There Isn’t Much Difference Between A Low Bar vs. High Bar Squat

There Isn’t Much Difference Between A Low Bar vs. High Bar Squat

Something I’ve alluded to in past posts and videos, and many times it has more so been in the form of response to a comment, is how I believe low bar vs. high bar squats are not as different as it seems. In my opinion, a squat is a squat, and the general movement and cueing is fairly similar, just the weight distribution then changes how we bias our movement to counter balance that load. From a goblet squat, to a front squat, to a SSB squat, to a high bar squat, and to a low bar squat, the same foundational aspect of the squat pattern applies. But with the more anterior vs. posterior loading, we will need to make slight adjustments in our hip and knee flexion to counter balance that weight distribution to manage our center of mass accordingly. But while there is this difference in knee vs. hip flexion, it’s more so the bi-product of the weight distribution and counter balance versus the lifter cueing the movement in an entirely different manner. What I am not saying is a high bar squat and a low bar squat should look exactly the same, but what I am saying is that for the majority of people, the thought process and cueing between the two should not differ much at all.

In the linked video (CLICK HERE) we have @colette.hd performing a high bar squat vs. a low bar squat. It is noticeable there is a difference between the two, but if you scroll over to the second picture you will see where my point more comes into play. On the far right is the bottom position when the squat is biased more into the posterior chain dominant, hinge based squat that is often encouraged for low bar squatting. As can be seen, between the high bar and low bar squat on the left and middle, there already is a fairly noticeable difference, and that was simply from the 2 inch change or so in weight distribution and placement of the bar on the back. When we then take that weight distribution change, overbias hinging, we then tend to find ourselves in this folded and over hinged position that is breaking the foundations of the squat pattern at its base level. Are the exceptions to this rule? Yes, just like there is with pretty much everything I will ever say. I actually have 2 lifters in particular that we do cue their low bar differently than their high bar, but that is based on their individual leverages dictating that requirement. But for 90%+ of people I have coached and trained over the last 12 years, this thought process applies.

And this can go the opposite way too. If you are trying to “squatty-squat” your goblet squats and trying to translate that to a low bar squat, it probably isn’t going to go well. As in my opinion, at least in the application to powerlifting, a “squatty-squat” does not fall into the foundational pattern we are trying to replicate throughout varying loading strategies that is competition specific, but is rather of a form training variability. Is there a time and a place for more hinge based movements or knee flexion dominant patterns, yes. But in regards to how we cue and manage our foundational squat pattern that applies across a range of loading strategies, this should be pretty similar and allow ourselves to simply adjust based on the counter balance demands. If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably have a good understanding of the foundational elements in how I teach and cue a squat. But if not, I’ll include a link below to the in depth squat breakdown video I have on YouTube.

My 3 Biggest Coaching Questions Answered

My 3 Biggest Coaching Questions Answered – CLICK HERE

 

I have been coaching powerlifters in some capacity for about 7 years, and full time for the past 4 years. In that time there has been a lot of learning. As a powerlifting coach, one of our main duties is to be a creative problem solver. When an issue arises, our goal is to find a solution. And as I developed as a coach, there were routinely 3 questions that haunted me. I just didn’t have an answer that was repeatable and predictable in finding these solutions for athletes across the board. But over time with experience, failing many times, and trial and error, I feel like I have a really good grasp now on the answers to these.

In my latest YouTube video, I dive deep into these 3 questions and the solutions and answers I’ve now found over the last 7 years. So what are these questions?

1.) Is the results of the current training block due to this block, or due to prior training blocks?

2.) Does a lifter need more or less volume?

3.) How many top sets vs. back offs or what make up of peak vs. average intensity does a lifter need?

These are very complex questions that over time I feel I’ve been able to narrow down into fairly simple solutions. My hope with this video is to expedite the headaches I had for other coaches and lifters. Click the link above to view!

