The other back squat

14 Sep

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At CrossFit SE11 (and our parent branch CrossFit London UK) we’re pretty big on the squat.

We use poles and walls to keep you upright, boxes to ensure you sit back and we also like to hold you down in squats to improve the range in your hip, knee and ankle.

It is the building block for an array of other movements we want you to master.

The point being, it’s quite important.

A lot of what we do is focused towards the Olympic lifts. We teach front and overhead squats first with this in mind, and when we have you back squat, most of time, we’ll programme high bar position since these three variations I have just mentioned will demand that you stay upright – essential for anyone wishing to seriously train the snatch and clean.

The other squat is the low bar back squat. It sometimes gets a bad rap such as in this article by John Coffee, who argues that if you’re going to squat it shouldn’t neglect the quadriceps, and if you want to train the posterior chain then you have Romanian deadlifts or good mornings at your disposal. He believes the low bar squat to be “strength feat” rather than a way to develop real leg strength.

But for others, the low bar back squat is superior to it’s relation. Mark Rippetoe is the most notable champion of this squat, arguing that it uses more muscle than the high bar position. This seems to be quite disputable but what is clear is that the low bar uses the muscles of the legs and hip in a different way to high bar.

The bar is placed further down the on the back, closer to the ridge that sits on the top of your shoulder blades which changes the back angle from upright to further forward. Unlike the high bar it requires a stretch reflex of the hamstrings in the bottom position. With the two big hip extensor muscles working together, glutes and hamstrings (along with the adductors), it means that in terms of kilograms moved, it will outperform the high bar.

The consensus across some of the less extreme views on the two movements seem to agree that if you wish to practice or compete in Olympic weightlifting then the high bar will serve you best but if you are a powerlifter or your training is purely for the pursuit of strength then the low bar back squat will most likely be better suited to your goals.

(I should note that some coaches argue that the low bar has it’s uses for the Olympic lifter and the high bar for the strength athlete – nothing is ever black and white in the game of lifting heavy shiz).

I’ll be running the next s-Course here in Vauxhall. Running through detailed technique on the deadlift, overhead press, bench press and the low bar back squat. Saturday 21st September from 9am until 4pm. Book your spot here.

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