Best Barbell Pads & Squat Sponges Review: Cushion Your Hips & Shoulders

Whether you call it a barbell pad, squat sponge, or hip thrust pad, this handy piece of equipment could make your next workout a whole lot more comfortable.

Why is that?

A barbell cushion can be used to protect your muscles during exercises including squats, hip thrusts, and weighted lunges. The simple wrap around cushion protects your shoulders and hips from the unnecessary pressure of the barbell allowing you to focus on correct form throughout your workout and avoid any painful bruises.

Just like our top favorite in this review, the Dark Iron Fitness Extra Thick Barbell Neck Pad not only because the name says it, but it says more.

And so...

Now that we know just how important bar pads for weightlifting and hip thrusts are, let’s take a look at the best barbell pads out there.

The Top 5 Best Barbell Neck Pads Reviewed

1. Dark Iron Fitness Extra Thick Barbell Neck Pad

Dark Iron Fitness Extra Thick Barbell Neck Pad

Our Verdict: Best Overall

The extra thickness of the Dark Iron Fitness pad is just what makes it so effective. It works well for squats, lunges, and hip thrusts by providing extra protection for your neck and shoulders.

What’s great about this barbell squat pad is that it doesn’t lose its shape over time. 

The ¾ inch dense foam holds its form and can be used with some pretty heavy weights. Made from durable synthetic leather, the surface can be easily wiped clean and doesn’t absorb sweat to leave a nasty smell.

Dark Iron Fitness is a recognized brand that specializes in serious weight lifting so you know their equipment can take on even heavy weights.

The Velcro closing is also very helpful for heavier weight which you really don’t want slipping.

At 17 inches long, this barbell neck pad should cover most shoulder widths and be suitable for men and women. What’s more, it is super affordable making it the best overall barbell pad for me. 

The only problem customers have had is with the level of comfort provided on hip thrusts. For this, you might want to look for a specific hip thrust pad as this barbell cover is definitely better for squats and neck support.

Pros:

  • Great for squats
  • Extra thickness provides great neck support
  • Affordable
  • Can take on heavy weights
  • Doesn’t lose shape over time

Cons:

  • Not the best for hip thrusts

The best overall squat sponge which can take on some heavy weight but might not be the perfect shape for hip thrusts.


2. Rogue Abmat Hip Thrust Pad

Rogue Abmat Hip Thrust Pad

Our Verdict: Best Hip Thrust Pad

If you are specifically looking for a bar pad for hip thrusts, the Rogue Abmat has to be the best hip thrust pad on the market. For a decent investment, you’ll get a pad that is wide and comfortable enough to take on heavy weight hip thrusts to test your glutes.

This barbell cover was specifically designed to distribute weight evenly during hip thrusts and make sure that you are getting the most out of your workout without the pain.

Rogue is a recognized US-based brand which creates high-quality reliable equipment and this barbell cushion is no exception.

With multiple layers and a black Cordura outer, the flexibility of this foam pad creates a comfortable hinge and thrust motion while protecting the whole pelvis. At 18 inches x 9 inches x 1.75 inches, this wider barbell pad is perfectly designed for hip thrusts. The barbell cover also folds to hold the bar as you thrust, ensuring stability.

The harder top side absorbs pressure from the barbell itself while the underside creates a soft cushion making your workout more enjoyable.

The only problem some customers have found is that this soft underlayer can lose its shape over time causing them to feel some of the pressure from the barbell, which isn’t what you want from professional equipment.

Pros:

  • Best bar pad for hip thrusts
  • Comfortable material and design
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Can lose shape overtime
  • Expensive

This is the best hip thrust pad. Thanks to the unique flat design which holds on to your weight and evenly distributes it with every thrust.


3. Fit Viva Barbell Pad

Fit Viva Barbell Pad

Our Verdict: Best for Intense Workouts

While most barbells boast thick support, the Fit Viva Barbell Pad prides itself on being slightly slimmer. The non-slip surface and protective layer make this an easy to handle option for squats and hip thrusts.

This is the best bar pad for vigorous workouts as the Velcro straps help keep this squat pad in place during dynamic exercises like lunges and hip thrusts.

At 17 x 3.5 inches, the length of this hip thrust pad should be suitable for most users and the extra cushion squat pad provides more comfort if you find that you still feel too much pressure.

It comes in a variety of colors and is suitable for both squats and hip thrusts, eliminating excess pain throughout your dynamic workout. A lot of barbell covers are more suited to the shape of your hips or shoulders but this barbell cover is very versatile making it the best barbell pad for full body workouts.

Finally, it is also contoured to your neck so you get optimum support where you need it as well as extra comfort. The only problem we can see is that some people have found problems with the durability of this barbell cushion finding that the material can slip and they still feel a little pressure under heavy weights over 400 lbs.

Pros:

  • Easy to use and attach
  • Non-slip surface
  • Good for both squats and hip thrusts

Cons:

  • Might not be as durable
  • Can still feel pressure from heavy weights

This is a decent bar pad for hip thrusts and squats but the thickness might not be ideal for very heavy lifting.


4. Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad

Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad

Our Verdict: Best for Squats

Iron Bull Strength is the best barbell squat pad because of its simple design and reliability. It distributes weight evenly across the shoulders to effectively relieve neck pressure during a squat workout. The high-quality material makes it suitable for most athletes.

Made from high density, thick foam rubber, this squat sponge won’t lose its shape and will hold weight as long as you don’t use weights over 350lbs.

The quick slip design also makes it easy to attach to your barbell so you can use it at home or take it to the gym and attach it to different barbells. However, some customers have found that it can slip with thinner barbells because of the lack of straps or Velcro to fix it in place.

Most importantly, the anti-slip surface makes sure that you don’t cause yourself any injuries.

