The Truth About Powerlifting Squats It's all about numbers and less about strength and style.

I’ve said it many times: low bar squatting is not really squatting. Those are cheated good mornings. Regardless of the obvious evidence, many people contact me, usually with hate mails, saying that I am a weakling and suggest that I die or something.

In this post I will present you the truth about low bar squats once more in a more detailed manner. I advise you to think less about me and more about the information that’s right in front of you.

What the fuck is a low bar squat?


The low bar is a  squat with a barbell positioned on your middle traps and secured by the contracted rear deltoids. The bar is lower on your back and that’s why low bar squatters appear to be at an angle even before they have attempted to squat.

Why the fuck would anybody do the low bar squat?

There are three main reasons to ever do a low bar squat.

1. To lift more weight

This was the initial reason for the creation of the low bar squat. Powerlifters gave birth to this monster. You see, powerlifting is a sport that back in the day originated from Olympic weightlifting. Weightlifters who were old and/or slow started messing around with the so called odd lifts. At first people were squatting high bar but soon figured out that when they put the bar low on the back it’s easier to squat more weight because the exercise becomes glute dominant, and the range of motion is greatly reduced.

Powerlifters also squat low bar in order to take the most out of their squat suits which facilitate hip extension. With a squat suit on, it’s easier to have an even more hip dominant squat.

2. To build a big ass

If you want your ass to explode into something that barely fits through the door, the best way is to do low bar squats.

3. To make sure you are DTFP (doing the fucking program) of Mark Rippetoe.

rippetoe-squat

Over the years I have attempted to communicate many times with Rippetoe, but he is a very stubborn person and always finds a way to justify his ways even when they are wrong. He believes he is teaching some sort of a hybrid squat when in fact he is simply teaching people how to do cheated good mornings. High bar squats are much better for the noobs that go to StartingStrength.com. I have at least 3 accounts on SS.com and every time I was banned when stating the obvious.

Why the low bar squat is really pathetic? 

The low bar squat is pathetic because it shows how people always sacrifice quality for quantity. They want to lift more on the bar instead of lifting with style. People only care about numbers and that’s it. That’s why powerlifting is becoming as ugly as it gets.

What is a real squat then?

A real squat is a high bar Olympic style squat. That’s the true squat and the natural way to do things. Tell a child to squat and the kid will do a high bar right way. The child will just drop down and that’s it. None of that stick your ass out bullshit. The true natural squat is quad/glute dominant exercise.

The quadriceps and glutes should be the primary movers during a squat. those are the two biggest muscles of the lower body and by doing the low bar you are reducing the knee involvement and shifting most of the work to your ass. Many powerlifters need hip surgeries because the sport is so butt dominant. Both the deadlift and the low bar squat are hip dominant exercises.

Of course, the hamstring are also involved in the squat, but much less than the quads and the glutes.

In an ideal powerlifting squat, the shins remain as vertical as possible to the ground and most of the force originates at the hip. Thus, the squat becomes essentially a good morning. A good example would be Layne Norton. Look at how much he bends over and how his hips shoot back. Also, notice how little his knees actually travel forward. His squat is mostly glutes, lower back and hamstrings.

Another problematic factor with low bar squats is depth. Most powerlifters don’t even reach parallel, but since they are strong not many people have the balls to say that the emperor has no clothes.

In the video below you see Steve Goggins squat heavy weight. He does not even break parallel because his set-up is quite bad. His stance is too wide and his knees move at the bottom in order for him to go deeper. Quite honestly, that’s a bad squat, but because he is so strong and has been doing it for years he gets away with it.

I will never be as strong as Goggins, but that does not stop me from saying the obvious. Being strong does not equal proper form. If Goggins was to use the high bar style, he would reach depth and bend over much less.

Note: I am not trying to teach Goggins how to squat. I am explaining things for the average people reading this post. I am simply using his squat as illustration.

In the video below you can see a real natural squat with a barbell.

This is the best way to squat with a barbell when it comes to back squats. If you can squat this way, you are building your entire leg evenly while developing mobility. This is the real “athletic squat” and none of the Rippetoe look down bullshit. This is how people were meant to squat with a barbell on their backs.

Some may find that the high bar is greatly facilitated by weightlifting shoes. The shoes allow you to stay even more upright and can compensate for the lack of ankle, hamstring and spinal mobility.

Here’s how a perfect squat with Oly shoes looks like:

Notice that the Oly shoes actually reduce the depth a little bit. The higher the heel of the shoes, the less deep the squat looks. However, that squat is still full range. It’s also worth noting that those guys don’t have a whole army of men around them and a monolift. That’s because they lift “raw” and do real squats. None of those cheated good mornings.

Still, I advise people who have the mobility to squat without Oly shoes to stick to it. In the end, however, you can do whatever you want, and if squats in Oly shoes feel better overall, that’s what you should do.

