If you’re a fan of squatting … or you’re trying to become better at it … then you’ll probably want to check out these couple of tips on how to get the best bar position on your back and getting your hands right while squatting.
In this article, we’ll be examining the low-bar back squat — or common powerlifting squat. This is just to fine-tune your hand and bar placement because I knowsome of my clients still struggle with it. I’m definitely not an expert yet, but I’m learning more and more about the position of the bar and my hands and how it effects the squat every single time I do it.
Why is Bar Position So Important?
Because the placement of the bar on your back determines your back angle and how much of your hips/hamstrings/posterior chain get involved in the lift.
The picture below is the classic example from Starting Strength of where the bar should go in the low-bar back squat.
As you can see, the bar is positioned lower on the delts and traps … and not sitting on top of them. More on this in a bit …
Why Are Your Hand’s Position So Important?
Your hand position is also very important, because if it’s not right, then the bar won’t stay where you want it to! For a good squat you want your chest to be “puffed” out, so there’s a slight arch in your lower back, and it’s impossible to keep the bar “low” on your back, if you don’t get your hands in the right spot.
Your Size Has a Lot To Do With It.
One thing I’ve found, after reading a lot and trying a lot of tips that other — bigger — powerlifters told me about where to stick the bar and my hands … is your size and flexibility in your shoulders will have a lot to do with it. Starting Strength says to use a thumbless grip on the bar … when you can use your thumbs if your shoulders are flexible enough and you can get some extra upper back tightness you wouldn’t have before.
This is important for smaller guys who don’t have as much muscle on their upper backs for the bar to sit on. That’s just one example.
Not Much Upper Back Mass? Keep the bar a bit higher, and move your hands in for support (try using your thumbs to grip too!)
Then if you’re a more medium sized guy, you’ll have to move the bar further down your back and spread your hands a little more to accomodate your tighter shoulders and more upper back muscle (which also allows you to sit the bar lower on your back–you have something to rest it on!) And if you’re a much bigger lifter, then you have plenty of upper back muscle to rest the bar on, and because of this (and usually a lack of flexibility plays a role too) — you can sit the bar a lot lower, and your hands’ll have to go out further too:
The bar position on your back determines your muscle involvement ...
You’re Going To Have To Experiment!
Everything you read here and on the internet, and in books, and hear in the gym should be taken with a grain of salt. Realize, that you’ll have to do a lot of experimenting to figure out what works for body type, gets you stronger, and ensures you have more proper technique. Remember, the goal is to get stronger without hurting yourself. So sometimes it’ll be necessary to over-emphasize some technique stuff … until you go to far with it … then back it up … and eventually you’ll find the “sweet spot” where you’re starting to get it right.
How To Tell If You Got It Right.
Basically, you want:
Chest Up – you want your chest up, so you don’t have to exit the rack “hunched” over with your upper back — if you have to do this, then you need to work with your hands and bar placement position to fix it … you want your chest up, back slightly arched and a lot of air in your stomach …
Low Bar Position – compromising with the chest up, you want the bar to “sit” as low as possible on your back … so it’s more directly over the center of your foot as you perform the squat … so you can sit back into the squat and activate your powerful posterior chain more …
Upper Back Tightness — is what you’re after, to create a good place for the bar to sit, to keep the bar stable, and “solid” as you do your squat (you don’t want to be thinking about the bar sliding off your back as you squat–it sucks!)
Not to destroy your shoulders — along with this, you need to figure out how to compromise between getting your hands in closer towards your head, without destroying your shoulders or wrists. Your flexibility will determine this …
Once again, this will all take a little experimenting on your part … but the effort is worth it … because when you do the squat correctly, with the bar position in the right place, upper back tightness and lungs full of air it feels SO MUCH EASIER … and that will make you stronger (and less likely to get injured!) in the long run.