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Low Bar Squat Technique for More Weight & Better Depth

Jul 22, 2018

Athletes competing in the sport of powerlifting often use the low bar squat technique as it allows them to lift more weight.

A low bar squat is superior to a high bar squat because you can back squat more weight than you can front squat.

Since this position uses more power from your hips you can increase your weights by 10 to 20%.

The squat, the king of all exercises, is a full body compound exercise.

It works more muscles, with heavier weight, and is more effective in helping gain overall strength and muscle quickly.

Even though the low bar squat is harder on our lower back because it requires us to lean over more, we benefit from more use of the posterior chain.

The posterior chain is a bigger, stronger group of muscles than the quadriceps.

The low bar squat uses more of the posterior chain and less of the quad than the high bar squat.

Protect your back when you squat with our best-selling Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Weightlifting Belt.

With a low bar squat less work is required from your spinal erectors to keep the spine extended.

“The quads should do what they can.

The hips should do what they must,”  said Greg Nuckols, author of “High Bar and Low Bar Squatting 2.0” He said this phrase summed up what’s going on from the waist down in the squat.

Related: High Bar and Low Bar Squatting 2.0


Things to Remember for a Low Bar Squat

High Bar vs. Low Bar Positioning

Lifting the barbell our of the rack the right way is the first step to a successful squat.

As with the high-bar back squat and the front squat, the bar should be set about chest height.

In general, it is better to set the bar a bit lower rather than higher.

You don’t want to tip toe up just to lift the bar off and on the rack.


Positioning the Bar on Your Back

Bar Positioning

Stand under the bar and trap it right against the back of your shoulders.

Contract your mid-back muscles to pull your shoulder blades together.

When your shoulder blades are pulled together the muscles will form a “shelf.”

Position the barbell on this shelf.

This should be two to three inches lower than where the bar would be during a high-bar back squat.

At first, this might feel different and uncomfortable.


Hand Position for a Low Bar Squat Technique

Your hand width should be what’s comfortable for you.

Most powerlifters use a wide grip on the bar, around the notches.

But you can use a standard grip, just outside shoulder width, for the low-bar squat.

You must have sufficient upper body mobility for a standard grip.

If your grip is too narrow and your chest and shoulders aren’t flexible enough, this might increase stress on the elbow joint.


Low Bar Squat Technique: Unracking the Bar

Stand under the bar with your feet spaced about shoulder-width apart.

When lifting heavy, you must first create massive stability before you even move the bar.

This means taking in a big breath and tightening your core.

When you are ready, lift the bar off the rack as you drive your hips upwards.

Take just a few short steps back from the rack to save your strength.

Always step back out of the rack.

Preparing for Low Bar Squat

You want to see the uprights when your set is finished so that you can safely rack the bar again.

Once the weights are securely on your back, establish a solid foundation for your squat. Your feet should be a neutral arch position so that your body will be stable and supported.

When you are in complete control of your body, and the weight has stopped moving, you are ready to squat.

Related: How to Perfect the Low-Bar Back Squat


Descending into Your Squat

Woman Low Bar Squatting

Powerlifters often use a wider stance when competing and using the low-bar technique.

Point your toes out slightly, between 10-20 degrees.

Your toe-out angle will vary based on your anatomy and mobility.

Squeeze your glutes and push your knees out to align with your feet.

Your hip joint generates the external rotation torque.

This ensures the lower body will move with the right technique.

Take another big breath and brace your abs as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach.

This will increase your intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and stabilize your lower back.

Only when the core is properly engaged can we squat massive weight and keep the spine safe.


Engaging the Glutes and Hamstrings

The final step is to engage the glutes and hamstrings—the posterior chain.

A good hip hinge will push your hips back a little and bring your chest forward.

When your hips are engaged you can start your squat.

Always lower your body in a controlled manner, don’t think about reaching a certain depth, just squat.

Squat down as fast as you can while maintaining proper form.

Don’t do it too slowly but maintain control of the bar the entire way down.


Low Bar Squat Technique: Reach Full Depth Sooner

Low Bar SquatYou hit “full depth” sooner with a low bar squat.

