5 Reasons (plus another!) to Use the Low Bar Back Squat

From  Starting Strength , Mark Rippetoe et al. 

From Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe et al. 

We teach our athletes both the high and low bar back squats when they go through our Ramp Up. Both are beneficial movements, both are strength development tools. Although they both are squats, they work distinctly different ways and as such it's important to use both. We're going to talk about the Low Bar Back Squat as described by Mark Rippetoe in Starting Strength. 

  1. The Low Bar Back Squat works the posterior chain.
    In the previous blog post I talked about why we deadlift the way we do. We deadlift and low bar back squat to strengthen, develop and train the posterior chain muscles, primarily the glutes, hamstrings with some assistance (hopefully not much) from the lumbar and calves. We use both as overall strength development tools for an underutilized backfield. 
  2. Better shoulder mobility: If I get you into that position, it will loosen up. Think about running cold and getting nice and limber about a half-mile in.
  3. Deeper squats: You have to get down low, really low to meet the hip crease at or below the top of the knee requirement.
  4. Forces you to drive through your heels: Hey toe lifters! You know who you are: You can't lift a weight or do a squat without rocking up onto your toes be it for a clean, a push-press or a back squat. Get back on those heels, drive through a solid kinetic chain not a broken one (We're of course talking about even distribution of the load through the heels and balls of the feet, I'm not suggesting that it is proper form to teeter on your heels).
  5. Hip Mobility: The LBBS requires a wider stance to accommodate the torso at the bottom of the lift. You're either getting there because you can or getting there because you have to.
  6. BONUS! It's great for the knees! Holy schmoley! A squat that's great for the knees? Yes! The position allows for a very upright shin throughout the movement. We don't have any excessive closure of the knee joint, thereby reducing how much strain the patellar tendon undergoes at the bottom of the squat. Take that HBBS!

    The challenges are: If you have piss-poor shoulder mobility, you're not going to get into a good low bar position because A) you just can't get your arms behind the bar, B) because once you head into the hole, your elbows will drop and you'll lose the shelf the bar's supposed to stay on. Also, if you've not learned to dump the bar properly, it's going to ski-jump off your back and tailbone if you drop it at the bottom. 

    We'll talk about the skill transfer of the High Bar Back Squat to the clean and snatch and why our observations are that they don't transfer very well at all. We'll keep using them to develop overall strength, but we're on Mike Burgener's team on this one!

Michael Reynolds

CrossFit Level 1 Coach