Training

Training (2)

DISPELLING the MYTH of HIGH v LOW BAR SQUATTING

DISPELLING the MYTH of HIGH v LOW BAR SQUATTING

Barbell squattingIt’s not the Movement, it’s the Moment…

Bar placement in THE SQUAT (barbell back squat) is often mooted as one of the keys to targeting strength, muscle isolation and minimising orthopaedic stress.

Quite often when people discuss this, their dialogue promotes Low Bar Squats for better leverage and therefore increased weight lifted; versus High Bar for targeting the quadriceps due to a more upright position and the potential for better knee flexion (depth).

This is a simple, but incomplete analysis of why bar placement and more importantly bar path is critical to Squatting Big Weights.

I hate to break some people’s bubble, but from a purely ‘lifting more weight perspective’; ALL lifts, Squats included, have more to do with genetics (ideal limb ratios) and technical prowess and then maximizing these via optimal bar placement, whereby Moment Arms are minimised! Yes Moment Arms, and in the Squat, that’s the horizontal distance between Bar and Hip, the horizontal distance between Bar and Knee and at the Elite level, the length of the femur relative to the torso!

Shorten all of these, have sound technique and your Squat will improve. Most of the best Squatters in the world are born this way and then fine tune their technique enabling them to move what seems like incredibly heavy weights!

Let’s talk about shortening your legs. Move them further apart! This literally “doesn’t shorten them”, but angling them out, shortens the horizontal distance between hip and knee.

Shortening the Moment Arm between Bar and Knee is best achieved with the mindset of a “vertical shin” and “vertical torso”…and push your knees out towards your second toe - Hard! Doing this in conjunction with a wider stance optimizes this! Understand there is a compromise between foot stance width and strength/stability out of the “hole”! It needs to be optimal for You!

The big issue to understand is the Moment Arm between Bar and Hip (tailbone), is IMO critical for Squatting big weights. By default when Squatting a barbell, the bar will “find” a way to be “plum-lined” over the middle of your foot. The Overhead Squat requires a very vertical position and the Low Bar Squat requires a more angled forward torso position. Both lifts are Not ideal for moving big weights. The Overhead is a no brainer!

Squat position

The Low Bar Squat increases Moment Arm distance between Bar and Hip, due to an angled forward torso, because the bar “will find” its plumb-line over your mid-foot As a consequence the Hips are placed in a somewhat precarious position well behind the Bar. And if you’ve adopted the two strategies above then deliberately increasing the Moment Arm between Bar and Hip almost voids the other two. Also given that the first movement when Squatting out of the hole, should be “traps into bar” slightly veering backwards, then “pushing your knees out” to provide room for up and forward hip drive; it makes more sense to have the Bar placement biased towards High than Low!

Granted there are exceptions to this, but the majority of World Class Squatters have large upper backs (horizontal thickness), shortish legs to torso ratios, a widish stance And Carry The Barbell in a Highish Position on Their Traps! These physical traits accommodate ideal Moment Arm levers. If these lifters were to shorten their foot stance distance and carry the bar low they would lift less!

It’s the Moment not the movement…

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Reasons You’re Not Getting Stronger

Reasons You’re Not Getting Stronger

Prioritise Strength

Stay steadfast to the goal.  The goal; get stronger!  At some point there is a need to work at 90%+ of your 1RM.  If you don’t know your 1RM for the big compound movements, you’re compromising your potential strength gains.  Squat, Bench Press, Overhead Press & Deadlift should be staples. For optimal strength gains perform 1-3 reps with your best technique and heaviest weight possible.

 

Technique

Body position, hands, eyes and feet all contribute to lifting proficiency. This influences barbell path and therefore impacts on fatigue and leverage's.  If your lifts are stalling, examining technical efficiency is paramount.  For example when Squatting, if there is disconnect from armpit to hip, this can create instability out of the hole.  It usually negatively affects knee & ankle alignment, as well as torso to hip angle. 

 

Program Hopping

This is arguably the most flawed practice in training.  Yes variety is necessary, but not in the manner most understand it to be.  Whatever training template is undertaken, don’t do it for a couple of months and decide it doesn’t work.  Most top athletes have performed very similar programs for decades.  The craft is to manipulate sets, reps, rest intervals, hand & feet position, etc.  The top coaches & athletes refer to this as specialised variety.

 

Accumulate Volume

In running terms it’s important to accumulate mileage in the legs. So too in the Strength Game it’s necessary to acquire “time under the bar”! This is not doing 4x15’s! Volume regarding strength is having a consistency that spans months, years & decades.  All the while increasing the tonnage of your lifts, in particular the big compounds.  Weight x Reps x Sets, usually calculating from 70% up!

 

Supplementary Exercises

As far as strength is concerned, Supplementary Exercises improve the Core Exercises (Squat, Press & Deadlift).  More is not necessarily better.  Choose a Hybrid of the Classical Lifts and perform heavy 3-5 sets x 3-6 reps.  Some examples are: Front Squats, Incline Press and Deficit Deadlift.

 

Inconsistency

Similar to Program Hopping in that strength gains are best when training is consistent.  If the program dictates 4 sessions per week, but only 12 sessions are completed in the month, then you’re short changing “time under the bar” by 25%.  Calculate that over a year and that’s a lot of lost training time.  Add illness, family & work engagements and it is possible to simply NOT accrue the necessary workload for optimal gains.

 

Isolate –v- Integrate

In terms of maximising strength, having an isolationist approach is not ideal.  This is not about discussing the pros & cons of leg curls or tricep pressdown. Many gym goers and even experienced lifters espouse the premise that the big compounds build certain muscles. Such as Squats build the quads; Bench Press is a pec builder and Deadlifting is a back exercise. While in part these tenets have some merit; they can detract from your strength potential. For example the Bench Press is often deemed as a free weight chest press. This is an isolationist viewpoint! The bench press is a Press on a Bench.  Technically an Elite bench presser has a bench press stance. They train their bench press to move the most weight and in practice integrate as much of the body’s musculature to perform their maximum lift! The Elite Bencher incorporates such muscles as lats, tris, glutes and obliques, in an effort to move maximal weights.  When performing the big compounds the mindset should be to distribute the load over as much musculature as possible. This will create better stability, higher muscular tension and therefore create the potential for higher force output.  Bottom line if your big compounds progress, nearly all submaximal exercises improve by default.

 

You don’t get Strong because it’s sexy or the next cool thing.  You get Strong to get Strong, because Strong is awesome. Strong needs no further justification!

Glen Stewart Squat

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