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  • High Bar vs. Low Bar Back Squat

    Anyone do low bar back squats?
    I've been learning about these recently, and my Crossfit coach is trying to get me to do low bar. My problem is I have really terrible flexibility in my shoulders and the low bar position hurts like $#@!. I end up squatting less because I just can't hold the weight there. My form is still pretty good despite doing high bar, but people swear I'll be able to lift more if I learn the low bar position.

    Below is a video of Mark Rippetoe explaining the advantage to low bar squats, and also a video of someone demonstrating the low bar position. For those who aren't familiar with it, the bar is actually below your traps, rather than sitting on top. Extremely painful for me.


    Demonstration:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=-OoV...eature=related

    I squated yesterday and got 260 lbs for two reps with pretty good form. I know that is not a good number for someone my size, and I should definitely be getting over 300 lbs. Can't decide if I should focus on learning low bar or just put in more work with high bar.

    Opinions?
    "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

  • #2
    The rule of thumb with lifting is "IF IT HURTS...DON'T DO IT!!"

    Here is what you could be doing wrong:

    Common Pains using The Low Bar Position. Lack of flexibility often prevents correct technique. Some things that tend to go wrong:
    • Shoulder Pain. You lack shoulder mobility. The low bar position feels uncomfortable on your front shoulders/chest/upper-back.
    • Wrist Pain. Your hands support the bar instead of your upper-back. Your wrists hurt when squatting with heavier weights.
    • Neck Pain. The bar rests on your spine instead of on your upper-back muscles. Biceps might even go numb during heavy Squats.

    Correct Low Bar Squat Position. Don’t wrap a towel around the bar or use a bar pad because it hurts. Both add inches to the bar, messing up your Squat technique. Start light so your skin toughens up and learn correct technique.
    • Bar on Scapular Spine. The bone on top of your shoulder-blades. Put the bar just above your scapular spine for low bar Squats.
    • Tight Upper-back. Imagine I put a pen between your shoulder-blades and you try to squeeze it. Chest up and shoulder-blades back.
    • Narrow Grip. Makes it easier to tighten your upper-back. Grip the bar as narrow as you can and pull your elbows back.
    • Straight Wrists. They shouldn’t be perfectly straight, but also not bent under the bar. Your back supports the weight, not your wrists.
    • Shrug Your Lower Traps. Gives the bar extra support. Don’t pull your shoulders against your ears, shrug your upper-back.
    Mobility Exercises. Widen your grip if your wrists keep bending under the bar or if it feels uncomfortable. Work on mobility 3-4x/week. Narrow your grip as your upper-body flexibility improves.Most important is to keep Squatting. As the weights gets heavier on StrongLifts 5×5, add upper-back musculature will increase comfort during Squats. A heavier bar also acts as a stretch, and will as a result make the lower bar position easier. So keep Squatting.




    World_So_Cold

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    • #3
      ^^ The flexibility issue is most likely the problem. I really need to get on some mobility exercises.
      "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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      • #4
        I know guys don't like to but...yoga. Have you ever seen the Yoga they have for the P90x?




        World_So_Cold

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        • #5
          Originally posted by needguidance View Post
          I know guys don't like to but...yoga. Have you ever seen the Yoga they have for the P90x?
          I have not seen it, but I could probably benefit from a lot of it. I know with greater flexibility comes greater strength and less risk of injury. I've spent the past couple months really training hard to get in better shape for the police academy. Maybe I need to focus on how to not get injured before the police academy.
          "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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          • #6
            What the hell was that video all about? That fat moron didn't even talk about HOW to do a low bar back squat, and he totally neglected the primary reason for the Olympic squat, and that is, stimulating the massive amount of muscle fibers that are recruited for the movement, and the fact that the Olympic squat, done correctly, with strict adherence to form, stimulates more release of testosterone and human growth hormone than any other single exercise. The only one that comes close, is the deadlift.

            I don't know he is or what makes him such an authority. Judging from his skinny arms and fat belly, I don't think I'd be too inclined to take any of his fitness advice, anyway.
            Sure, that badge will get you midgets, but those midgets will get that badge!

