For many years people have been weightlifting to improve strength, build muscle, and perfect their bodies. One of the most common exercises is squats. If you’ve ever worked out with weights, it is highly likely that you’ve performed this exercise. The squat variation chosen depends on the lifter’s goals, but the low-bar squat is one of the oldest variations and most likely the easiest variation if performed correctly.
The low-bar squat is commonly used by powerlifters and bodybuilders because it allows the lifter to “go deeper,” or achieve a greater angle when squatting, lift more weight, have more balance, and it puts less stress on the lower back than the high-bar squat. To perform the low-bar squat correctly and avoid injury, one must make sure they are wearing the proper shoes, position the bar correctly across the back, establish a stable stance, take a good, deep breath and tighten the core, descend to the correct position, and correctly ascend.
Before performing any type of squat, the proper footwear needs to be taken into consideration. The feet are the foundation of every functional movement we perform. They are the platform to our balance, especially when performing exercises like squats, so it is crucial that the proper footwear is being worn. For squats, a shoe with a flatter sole is best, as they provide a level surface for the feet. This will ensure optimal balance.
Once the proper footwear is taken into consideration, it is time to get into the exercise itself. You’ll want to make sure you start out with a lighter weight load and work your way up in weight as your sets progress to avoid injury. Once the weight is loaded onto the barbell, the lifter must correctly position him or herself under the barbell. For a low-bar squat, the optimal placement is on the posterior deltoids. This is in the mid part of the upper back, just below the shoulder muscles. To ensure the bar is in the correct spot and to maintain optimal positioning, pull your shoulder blades together. This will create a “shelf” for the barbell to sit on.
Now that the barbell is positioned correctly across the back, the lifter must un-rack the barbell by getting in a stable stance, taking a deep breath in, tightening the core, and lifting off primarily with the hips. Once the barbell is off the rack, it is crucial that the lifter steps back from the rack. This enables the lifter to go into the squat position without the barbell hitting the rack. After the lifter properly un-racks, a stable stance needs to be reestablished. This is usually about shoulder width apart or slightly wider, with the toes pointed slightly outward, only about 10 to 20 degrees.
When descending into a squat using the low-bar variation, the first step in the process is to again take another deep breath and tighten the core. By doing this, the lifter’s intra-abdominal pressure is increased, and as a result, helps stabilize the lifter’s lower back. This is important for spinal injury prevention. After a deep breath has been taken and the core has been tightened, push the hips back while simultaneously leaning the chest forward and descend into a squat making sure that the barbell is always in line with the middle of the foot. The barbell acts as the lifter’s center of gravity since the lifter’s chest is more forward in a low-bar squat than a high-bar squat, so it is critical that the barbell is in line with the middle of the feet (as if you were looking at the squat from the side) to keep balance.
After the lifter has gotten into the squat, the ascent is just as important as the descent. The lifter should drive the hips straight up while simultaneously driving the chest up, and “explode” out of the squat with power. Doing so will help the lifter keep their balance. Once the lifter is back in the upright position, the process is repeated if the lifter is going to do additional reps, otherwise, the barbell is re-racked and the weight is unloaded.