my bench presses. I can’t offer advice for your shoulder but I’m sure you can find some advice on mobility work and stretches.

welcome to the life of 90% of powerlifters.

So there are others who can better advise on how to loosen up your shoulders. Mine are very tight as well, and I only squat high bar. But I can still squat a shit load of weight that way. You can make it work. Outside of doing mobility work though, you can do the vast majority of your training with things like a safety squat bar, or a buffalo bar, to avoid the shoulder strain. Buffalo bars are amazing. So don’t let your shoulder issue prevent you from competing! Your lifts are already good enough to give a competition a shot to see how you like it. Don’t worry about peaking your lifts or anything like that. Just train hard for awhile, compete in a meet in whatever weight class you fall into (don’t get caught up in bodyweight for your first meet, it’s not worth it), and lift some weights! Get the experience. There’s absolutely no downside here. There is no minimum strength requirement. You will not be the weakest there, guaranteed.


What flip collar said!

I did my first meet 3 years ago and am still having a blast. As for bars, I train with the Safety Squat Bar (SSB), bow (Buffalo/Duffalo) bar, camber bar. They are all easy on the shoulders due to hand placement. I’m especially a fan of the SSB for some odd reason even though a lot of people struggle with it.

Work on shoulder mobility and migrate to the straight bar once you are close to a meet.

the downside of the ssb bar is that the mechanics of the squat do not directly emulate the back squat SSB leverages are much more similar to a front squat than a traditional back squat. So when working near maximal loads, you really need to practice with a different bar to be prepared for a meet. The buffalo bar does not have this problem. You could use a buffalo bar for your entire prep, put a straight bar on your back for the last week of prep just to get used to holding it, and be fine.

Yeah I understand what you are saying as the SSB mimics a front squat due to how the weights are in front of you creating a torque that wants to force your upper torso to fold over. Or something like that.

I’ve found my weights to be similar with the SSB which is weird.

After heavy training on the SSB for months with occasional breaks for the bow or camber bar, I found I had to focus on getting my butt further back and accept more lean angle with the bow and straight bars. But once dialed in my squat numbers rocketed upward in this past year.

Too many variables to tell whether it was due to the SSB. . . but I think a heavy dose of that bar helped address some deficiencies in my standard back squat.

I don’t often disagree with @flipcollar but for whatever reason I can honestly say I have never found this to be the case. I can train a bunch with the SSB and transition to straight bar almost immediately with no issues. SSB for me feels about the same as straight bar, except a little harder at my sticking point. I think the only way to find out if this holds true for you is to try, though.

It seems like I almost always disagree with @flipcollar, but this time I’m with him. In my experience, doing all squatting with the SSB made it hard to hit depth once moving back to straight bar squatting. I didn’t get weaker or anything like that, but because you have a different torso angle you need to adjust your hip position at the bottom. I don’t know about you guys, but I find it easier to hit depth with the SSB. I’m sure it depends on your own particular squat technique.

technique is probably why the opinions vary on how well this transitions to back squatting, but there’s not really any questioning the fact that bar positioning/leverages are more similar to a front squat than back. I don’t see how that’s debatable. All you have to do is watch a video of someone using an ssb and you can see that. For me, I think it translates well enough to the back squat to do a considerable amount of training with it and successfully add lbs to the back squat, particularly if you’re regularly incorporating the back squat into training. My main point was that if you COMPLETELY eliminate the back squat from programming, and use the SSB exclusively, I strongly believe that it will be problematic when attempting max lifts with a regular bar. Perhaps if one’s normal squat pattern involves a more upright torso, the differences are not as noticeable. That would be the case with a front squat as well.

EDIT: I forgot to address the post I quoted, LOL. Yes, I think it’s easier to hit depth as well.



Seems like there’s less hip flexion with the SSB as well.

Thanks for the advice! Unfortunately I do not have any specialty bars available to me in my gym (nor access to gyms with any specialty bars). I think I will just keep training hard and practice squatting with the back squat in that position. In the mean time, I will continue doing my heavy squatting in the zercher or front squat position. Between zercher squats and front squats, which lift has better carry over to the back squat?

it would be front squat, without question.

Regarding the SSB discussion; different companies make different SSBs, so transfer differs as well. A NYBB SSB feels way different from an elitefts one. This can account for different experiencies with transitions.