            The more I learn about people, the more I prefer the company of my dogs.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by BCSD Frank View Post
              What the hell was that video all about? That fat moron didn't even talk about HOW to do a low bar back squat, and he totally neglected the primary reason for the Olympic squat, and that is, stimulating the massive amount of muscle fibers that are recruited for the movement, and the fact that the Olympic squat, done correctly, with strict adherence to form, stimulates more release of testosterone and human growth hormone than any other single exercise. The only one that comes close, is the deadlift.

              I don't know he is or what makes him such an authority. Judging from his skinny arms and fat belly, I don't think I'd be too inclined to take any of his fitness advice, anyway.
              Hahaha... I agree with everything you said, Frank, and I think probably so does the "fat moron." But that guy is Mark Rippetoe, who I'm pretty sure is very well respected as one of the experts on strength training. Physical appearance isn't everything. I think this is a pic of him when he competed.


              And according to an article:
              "These are his previous PRs at a weight of 220:

              Meet squat: 611, (622 got 2 reds, one depth and one politics)
              Gym squat: 600 x 3 Both done in a single-ply Frantz suit.

              Meet bench: 396 on an easy 3rd attempt after his foot slipped on the 2nd with that weight.

              Meet deadlift: 633 on two separate occasions. "
              So he's by no means the strongest man in the world, but I'd be pleased as punch if I ever put up numbers anywhere near that.

              So, I don't quibble with anything you said, Frank, but I'm willing to believe this guy knows his sh*t.
              "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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              • #8
                Okay. I stand corrected on that count. His video still sucks swamp-water, though.
                Sure, that badge will get you midgets, but those midgets will get that badge!

                The more I learn about people, the more I prefer the company of my dogs.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BCSD Frank View Post
                  Okay. I stand corrected on that count. His video still sucks swamp-water, though.
                  Ha.. yeah, I guess I should have warned it's kinda long and boring. Mostly I was just curious if anyone had tried the low back position or preferred to the more popular high back.
                  "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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                  • #10
                    Damn, I'd like to have a 600 lb squat! After I finish the academy and don't have to work on cardio so much, I'm definitely gonna try to get my squat up to 300+.
                    "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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                    • #11
                      Well, as a big advocate of Olympic squats, (in case you couldn't tell), the problem I have with what he's preaching, is that without proper form, (which he doesn't demonstrate), it sounds like the risk of injury to the shoulders is pretty high. And as NG said: If it hurts, don't do it! The shoulders are very delicate and complex structures. Healing from injury to them is usually a long, slow, and painful process requiring surgical intervention, much of the time.

                      The Olympic squat, done with proper form, tightened abs and constricting the anus, (yes, I know.... But it's true), places almost NO strain on the lower back.

                      And this is the best piece of equipment I've ever bought, for getting the bar in the proper placement on the traps and keeping the bar where it's supposed to be, so that all the weight falls on the hips and NOT the lower back. Leaning FORWARD during the Olympic squat, is what will FUBAR your back.

                      During the Olympic squat, if you find yourself going forward towards your toes, lighten up on the weight, look up (without tilting the head up!) and keep the back neutral, with a nice arch in the lumbar spine, with the weight and your stance resting on your hips and heels. In fact, during the Olympic squat, you should be able to wiggle your toes up and down, if you chose to.

                      Once you are using strict adherence to form with lighter weight, then start adding back the weight, and you're going to see yourself start growing like mad. The amount of weight is really irrelevant. What matters most, is intensity and form.

                      Also, check out this link.
                      Last edited by BCSD Frank; 09-10-2010, 10:42 AM.
                      Sure, that badge will get you midgets, but those midgets will get that badge!

                      The more I learn about people, the more I prefer the company of my dogs.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BCSD Frank View Post
                        Well, as a big advocate of Olympic squats, (in case you couldn't tell), the problem I have with what he's preaching, is that without proper form, (which he doesn't demonstrate), it sounds like the risk of injury to the shoulders is pretty high. And as NG said: If it hurts, don't do it! The shoulders are very delicate and complex structures. Healing from injury to them is usually a long, slow, and painful process requiring surgical intervention, much of the time.