Using Flat Shoes To Fix A Forward Weight Bias In The Squat

Using Flat Shoes To Fix A Forward Weight Bias In The Squat

I wrote an extensive article on pwerliftingtechnique.com regarding the variables at play in the decision of choosing heeled vs. flat shoes for squatting. CLICK HERE for those who want to check it out, but in this post I want to make a situational addition to that argument on whether someone should choose heeled vs. flat shoes. For @thejackedmclovin, many of the variables that would lend itself to a lifter needing heeled shoes is present. He is a tall lifter, long legs, average ankle mobility, and an average stance width. For a long time heels have suited him well, as most of the checkmarks for reasons to use a heeled squat shoe were present. But an issue Payton has had is he just tended to push forward in his squat, no matter the cueing or adjustments we made. You can see in the left video (CLICK HERE) he is very knee drive dominant and the resulting bar path from it (even with cueing more torso lean and hinge). Anyone who has followed me for a bit knows I am a proponent of “drive the knees forward”, but just like anything, there is a limit to the efficacy of that.

For Payton, the combination of the dorsiflexion that heels allowed, as well as the slope of the shoe, made it very hard for him to maintain his center of mass over his midfoot. I think in particular, the slope of a heeled shoe gets underplayed sometimes in how that can affect someone. Have someone squat on an uneven platform in flat shoes and it feels super weird, and you might even notice their form changes and they start shifting in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Well in a heeled shoe, you are effectively doing the same thing. Now I am not arguing against heeled shoes, as many of my lifters wear them, it’s just that this is a variable that I myself have overlooked at times. For Payton, something about the heels combined with his individual leverages resulted in difficulty of not following the slope of the shoe in his squat pattern, and it constantly shifted him forward. As well as he actually was allotted more dorsiflexion than he actually needed. We tend to want to reach end ranges of joint range of motion and rely on that passive stabilization at the bottom of a squat. So commonly for people where a heel allows for too much dorsiflexion, you will see an over dramatic shift to driving the knees forward, or some instability at the bottom if they don’t reach that end range of dorsiflexion. As can be seen on the right, not only was Payton’s squat pattern improved from the switch to flats, that’s also 20kg more at the same speed. The forward shift would cause upper back positioning issues that would be his weak link at near max weights. Now as he is able to maintain his center of gravity better, it changes the moment arm of the bar position in relation to his center of gravity and no longer places his upper back in a disadvantaged position.

Again, this isn’t a call for everyone to switch to flats, but more so an addition to my prior article and what I’d consider an outlier for a situational issue that presented itself with heels. What this does show is that while parameters for certain characteristics of heeled vs. flat, close vs. wide, or sumo vs. conventional can help guide us, don’t let that be an unbreakable standard.

Tempo Squats To Improve Bracing

Tempo Squats To Improve Bracing

In my top 3 favorite squat variations video, one noticeable snub was the tempo squat. Like with many accessories, as my ideas and systems change and progress, how and why I implement certain variations changes as well. With tempo squats, that is probably one of the variations I have changed how I program, maybe the most. It used to be my go to variation for technique correction, but as discussed in posts/videos I have made about pause squats, my one issue is the difficulty in translating back to normal descent speed after a long bout of tempos. For me, I find it is much easier to transition from pause squats to regular competition squats, and @lift_ng did a great write up on that very topic in his most recent post that I’d recommend checking out (CLICK HERE).

But I still very much like tempo squats and utilize them. They do have a great self limiting aspect, they reduce the rebound forces at the bottom of the squat, and they can be instrumental in teaching and improving bracing mechanics. And that final point is what I really want to touch on, as I think that is where I have seen the most benefit from implementing tempo squats lately. A common issue people have is they inhale, they brace, and then that’s the last they ever think about bracing. Bracing is a constant action through the entirety of the squat. If the first thing we see as someone initiates the squat is their abdominals lengthening, that’s an immediate sign they have lost that initial brace. Now as it becomes habitual, it shouldn’t take voluntary effort at all times to think about squeezing and bracing. But, for those who struggle with immediately losing their brace as they initiate the descent, or they lose tightness and stop bracing as they try to rebound out of the bottom, tempo squats are my go to for this issue. Because of the slowed eccentric portion, you are forced to maintain that initial brace, or there is immediate negative feedback. As can be seen with Autumm (CLICK HERE), she noticeably improves her bracing when adding the tempo. Can we cue certain bracing patterns to accomplish the same thing? Yes, but not everyone is able to conceptualize that without first “feeling” what constant bracing and maintaining position throughout the descent feels like. And with adding the tempo, it typically forces a lifter into correct bracing patterns just due to the inherent difficulty it poses if they do not.

