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A Short Public Service Announcement on the Squat

September 28, 2009
Several problems with a squat.

Several problems with a squat.

The picture I used in an earlier post has been bugging me because there are several things wrong with it. But that’s the nature of writing a quick and dirty blog without an illustration budget.

I’ve doctored the pic to make a couple of points.

The first point makes use of the green lines.

On the left, the center of mass of the barbell is about six-to-eight inches behind the middle of the foot where it belongs. If you’re in this position, it will only be temporary as the barbell will drag you backward and you’ll fall on your ass. But at least the barbell won’t be on top of you.

The right-hand picture shows the barbell’s center of mass directly above the middle of the foot where it belongs. If you successfully moved the barbell from position one, six-to-eight inches behind the center of the foot, to position two, directly over the middle of the foot, you have wasted considerable energy moving the barbell laterally. The bar path should be straight up-and-down, staying over the middle of the foot.

The second issue is that the ending position on the right is well above parallel and real lifters go at least past parallel. The blue lines indicate that this lift is about 30 degrees above parallel measuring by the center of the leg, slightly worse at the top of the leg. The International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) standard is that “the lifter must bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knees.”

Third issue is illustrated by the purple line, which shows that the front of the knee is substantially forward of the toes. The proper position for the knees is slightly past the toes, closer to the yellow line. The knees coming this far forward indicates that the hamstrings have been relaxed, which increases the chance of injury. Coach Mark Rippetoe has a great coaching cue involving “a terribly useful block of wood.” (Rippetoe and Kilgore, Starting Strength, 2d edition at 47.)

Finally, the back angle and placement of the barbell show a “high bar squat,” which is disfavored by powerlifters. A high bar squat is thought by some to be more useful for Olympic Weightlifters, whose primary lifts involve having an upright torso and the barbell in front of their bodies. We may discuss the “low bar squat” placement preferred by powerlifters at a later date.

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