                        The Olympic squat, done with proper form, tightened abs and constricting the anus, (yes, I know.... But it's true), places almost NO strain on the lower back.

                        And this is the best piece of equipment I've ever bought, for getting the bar in the proper placement on the traps and keeping the bar where it's supposed to be, so that all the weight falls on the hips and NOT the lower back. Leaning FORWARD during the Olympic squat, is what will FUBAR your back.

                        During the Olympic squat, if you find yourself going forward towards your toes, lighten up on the weight, look up (without tilting the head up!) and keep the back neutral, with a nice arch in the lumbar spine, with the weight and your stance resting on your hips and heels. In fact, during the Olympic squat, you should be able to wiggle your toes up and down, if you chose to.
                        Frank, you're a bad influence on me. I stick to the high back/olympic squat so far, and when told to try the low back squat I tell them to pound sand. I'm trying to see if there are people who actually prefer the low back squat (mostly I'm just bored and was thinking about).

                        You know your squats, Frank (see highlighted portions above). That's what I see wrong with most people at the gym.. That and not coming anywhere near low enough to be parallel with the floor. One thing that I've worked on recently that's helped my form tremendously is the "spread the floor" technique to keep your knees straight.
                        "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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                        • #13
                          Yep. Partial squats don't do a damn thing. These guys want to be power lifters, where the amount of weight is all important. For me, I don't have anything to prove to anyone. I'm going to do the weight that taxes me the most, at my current level of development. Right now, I'm in a heavy portion of a cycle, where I'm gunning for muscle failure between 6-10 reps/set, for each of three sets. I don't do squats more than twice a week, because if done correctly, with the right intensity, it taxes the entire system and quickly pushes a person into the realm of being overtrained, if done more often than that.

                          Basically, with the two BIG exercises, deadlift and squats, less is more. Trying to train like these guys that are on steroids, is just insanity and it's a good recipe for either becoming so systemically wiped-out that you get sick, get injured, or totally lose intensity and motivation.
                          Sure, that badge will get you midgets, but those midgets will get that badge!

                          The more I learn about people, the more I prefer the company of my dogs.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I squat with significant weight twice a week at most. In Crossfit workouts we do many squats with far below max weights, and many times no weight at all. Not to long ago we did a squat ladder workout with just the 45 lb bar. Freakin' ridiculous TORTURE.

                            Starting with overhead squats (45 lb bar) and a running clock:
                            First minute we did one squat... no prob, easy as pie.
                            Second minute 2 overhead squats.. no sweat.
                            Third minute.. 3 overhead squats.. fine.
                            etc.
                            etc.
                            10th minute - 10 overhead squats in a minute... now I'm starting to sweat and I'm not getting but a few seconds to rest.
                            In the 11th minute we switched to front squats.. same deal.. 11 front squats...
                            etc.
                            etc.
                            20th minute the burn is insane, and we switch to back squats.. 20 in the 20th minute... on up to 30 in the 30th minute. Except no one actually made it to the 30th minute without rest. The furthest anyone made it was 27 minutes.
                            "No one can make you feel like a turd without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

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                            • #15
                              Do you guys do overhead passes before your w/o? That should help with your shoulder and chest flexibility. As far as your focus goes, If you are concerned about weight for the simple fact of how much weight you are pushing, you should be out in the gym curling dumbells not in a CrossFit box. CrossFit is about increasing overall athleticism, not just stackin plates on a barbell. Do lower bar squats, its a more natural movement. Your weight will increase dramatically if you are consistent in your CrossFit Training efforts. After all what is the reason we train? To have big muscles, or to be able to use those muscles?

                              Then again variation is nice. I do CrossFit 3 days a week and then I hit isolation muscles 2 days a week in the form of good ol' weight lifting. Maybe consider low bar squats for CrossFit, and then when you are out in the weight room work on your regular squats.

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