It may surprise the beginners among you, but the position of your head during squats is very important. The neck is part of the spine, and its movement affects the middle and lower back.
Looking down Rippetoe style during low-bar squats?
The author of Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe, believes that looking down facilitates the implementation of the so-called hip drive (posterior chain activation) during squats.
Consequently, this technique is used by 99% of his followers. However, there are also advanced lifters who rely on this style. The most notable among them would be Michael Tuchscherer who is a world class powerlifter.
A low bar squat comes with a more pronounced forward lean because the bar is lower on the back, and the lifter has to bend over more during the movement in order not to fall. Therefore, when the neck is a neutral alignment, you will be looking slightly down unless you actively use the muscles of your eyes to look up.
Yet you don’t have to look down even during low bar squats. Many powerlifters squat with the low bar style while looking forward or slightly up. As long as there is no strain on the neck, and the technique is good, both methods will work.
Head positioning during high bar squats
Most Olympic weightlifters squat high bar and always look forward or up. It helps them stay upright. The more upright you are, the easier it is to squat high bar. After all, keeping your chest up is fundamental to preserving good form during high bar squats.
Therefore, looking forward or up during high bar squats seems like the best way to go. Nonetheless, a good high bar squat could technically be performed even if you look down, especially if you have experience.
Should I look at the ceiling?
Looking at the ceiling could cause an over-extension of the neck and is not necessary.