With the low bar squat, you don’t have to be positioned quite as low to reach that point.

You can squat more weight if you rebound off your stretched leg muscles at the bottom.

Squat down concentric, break parallel, then come back up.

Don’t pause at the bottom, reverse the movement quickly instead.

Keep your knees out, hips back and lower back neutral at the bottom.

Related: How to Squat with Proper Form: The Definitive Guide


The Bottom of the Squat

It’s extremely important to remain balanced as you squat a large amount of weight.

You are balanced if the bar tracks and lines up with the middle of your foot the whole time.

The weighted barbell is our body’s center of gravity.

You will lose stability if the bar moves forward toward the toes or back towards the heel.

Your bar is positioned lower on the back.

It will be about 3-4” lower on the back, right above the spine of the scapula, just above the rear deltoids.

To keep the bar centered over the middle of your foot, the chest will be inclined over the knees more than usual when squatting.

Depending on your build some athletes will have a more upright torso while others will be very inclined.

When you are at the bottom of the squat, you will be in “the hole.”

Hold your breath and keep your muscles tight as you squeeze your glutes and drive back up from the hips.

Related: Concentric vs. Eccentric: How do They Affect Your Squats?


Low Bar Squat Technique: Ascending from Your Squat

Rising up from your squat is all about hip drive.

At the bottom of the squat, the hips should drive straight up.

In order to properly balance the bar make sure to push the chest up at the same time.

If you don’t do that the bar will track toward the toes.

This can put pressure on the low back, which could lead to injury.

Drive upwards, slowly releasing the air as you reach the midway point, then exhale the rest of the air out as you reach the top.

Take a big breath in and repeat.

Related: Heavy Squat Benefits


Low Bar Squat Technique: Balancing the Bar

The point of the low bar position is to allow you to carry the bar in such a way that it both:

  1. causes you to lean over more and
  2. allows you to do so without the bar slipping off of your back.

Your back could be almost entirely parallel to the floor and the bar still wouldn’t move with a low bar rack position.

Most balance problems with a low-bar squatares usually because the back angle is too vertical.

If you feel off-balance while squatting, make sure you are sitting your hips back enough so that your chest leans forward.


Low Bar Squat Technique: Back Angle

Bar Placement People with a short torso and long thighs lean forward more when they squat.

Long thighs move your hips farther back.

Your torso must lean forward more to keep the bar balanced over your mid-foot.

People with a long torso and short thighs squat more upright.

This means your build determines your best back angle.

Don’t copy the squat form of someone who has a different body-type.

If you front squat and back squat 315 lbs, your spinal erectors—the lumbar and thoracic–will be working harder when front squatting.

But if you front squat and back squat 80% of your max for each exercise, your lumbar spinal erectors are working just as hard for both.

However the front squat is still harder for your thoracic spinal erectors.

If the quads are strong, then you can have a more upright posture when squatting.

This minimizes the chance of your back strength becoming a limiting factor.

With heavy loads, increased forward lean will happen naturally.

Why? Because you eventually reach a load at which the quads are “maxed out.”

By shifting more of the load to the posterior chain musculature which isn’t operating at “full capacity,” your chest will lean forward more.

Read more: StrongLifts Squats


When Low Bar Squats Are Not for You

If you have hip issues and a short torso then you might not be able to get the right trunk angle.

If you have shoulder problems or extreme elbow tendonitis the low bar squat might not be for you.

Be aware of things like the width of your stance, foot position, the position of the bar, knee movement and hip abduction.

These will all affect your form as you perform this type of squat.


Conclusion for Low Bar Squat Technique

Low bar squats are excellent for powerlifting because it ideally shifts leverage to the hips.

This allows for less forward knee movement and a shorter range of motion.

This enables you to lift more weight.

Lift more confidently, while practicing your low bar squat technique and wearing our top-rated Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Weightlifting Belt.

The truth is, many people avoid squats because they’re so hard to do.

But that’s also why they’re so effective for gaining strength and muscle.

The people who persevere in their squats, build discipline that becomes useful in other parts of their lives.

Perhaps these low bar squat techniques will help you reach new goals–both in and out of the gym.