Squatting for Dummies: High Bar Squatting

In preperation for Endu's first biomechanics seminar i've been doing some research for the squat and getting a more mechanical and scientifit approach than ever before. Just as a warning my "advice" for today won't be something i'd prescribe to a heavy powerlifter but more an athlete or a fitness buff. This is exactly what you need to do as you try and take your body from immobile and weak, to a strong and functioning athlete.

You walk into the gym and your squat rack is occupied today, but thats normal. Usually there are groups of guys throwing down some massive barbell curls. However, today is different and the guy in your rack is squatting, sort of. Loading the barbell with probably too much he drops his butt 3 inches and then buckles his knees in to press it up. Don't let yourself be that guy or settle into that groove. Squatting to depth with heavy loading is crucial for full knee, hip, and posterior chain activiation [1]; however, if the bar is so heavy that you can't sink it to 90 degrees than your forfeit your knee and some plantar ankle work. Today's lesson requires that we leave our ego's at the door and humble ourselves in the squat rack.

A rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other. Our body is a teeter totter in motion, especially with the squat. In the squat we are a 1st class lever where the Load is on our feet and the force comes from our quads and hamstrings. I want you to change how you think of the squat, the squat is a press movement. You press the weight up, with your feet.

Bar Positioning:
As an athlete [we're all athletes/survivalists] the proper way to set a bar for functional strength is "high"; in other words have the bar rest on top of your traps for stability, there should be NO pressure on your wrists. If you're a beginner this will hurt your traps at first, don't be alarmed you'll add some muscle density and adjust to the change. This bar position will allow for your torso to be more upright and keep plenty of muscle activation around the knee capsule [which is good].

High bar squatting is the middle picture

Knee position:
We've covered the way the body is designed to move the weight, we've covered where to place the bar so that we get the best "transfer" strength, now it's finally time to begin the squat. Before descent we need to load the posteior chain [hamstrings and calfs] by creating a lordartic curve. After prepping the body for greatest weight and loading take a valsalva breath and slowly descend. Here is where you transition from a struggling lifter to a stronger and therefore more beneficial squatter. With your toes pointing at your preferred angle [I'm toes forward but that's for another day] Externally rotate your knees, i.e. drive your knees out by externally rotating the femur in the joint capsule and having rotation in the ankle. Because this squat is a high bar you will have less dorsiflexion [toe's to shin, in other words your knees wont go forward as much] and more knee rotation so that you basically sit hamstring to calf.

Sorry for the mustach guy, best example of knees going to external i could find
 Drive Up:
Now that were in the "hole" it's time to be a monster and drive out of it, 2 curcial parts in this movement: Knees out, and back symmetry. I know i've written on knees out before so follow click HERE for the detailed version; basically make sure that you keep external rotation the entire time you drive up for greatest force production. Next is to focus and having you're knees and hips fire at the same time, this will take some mental training. As the fulcrum at your knees moves your body up, the fulcrum at your hips must also align and straighten out the body. Finish the rep by locking the knees and pressing the hips forward.

Here is  a basic programming for an athlete that's starting the squat:

High Bar [HB] squat: 3x8 @ 55-65% 1RM
Front Squat: 4x6 @ 45% 1RM
RDL: 4x6 @ 40% 1RM [deadlift]

and here is programming for more advanced squatting:

HB squat: 5x5 @ 75% 1RM [each set increase total weight by 5 lbs/ ex. 405,410,415,420,425]
Front Squat: 4x6 @ 55 % 1RM
RDL: 4x6 @ 40% 1RM
DBell lunges: 3x8 ea leg [decent weight in hands]

Scripture Wod: Exodus 11-13

  1. Bryanton MA, Kennedy MD, Carey JP, Chiu LZ. (Jul 2012) Effect of Squat Depth and Barbell Load on Relative Muscular Effort in Squatting. retrieved. (pubmed PMID:22797000)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22797000
Got any questions? Got some beef? Email me your thoughts at Endunamoox@gmail.com

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.