You can use it for hip thrusts of up to 350 lbs. With a length of 16 inches and thickness of 1.25 inches, this barbell cover is both easy to maneuver and reliable making it the best barbell squat pad for anyone who wants equipment that they can easily take with them wherever they workout.

The matte finish makes it better for squatting than hip thrusts and the shorter length is more suited to women than men as it might not cover broad shoulders. Although not the best for hip thrusts, its thick material protects the neck well during squats.

Pros:

  • Thick neck protection for squats
  • Durable material
  • Choice of colors

Cons:

  • May be too short for men
  • Might not attach to every barbell securely
  • Can’t hold over 350 lbs

Good for squats with decent neck protection but slightly shorter than other barbell neck pads so it might not suit those with broader shoulders.


5. BEAR Strength and Conditioning Squat Pad

BEAR Strength and Conditioning Squat Pad

Our Verdict: Best for Wider Shoulders

This squat pad is another option that is ergonomically designed to suit a range of exercises including squats, lunges, and hip thrusts.

It is made from thick, high density, non-slip rubber foam which absorbs impact and reduces pain allowing you to lift heavier weights. It is not quite as thick as other barbell cushions but it seems to do the trick for medium weights.

Easy to remove and attach to any barbell, this barbell neck pad doesn’t use any Velcro or straps but manages to stay fastened during your workout.

Just make sure that the barbell you are using isn’t too slim to avoid slipping.

This is also the best squat sponge for larger users as the length of the pad is 18 inches, covering wider shoulders without feeling uncomfortable.

The weight distribution and neck indentation mean that your squats are safe and effective. The wider area also makes it more stable for hip thrusts and a versatile piece of equipment.

Pros:

  • Works for a range of exercises
  • Easy to slip on
  • Affordable
  • Longer for broader shoulders

Cons:

  • No straps or Velcro so could slip off certain bars

This is a reasonably well-designed bar pad for weightlifting, hip thrusts, and squats. Just make sure that you use it with the correct barbell to avoid slipping.


Why Do I Need a Barbell Pad?

bodybuilder powerlifting

Some pain we feel during exercise is just part of our muscles stretching and growing and is nothing to worry about as long as you don’t overdo it.

The pain you might feel from the pressure of a barbell, on the other hand, is not a normal part of your workout and can dramatically decrease your performance.

I know that when I’m working out, I want to feel as comfortable as possible and be able to focus entirely on my form and this is just what a barbell cushion allows you to do.

Whether you are squatting, lunging, or thrusting those hips, a barbell cover can improve comfort across a range of exercises and that’s just one benefit of using them.

They also reduce the chances of injury and bruising so you can keep up with your workout schedule and push yourself to the next weight lifting range safely.

Another thing of safety are the barbell collars. They normally come in pairs and are used to lock the barbell plates in to avoid them from sliding off the bar, thus minimizing the risk of injury or accidents.

What Exercises Can I Do With a Barbell Pad?

Some barbell pads are more suited to particular exercises than others but you should be able to perform several moves with any barbell cover. If you want a barbell pad for a specific type of exercise, opt for the best squat pad or best hip thrust pad.

Squats

Squats are one of the most common exercises done with a barbell neck pad or squat sponge. Its role here is to protect your neck and shoulders from the unnecessary pressure of the barbell so you can focus on the sensation in your legs as you lift weights. 

The barbell neck pad helps to distribute the weight across your shoulders as well as reducing pressure and pain from the barbell.

This allows you to lift more weight instead of being stopped by pressure on your neck. Remember, it is important to maintain proper form while squatting especially with weights.

Hip Thrusts

Not all barbell pads are ideally shaped for hip thrusts as they can roll and make it harder to stabilize your movements.

But there are a few hip thrust pads that make the movement much easier by pinching the barbell at the top of your thrust. They also spread the pressure across your hips so you don’t feel any painful pressure on your lower abdomen or hips.

If you are not sure how to perform hip thrusts with a barbell, check out the video below: 

Lunges

Much like with squats, bar pads for weightlifting can be used to make lower body exercises like lunges more comfortable. Many people also find it hard to stabilize themselves holding barbell weights and lunging at the same time. The weight distribution from the barbell pad can help you to lunge without losing your balance.

How to Choose the Best Barbell Pad for You?

back view of woman lifting barbell

With so many barbell pads out there, it’s hard to distinguish between them and decide which is the right one for you. Depending on your personal workout regime and the exercises you are intending to do with your bar pads, some options might work better for you than others.

Best Squat Sponge

If you are looking to build strength in your glutes and focus on squats, you will need a barbell that can take on a heavy weight and focus on neck support. The Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad is specifically designed to relieve pressure from the neck and shoulders during weightlifting and take on heavier weights without losing its shape.

Best Hip Thrust Pad

For hip thrusts, you might need a wider surface area that will grip the barbell as you raise your hips. The Rogue Abmat Hip Thrust Pad is the best bar pad for hip thrusts because of the wide surface area which distributes the weight across your lower abdomen instead of focusing the pressure on your hips.

Best Budget Barbell Pad

As well as being the best overall barbell squat pad, the Dark Iron Fitness Extra Thick Barbell Neck Pad is a very affordable piece of equipment which suits both beginners and professionals. If you want an all-round quality barbell cushion, we can’t see any reason why not to give this one a try.

Conclusion

With very little in the way of downsides and appearing to cover all the bases the Dark Iron Fitness Extra Thick Barbell Neck Pad is the best overall barbell pad.

It can take on a decent weight without losing its shape and effectively distributes the weight without feeling slippery or detaching from the barbell.

If you are looking to take your weightlifting to the next stage but are worried about unnecessary pain caused by barbells, try out one of these barbell pads and you’ll be sure to notice the difference.

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