Should You Squat 3 Days A Week?

Should You Squat 3 Days A Week?

As a young coach, I thought there was magic in squatting 3 days a week. I would try to increase volume to warrant 3 day a week frequency thinking it would unlock some form of secret gains. I mean the more the better, right? But now, as what I’d consider a more experienced coach, I try to avoid squatting 3 days a week unless it is undeniably needed. And I’d say I have more people that I am dropping from 3 days a week down to 2 days squatting, than I am the opposite. Now this isn’t to say squatting 3 days a week is wrong, but more so that as I’ve grown as a coach I’ve learned that more isn’t always better. In fact, it may be what is holding some people back. 

To understand why you may not need 3 days a week of squatting, I think it’s first good to understand why someone may need 3 days a week frequency. To give some background though, at least in my time as a coach I have not yet encountered an athlete who needs 3 hard squat days. For bench, that is very common, and even sometimes up to 4 days. But for squat, I’ve universally programmed that tertiary day as low to mid volume and low relative intensity. So within this, there really are 2 main reasons I see the need for a 3rd squat day…..

1.) Skill Practice: Some athletes regress skill very quickly, and having 3-4 days in between squat sessions sometimes is just too much of a gap. They require some bridge in skill practice to allow them to feel “ready” come their primary and secondary days, with an emphasis on that primary day. So within this tertiary squat day, I’ll choose variants typically that are self limiting to lower fatigue, but have some transfer of skill to their competition squat. If you’ve watched my top 3 squat variations video, you’ll know I love pause squats and barefoot squats for this reason. Now this isn’t to say I’ll never program a regular competition squat on a tertiary day, but more commonly I find myself trying to self limit the intensity through variation, while still fulfilling the need for skill practice. 

2.) Volume: There is only so much we can do within 2 squat days. If someone truly needs more volume, a 3rd squat day can be a way to fill that volume gap without creating too stressful of a primary or secondary day squat session. There isn’t a magic number for sets that someone can tolerate on a given day, but at a certain point either a lifter generates too much fatigue from continued sets and/or we see form degradation as the sets proceed. So with that, it could serve the lifter better to take some of that back off volume and distribute it into a 3rd squat day. And big emphasis on back off volume. I’ve yet to program as a coach a true top set on a tertiary squat day, but rather am taking what would be back off volume on other days and placing it on this 3rd squat day. For example, let’s say a lifter needs 14 total sets. Rather than doing 7 sets on the primary and secondary days, we can distribute these instead as 6 (primary) and 5 (secondary), and then 3 sets on the tertiary day. This most likely is going to result in more productive sessions on all 3 days. And many times when using a 3rd squat day for volume, I am also programming with the consideration of skill practice as well. So really those 2 ideas are combined. 

So when may you not need a 3rd squat day? When either of those 2 reasons cannot be sufficed and you are making progress. We need that 3rd squat day to benefit the training week as a whole, not take away. And too often people ramp up volume or frequency for the sake of those magic gains, and instead what happens is they are hindering their recovery. In my weekly training split video, I break this down fully, but there is a fatigue cost for that tertiary day. While it may be much lower than let’s say the primary day, you are still doing work, so there is a cost. And that cost within the sum of the week has to equate to adequate recovery upon return to that primary day. 

Brandon is a good example of a lifter recently that I dropped from 3 days a week squatting down to 2. While 3 days wasn’t going bad and we were seeing some progress, it was noticeable that he just never felt fully recovered come his primary squat day. So recently we took out his tertiary squat day, and as seen above, there has been a pretty dramatic difference in a very short time. On the left is 485×2 and on the right is 490×2 (CLICK HERE). While there are other factors at play, what we saw was that now on his primary squat day the feedback I got consistently was “I feel amazing”. Whereas before, some days felt good, some days amazing, some days just okay, and some days not great. It was a little all over the place depending on the week. And I just had a hunch that the Saturday tertiary day was interrupting his recovery a bit too much leading into his Monday primary day. Sure enough as soon as we took that away, you can see what happened with the speed and strength on the 490×2 set. He came back feeling amazing on that day and with no void of skill. So Brandon didn’t need the skill practice and he didn’t need the volume, so therefore he didn’t need a 3rd squat day. I’ll end with how I started, and that is that more isn’t always better.