Need A Bigger Fitness Challenge For Sleeker Legs? How About The Low Bar Squat?

By   |   June 20, 2017   |   Get Fit

Ready to take your training to the next level? If you’re at an intermediate or advance fitness level, then the low bar squat may be just the right new move for you. Warning: this is not a move for the faint of heart. This is a high-intensity training move designed to push your workout to the next level. But if you’ve been weight training for some time and have a strong core and no back or knee problems, this may be a logical progression to test your own limits.

The Low-Bar Back Squat Defined. The best exercise you can do is the low-bar back squat. Unlike the high-bar back squat, the low-bar allows you to lift more weight and is undoubtedly the most effective method for training your quads, hamstrings, glutes, posterior chain, core muscles, and total mental and even spiritual conditioning. The low-bar back squat is a lift that correctly performed allows you to gain the most strength and size, and increase your total strength.

Those uninitiated to weightlifting might feel that an exercise such as this will only serve to promote them gaining a large, muscular physique. For some guys and most women, this isn’t an ideal. Never worry about this, however, because getting big and strong will never happen by accident. In fact, weightlifting no matter what your size will only serve to improve your body composition. Willfully maintaining a daily caloric excess as well as high protein consumption will contribute to getting you big and strong, so if you do not intend for this to happen, don’t worry, you won’t fall into it by mistake.

Even elderly grandmothers have helped sustain their knee and joint health through the low-bar squat, and you neglect to perform it at your peril. There are always positive ways to ensure that you have the best experience, and glean the most value from it.

What follows is an effective method for teaching yourself the low-bar squat method. These methods are inspired by Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength workout routine, the book considered to be the ‘official’ last word in novice weightlifting training.

How To Perform The Low Bar SquatThe low-bar back squat is a complex, multi-joint exercise in which many muscles contribute to moving the load. First, you must practice the form of the low-bar back squat without any weight on the barbell at all. It’s important that with any exercise you attempt for the first time, you use as light a weight as possible just in case you pick up more than you can handle.

It’s best to slowly progress in weight until you find the correct weight for your current strength level rather than pick up a load too heavy and struggle, with bad form, to work with it through some twisted sense of pride that no one but you in the gym cares about.

Be wise, and adhere to the following set of squatting principles:

Where To Position The Bar. Shockingly, as suggested in the title ‘low-bar back squat,’ the bar will be lower on your back than the high-bar Olympic variant. The placement should be roughly 2-4 inches lowers than where it feels intuitive to place the bar at the top of the traps. This lower bar position allows for a more horizontal back angle, thus allowing your hamstrings and posterior chain (spinal muscles) to meet the load and contribute to the movement more effectively. Keep the bar just above the shoulder blades, also known as the spine of the scapula.

How Your Stance Should Look. Before you take the bar from the rack, you must practice the correct stance you’re to employ when you have the bar on your shoulders. Stand with your heels roughly shoulder width apart, and point your toes out approximately 30 degrees with each foot. This is the stance that works most universally for people, but depending on your body proportions you may need to adjust it a little. Now, squat down, and make sure to keep your knees out. Squat all the way down to the bottom. If you’ve found that your knees collapsed in, make a conscious effort to use your elbows to push them out, so they’re in line and parallel to your toes.

Where Are My Elbows? When taking the grip on the bar, you must take a thumbless grip because grasping it with thumbs is unnecessary, and will reduce your shoulder flexibility when trying to get it in the right position. Taking a thumbless grip and placing it on your back with your elbows lifted up will allow the bar to press into the tight muscles of your upper back, meaning that you’ll have the most solid lifting lock to keep the bar secure. To repeat an important point, you must always keep your elbows raised behind you to prevent any of the weight being intercepted from the bar, which should be entirely supported by your back.

What’s My Bar Path? The bar path, when using a barbell from a standing position, must always stay over the midfoot. This is because the calf balanced the ankle, and acts as a counterpoint, making the midpoint of your shoe the most stable and vertical balance point your anthropometry can produce. You must always imagine a vertical line is sticking to the bar over this mid foot point because that will reduce any levering force that an out of balance bar will apply to the movement you try and achieve with it. The balance point over the midfoot is of such importance that it’s almost fundamental to wear shoes that balance you correctly.

This is why, as a budding lifter, it’s so important to get yourself some nice weightlifting shoes, as they are explicitly designed to help your foot cover the largest, most stable area. When you have hundreds of pounds sitting on your back, you want the most sturdy platform to keep your stance stable, and weightlifting shoes will do just that.

This unbalanced force will not contribute to the overall work done during the movement, because it will not be work done against the force of gravity, but instead work done to mitigate your lack of form. It will take effort, but it won’t be energy utilized in a positive, effective, ergonomic way, and that is our primary goal here.

How Deep Will You Go? When squatting with the correct knees out method, you must be sure to achieve proper depth. Proper depth is that the top of your patella is parallel to the crease of your hips when you’ve squatted down. This is the safest method of squatting for the knees because it negates any form of shear. This is why the low-bar back squat has been used to train old ladies that felt their flexibility was all gone. Be sure to continue to achieve this depth as well as you can.

Your Neck and BackThe position of your neck should remain neutral during all aspects of the squat. To best get around this, it’s important to look down at the floor roughly a few meters in front of you. Try to maintain this position, because it will most effectively allow you to employ posterior chain activation.

To allow your spine to remain rigid and healthy, you must first take a large breath before squatting and hold it during the rep. Exhale at the top, and repeat. This will provide your spine with adequate inner protection, and belts are also used for this purpose. However, you must also make a conscious effort to ‘arch’ your lower back, so it’s protected during your descent and ascent. If you experience ‘buttwink,’ that is rounding of the spine at the bottom of a squat due to inflexibility or incorrect stance, consider hiring a professional to coach you.

Can A Girl Rebound? After squatting down with the bar using the correct stance and knees out position, while keeping your back arched and getting to parallel depth, most people might think that the best method of coming back up is to employ the legs and push them against the ground. This is incorrect, will lead to injury, and doesn’t engage the posterior chain muscles. What you must do instead is bounce out of the bottom after the elastic stretch in your hamstrings, and directly bring your butt up towards the ceiling, while maintaining the bar over the midfoot.

This will allow all of the muscles to contribute to the movement efficiently and keep you safe while performing it. Power originates in the hips, and so this movement trains that directly. This is the reason why the squat is considered the best exercise in the weight room by those in the know.

The low-bar squat is one of the most efficient lifting exercises in the weight room. To further understand how to employ it correctly, check Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5×5 for self-coaching, or how to implement it into a wider workout schedule. Check out the video of our Divalicious Fitness Gal Helen Koya below for visual clues on doing this move.

These respectively recommend performing either 3 or 5 sets of five repetitions three times a week. Make sure you have perfect stance when attempting this move – seek professional guidance if need be!

Filed Under: Get Fit
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