Lifting collars or clips are designed to keep plates securely on a barbell. Using collars is a basic weight room safety requirement, but raise your hand if you’ve ever lifted without them.
I’m 100 percent guilty as most of you are as well. At some point you’ve lifted without them, especially on warm-up sets when using light weight.
Many advanced lifters can safely lift without collars. But unless you’re a seasoned veteran who has mastered exercise form in the weight room, you should never lift without collars. Here’s why:
Lifting Without Collars is Dangerous
You set up for a lift and put your plates in place. You’re confident that you can keep the bar stable enough so the plates don’t slide off.
But little do you realize that the plates slide a few inches with each rep. On your last rep, the bar tilts ever so slightly, causing one or more plates to completely slide off. The heavy side then violently launches downward and the plates slide off that side as well.
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At minimum this causes a loud bang and elicits stares from other people in the gym. Worse, you or someone around you gets seriously injured.
This is especially problematic in big box gyms, which often purchase cheap barbells that are abused. Many of these bars are slightly bent, which makes it even more likely that the plates will gradually slide off.
Even if you’re lifting a light load, things can go awry. Maybe your form isn’t on point and one side of the bar goes up faster than the other. Or maybe you hit a cup with the bar, causing it to tilt.
Moral of the story: it’s better to be safe than sorry; use collars on every set.
Lifting Without Collars Can Screw Up Your Lift
Not only are collars essential for safety, they also help secure plates on the barbell so they don’t rattle.
Few things are more irritating than doing a heavy set and feeling the plates rattling. The more explosively you perform your reps, the more the plates rattle. This causes your attention to shift to the rattling plates and away from executing the lift, which can impair your strength or mess up your exercise form.
Some might argue that rattling plates are actually beneficial because they help train your stabilizer muscles, but this is total garbage.
If you’re doing a heavy lift, your goal is to lift as much weight as you can safely. If you want to improve your stability, perform a variation of an exercise that’s specifically designed for instability, such as benching with kettlebells hanging from the bar.
What About When You Lift Without a Spotter?
Some lifters leave the collars off if they don’t have a spotter on the Bench Press and Squat. Theoretically you can dump the plates if you get into trouble.
However, we advise to proceed with caution. Ideally, you should always do these exercise with a spotter or in a power rack with sturdy safety arms set just below the bottom part of the rep.
Many lifters go rogue and lift near their max without the proper equipment or a spotter. If you fall into this category, then you shouldn’t use collars—especially on the Bench Press—because dumping the weight might be the only way you can escape a failed rep.
To reiterate, this is not a smart decision, and unless they’re only using moderate weight, even the most advanced lifters always have some type of safety measure in place. Advanced lifters have years of experience and know exactly how much weight they can safely lift.
Bottom line: it’s best to proceed with caution and always use the proper lifting equipment—including collars—because a mistake when lifting heavy weight can be catastrophic.