In conclusion

Most powerlifters don’t squat. They do some form of a good morning and their numbers are greatly amplified. They use monolifts because they cannot walk out the weight. The monolift also allows the usage of ultra wide stance which otherwise would be impossible to assume without your knees giving in. Powerlifters also don’t go all the way down. Breaking parallel is extremely rare these days. Most squats are high even from the front view, and if a squat is high from the front view, it’s even higher from the side. Nobody cares.

If you take a powerlifter who squats 800 with a monolift, low bar, wide stance, knee wraps, squat suit, does not break parallel and make him do 405 lbs all the way down high bar style, he will get pinned. That’s how “strong” they are.

Powerlifting was a cool sport back in the day, but it got worse overtime. Like I said, people only care about numbers – they don’t care about style.

The best squatters in the world are Oly lifters and that’s a fact. Anybody telling you otherwise is a complete liar and moron. Oly lifters squat the deepest and in a much more natural way. Why? Because they don’t benefit from partial low bar squats. The point is to become strong at the bottom while staying as upright as possible so that you can recover from a heavy clean or snatch.

When it comes to the average weekend warriors, there are two reasons to squat – to develop strong legs and to become stronger overall. The high bar does that a million times better that the low bar. Also, the high bar is less stressful on your shoulder joint and the hips. Of course, it’s more stressful on the knees because you go deeper and there is more knee flexion and extension.

I know a lot of people will not love this post, but deep down inside even Rippetoe’s followers know it’s all true.

The high bar and the front squat are the real SQUATs. The low bar is nothing more than a cheated good morning making you look stronger than you actually are. Don’t waste your time with it.

2 comments

  1. Cameron

    What a load of shit, you do know that squatting in any way can build the quads .

    Some people are built to low bar, and it hits their quads just as hard.

    This is the most biased article I’ve ever read

  2. Mike D

    This post has a few right ideas, but makes a lot of misguided generalizations.

    First, take a look at some top-level raw squatters like Kevin Oak, Garrett Griffin, and Dennis Cornelius. They all use a low-bar position and consistently squat to just below parallel. Geared lifters do wide-stance good mornings, not squats. That’s because the equipment primarily assists in hip extension—and why lots of really strong geared lifters have peculiarly underdeveloped quads for guys who supposedly have massive squats. Notice that this is not the case in the above mentioned raw squatters. They have huge quads. I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Cornelius at my gym (he squatted 800 that day, a few months before setting the IPF record at 865) and can definitely verify the hugeness of his quads.

    Second, there’s an old adage that ‘the sport finds the lifter’, not the other way around. Notice that Olympic lifters tend to have relatively short femurs and long torsos. This facilitates a more upright posture during a squat. It speaks to the fact that top-level athletes are genetically curated for the sport.

    Whether the bar is in the ‘high’ or ‘low’ position doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the bar remains over the midfoot. When you see hideous pseudo-squats like Norton’s above, it’s because his quads weren’t strong enough to preserve his posture and he compensated by shifting back and driving his hips upward. Rippetoe would tell him to knock about 200lbs off the bar and try doing it correctly. Low-bar squats will necessitate a *slightly* more forward torso angle, but save for those genetically-curated long-torso-short-femur folks (think Lu Xiaojun), this will be a much more natural squat position.

    Rippetoe’s position is not that a high-bar squat is always wrong for all lifters. It’s that the low-bar squat is reliably better for most lifters, and much easier to teach beginners. I’ll part ways with Rippetoe and argue that moving the bar down one’s back roughly an inch does not magically turn the squat into a hip (glute) driven movement. It’s the same quad/glute distribution regardless, as long as the bar position is correct—over the midfoot.

    So, if your structure allows you to position the bar higher and maintain proper balance, do it. If on the other hand you are like most people, a slightly lower bar position will facilitate optimal power and range of motion. The chest still drives upward. The knees still remain forward out of the hole (as Max Aita teaches)—this is, ironically, also accomplished by driving the glutes forward out of the hole, as Rippetoe teaches. Different cues for the same damn thing.

    Personally, I do not have the structure for a high bar squat. Regardless of foot placement (and lifting shoes), the bar ends up over my forefoot. A lower bar position doesn’t change my technique or turn my squat into that of a geared lifter; in fact, I tend to bow *more* in a high bar position because the bar is over my forefoot. A low-bar position keeps the bar over my midfoot and allows me to keep my chest upright as I come out of the hole.

    TL;DR—don’t mistake the technique of the genetically curated, .0001% of athletes as a template that can be applied to all lifters regardless of their sport. Different body types require different foot positioning, stance width, and bar position to achieve an optimal squat. Check out Juggernaut’s recent video with ‘Meg Squats’ (who uses the low bar position). They have both low and high bar lifters at JTS, and they did not tell Meg to switch. But the basic rules—knees forward, chest up, etc.—still apply. Cheers.

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