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-   -   low bar back squat form (http://www.catalystathletics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=363)

Jay L Swan 01-09-2007 09:50 AM

low bar back squat form
Hi folks--first time poster here. I used to follow the Crossfit forum quite some time ago, but ended up here for the same reasons that many others have.

I have just started experimenting with the low-bar back squat and have a few questions:

1) How do you keep the bar from slipping down your back as you get further into the set?

2) While the low bar position feels much better on my back and legs, the arm position is painful. Any tips on this?

3) My "gym" does not have a proper power rack, only one of those squat-rack things with the angled bars and multiple pegs. Any tips to avoid amputating my fingers while putting the bar back in the rack?


Allen Yeh 01-10-2007 04:02 AM

1.Not to sound like a smartass, your arms should be holding the bar in place on your back?

2. What do you mean, where is the pain located? Where are you holding the bar? Is it shoulder pain?

3.I think I know what you mean by something like this:
I typicially don't have a problem with those racks, once again where on the bar are you hands? I only ever have a problem when I take a snatch grip width.

Jay L Swan 01-10-2007 07:10 PM

The way I'm doing it, I need to take a wide (snatch grip) hold to prevent the bar from sliding down, but it seems to creep down anyway. The width of the grip causes some pain in my shoulders.

Steve Shafley 01-10-2007 07:43 PM


Just from your brief description, I don't think you've got the bar in the right place. I would much rather see you squat with the bar in a stable position, rather than in a spot where it's likely to move.

Greg Everett 01-10-2007 08:33 PM

low in my opinion shouldn't be lower than the bulge of your posterior delts--lower than that and there's nothing for the bar to grab onto, and you might as well be leg pressing. i have a personal bias toward a very high bar back squat, but if you're doing a lower bar placement, really shrug the traps, squeeze the shoulder blades together and take a narrow grip instead of a wide grip--that should create some topography on your upper back to settle the bar into. again, if you're lower than that (like so low you have to take a snatch width grip), i think you're too low.

i guess my question would be why did you decide to start experimenting with such a low bar position? and if it's painful, maybe not a great idea. if you're trying to get more back work, add in some stiff-leg deadlifts or good mornings after you squat instead.

Chris Goodrich 01-10-2007 09:34 PM

Rippetoe has a good clear description in Starting Strength which I found useful. Crib notes version as follows:

Create a shelf on your upper back (superman chest and fully retracted scapulae). This should bear all the weight of the bar, your arms are just pressing the bar into your back to keep it on the shelf. Grip width will vary based on comfort and flexibility, but your forearms should be generally perpendicular to the bar (snatch grip sounds to wide to achieve this unless you have a funky build). Use a thumbless grip on the bar and keep your wrists locked and aligned with your forearms, not pronated. Instead of thinking about holding the bar up with your arms focus on rotating your elbows back and up, this will drive the bar into your back and keep it firmly on the shelf.

I don't have the book in front of me so apologies if I missed or distorted anything.

Robb Wolf 01-12-2007 05:15 PM

Like Greg said, one should be able to create a comfortable shelf that the bar can rest on at the T-3 T-4 level. If you are hanging on with just the arms that means the shoulders are being placed in an eventual loosing situation. If you can get some photos or video posted (profile) that would make diagnosis easier.

BTW- Welcome to the forum!

Greg Everett 01-12-2007 05:23 PM


Originally Posted by Chris Goodrich (Post 3172)
Use a thumbless grip on the bar and keep your wrists locked and aligned with your forearms, not pronated.

I dig rippetoe and want to party with him all the time, but I don't care for the thumbless grip approach. He explained at some point I don't recall that it was because if he was going to lose a bar, he didn't want to rip off his thumbs. But sans thumbs, you'll rip off your arms instead. I prefer the former over the latter.

The way I look at it, if you're placing the bar in a position that is not secure with a nearly vertical torso, you're going to have to hold it there with your arms, and that's just setting yourself up for trouble--either shoulder, wrist, or elbow pain/injuries, or a fudged up bail out.

All that said, I think it was actually our very own Pierre who said he liked the thumbless grip because it was easier on his wrists, as he is a very old man and has these sorts of problems. In that case, I suppose I can live with it, but then even more than with the thumb, the bar placement needs to be as secure as possible on the back, not the arms.

Jay L Swan 01-12-2007 05:56 PM

I tried this again yesterday and it felt a lot better. Not sure why. I did get some photos, but my new computer and my camera are not getting along. I hope to figure that out tonight or tomorrow.

I have had problems back squatting with even light weights for quite a long time now when using the high bar position--I get odd twinges in my knees, and a sharp strange pain in my right hamstring. The low bar position seems to totally resolve these issues.

Greg Everett 01-12-2007 07:22 PM

jay - Do the respective positions of your hips, feet, knees differ between the low and high bar squats? Does the depth change? The width of your foot placement? The angle of your foot placement?

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