Grooving the Raw Squat – Setting up and Performing a good rep.

Squatting is one of life’s little mysteries we are all born knowing how to squat perfectly upright with good alignment and perfect depth.  Then something happens when we get older and grow we somehow magically loose the ability to perform it.  If you want to get into weightlifting for pretty much any reason outside of bro weights you need to be able to squat and with a decent amount of weight.  The best way to go about it is to get it right from the start, however for the majority of us without access to a coach this isn’t the reality.

The Ideal Raw Squatting Model 

Above are two examples of how to break into a proper squat and how to ascend example A is of a high bar olympic squat and example B is of a lower bar more “power” kind of squat.  Both examples are in leui of supportive suits an important distinction we will touch upon later.

Both squats are practically the same as far as how the lifter breaks into the squat and how they stand up so I will cover the steps on how to achieve this soon but first a brief discussion on the diffrences between high bar and “low” bar squatting.

The high bar squat of adopted mainly by weightlifters allows the lifter to reach full depth with an upright poition (flexibility allowing) this quality makes this type of squatting of immense benifit to weightlifters since in the snatch and clean the lifter must recover from the catch position in as upright a manner as possible to maintain balance.

The lower bar position adopted by raw and single ply powerlifters allows the lifter to reduce the moment arm around the back and hip and increase the potential to load the movment.  Making competition depth and no more is the goal this position allows the lifter to do this fairly easily.  However if the lifter where to try and reach full comprehesion forward lean may become an issue thus this bar position isn’t as applicable to weightlifting.

Once you have decided on the variant of squat that will best suit your goals we need to discuss how to set up and perform a rep.

Ivan Chakarov displaying a pretty much perfect high bar squat.

High Bar Set Up – Place the bar across the top of the traps so it sit high on the shoulders walk out of the rack and place your feet under your hips.

High Bar Decent – Break of reach with your knees pushed out over your toes, once you reach with your knees sit down.  By reaching with your knees you are creating room for your hips to sit into this will allow you to keep your hips under the bar instead of sitting back and increasing the distance from your hips and the bar.  You should be looking to achieve full depth in this squat variant.  You should be looking to squat reasonably quickly and carrying a bounce out of the bottom.  Do not force the bounce over time learn to develop a rythm and squat at a speed you are comfortable with.

High Bar Ascent – Once you have developed a squatting rhythm the momentum from the downward phase should carry you out of the bottom.  As you rise try and stand up shoulders first and maintain your torso as upright as possible.  Your goal through the entire ascent phase is to push your hips back under the bar to help you achieve this keep pushing your knees out and push your hips forward. 

Another eastern European gentleman displaying a very good example of the “low bar” squat.

Low Bar Set Up – Place the bar across the lower traps and rear delts.  Walk out with the bar and place your feet slightly outside your hips.  Foot placement is only slightly wider than that of a high bar squat maybe one or two foot widths.

Low Bar Decent – again breaking at the knee sit down and force your knee out over your toes.  The lower bar placement will create slightly more trunk lean but your should still try and hold your trunk as upright as you can.  Decent speed again should be a cadence you are comfortable with do not be deliberately slow when squatting raw.  Continue the decent until you hit competition depth this will vary for federations but until your hip is below parallel with the top of the knee is a good guide.

Low Bar Ascent – Once you hit depth reverse the squat as quickly as you can biting your shoulders up and back into the bar.  Again the goal is to drive the hips forward and back under the bar constantly pushing your knees out to allow better hip position.

A short discussion on sitting “back”.

Readers who may have come across some other squat tutorials will notice that I am advocating hinging at the knee and then sitting down into the squat whilst some other tutorials or articles advocate breaking at the knee and sitting back.

These cues have their origins in multiply powerlifting federations and have been popularised massively by westside barbell club.  Whilst this is the correct way to squat if you are squatting multiply this is not the case for the vast majority of lifters.  The reason they advocate sitting back is because in a multiply suit almost all of the support is around the hips if you watch some of the squats in the following video you will appreciate better the differences.

Whilst this style of squatting ideal for it’s purpose it doesn’t represent the best way to squat raw since it doesn’t allow for a depth much greater than below parallel unless the lifter has the appropriate levers and flexibility to achieve this.

For the vast majority of lifters the best way to squat in leui of supportive equipment is out-layed in this article whilst there will of course be some exceptions chances are you are not an exception.

Next article in this series we will look at common problems with the squat and some tips and drill to help out.