Here at Motiv we have been going through some waves of utilizing the box squat within our workouts instead of squatting normally. I have had a few people ask, why are we doing these? What does the box do that a regular squat doesn’t? Here are some big reasons why we are implementing them into our workouts.

  1. The box squat is safer. How so? When squatting down to a solid stable object such as a box our mechanics have to be different than a normal squat. The spine for instance is not loaded as heavy, not because the weight may not be the same on the bar but rather because of our bodies position in the box squat compared to the raw squat. In box squats you should be pushing your hips back first before breaking the knees and squatting down. This will put more tension and pressure into your major muscles of the hips, glutes and hamstrings. It has also been shown that because of our bodies angle in this style of squat the box squat is safer due to the vertical shin angle it creates. Less pressure is targeted to the patellar tendon of the knee in a properly executed box squat.
  2. Expedited recovery time. Typically we use the variation of the box squat as an accessory movement, meaning that this specific exercise is meant to strengthen our main movement, in this instance the squat. When we use accessory movements we don’t normally go as heavy as we would for the main lift. Around 15% lighter weight is used when performing the box squat. This has its benefits. Because we are not going as heavy there is less tissue breakdown as a result from the movement. This could be reasoning as to why we may not feel as sore and ready to go again much faster than we do when squatting without the box.
  3. Ensures proper depth. We almost all have trouble hitting depth in our squats. I hear it all the time in the gym, “Was that low enough?” “Does that count?”. Well when we perform the box squat you know 100% of the time if you’ve gone low enough. You should set the box height to be slightly below parallel even if you aren’t a competitor. This will ensure yourself that you have reached the proper depth even when that box is not there to be your true teller. Teaching the body to squat slightly below will ensure that you will never miss a lift in competition if you compete.
  4. Teaches Explosive Power. The box squat is a great tool to use that will teach everyone to develop great amounts of force coming out of the hole or in this instance off the box. With the box stopping us from coming straight back up we are not able to use the stretch shortening cycle (SCC) that most of use in the squat or olympic lifts. This is when we “bounce” out of the bottom of a squat or clean to stand back up to our starting position. The box breaks up the phases of the eccentric (coming down) and the concentric (coming up) of the squat, by us sitting down and back once on the box before standing up. Because of this we lose some of the kinetic or stored energy in the body and forces the lifter to reverse the movement and use more explosive strength to overcome the energy lost.
  5. Builds The Posterior Chain. Because we are able to squat much wider in a box squat we put more force and tension into the muscles of our hamstrings, hips and glutes. Almost everyone is anterior chain dominant, meaning the front half of our bodies are stronger than our back half. Lots of pushing movements take over the minds of young adults, the appeal of bench pressing 4x a week without adequate time spent on our back half is just hurting our bodies. This leaves the posterior chain vulnerable for injury, especially the low back muscles when the same person goes to deadlift, row or even pick an object up from off the floor. We run the risk of pulling a muscle or injuring ourselves some other way. In the box squat we strengthen the entire posterior chain which in return aids in improved health of the low back and stronger/safer pulling mechanics.

“On the Internet, everyone squats. In real life, the squat rack is always empty. You figure out what this means.” – Steve Shaw

If you’ve been following along with this series, great! I applaud you and thank you! If this is your first article STOP and go back to the beginning, at minimum go back to my previous article tip #6: How And Why To Get Your Lats Engaged In Your Squat, so this can make more sense.

Dating back to the last article we covered I talked about how to properly engage your lats to create tension in your body so that we can support the loads of gravity with the barbell. A common mistake I see, even if someone is utilizing these tips is their hand placement on the barbell. There are a few loopholes you could say when it comes to hand width on the bar. If someone is very large or has the wingspan of Kevin Durant, (look it up if you don’t know who he is, truly amazing), they have no choice but to grab the barbell as wide as possible. However, if the lifter is just your average sized male or female they should have a much different approach regarding their hand placement, assuming there are no shoulder limitations due to past injuries (in which case I suggest using a safety squat bar). If the limitation is shoulder mobility then you should be working to improve that already.

Assuming the lifter is in perfect condition and normal size and height I would not have the lifter place their hands too far from shoulder width, if they are holding the barbell closer to the actual weights chances are they’re negatively affecting their squat.

How so?

With all of this space between their hands and the shoulder they’re not able to efficiently load the weight into their lats. Remember the lats are a huge muscle group. We want to distribute as much weight as we can into them. With that space little to no tension is created, their elbows will for sure flare out as they begin to hit the hole and rise up out of the bottom of the squat. Another thing that will happen if this is a heavy load, due to the center of mass drifting them forward with the improper hand placement, the chest will cave down and the pressure of the lift is displaced into the low back. Not a good position to be in for the squat. Essentially you will either good morning the weight up risking injury to your spine or you will miss the lift altogether.

The fix?

Simple. I will have the lifter grab the barbell with a closer hand placement towards the body or center of the bar. Now proper lat recruitment can be established, the lifters center of mass will remain over the midline of the body, the chest will not cave down, everything will rise as one unit and the lift is done safely.

See how a simple thing such as where to hold the barbell can sometimes make or break your squat?

Conclusion:

  • Proper hand placement based on person’s build.
  • Work on shoulder mobility thoroughly with continuous barbell squatting to keep shoulders healthy.  

This concludes the squat tip series! I certainly hope that this has been able to help you in your own lifting! Please feel free to share if I have been able to help you in the slightest. If you have any other questions over the squat or would like to see more content please email me: zach@motivathletics.com


Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1

“Squats work your whole body. Your legs bend and straighten to move the weight. Your abs and lower back muscles stabilize your trunk while your legs move. Your upper-back, shoulders and arms balance the bar on your back. Many muscles work at the same time, not just your legs.” – Mehdi

What are your lats?
Your latissimus dorsi “lats” for short are the largest muscles in your upper body. That’s right even larger than your chest muscles. Hmm, think those should be trained to increase your bench? That will be another topic later. They are found on your posterior chain and are often referred to as “wings” in the bodybuilding community because if developed enough it resembles the structure of a bat. Your lats connect at 5 different points in the body and are used for numerous functions; humeral extension, adduction, rotation and possibly the most important is stabilizing.

How to engage them?
It is damn near pointless to tell your lifter or client while they’re squatting to engage your lats or whatever vernacular you use if they simply don’t know or understand how to do so. Heck most gym goers may not even know what or where their lat is! And that’s completely ok and a reason I am writing this article. It is one thing to engage them without a barbell and another to do so while holding the barbell on your back, so I’ll give my favorite cues for both.

  • Without a barbell

I can’t remember where I read this example but I am no where smart enough to think of it myself ha! you can give me the credit if you want though I won’t mind. Imagine you are sitting in front of a computer typing up a paper with proper posture of course. Now depress “push” your shoulders down as if you were trying to put them in your front pockets. Now while doing that I want you to slide your hands/arms away from your keyboard and toward your belly. Do you feel that?! You should feel an increased tightness/activation in your back aka lats! Boom! You have now engaged your lats.

  • With a barbell

Ok so now if we followed the steps mentioned above we know how to engage our lats without a barbell, but now we must utilize this for our squat with the bar. You can mimic the same cues as above if that works for you, if not don’t fret here are a few more! Before the barbell is taken off of the rack we should be thinking to create that tension/tightness in our lats. With our hands on the barbell I want you to secure it tightly in your traps using that knurling to create a “lock” function. Your hands should be squeezing that bar securely so the hands do not roll at all during the lift. This also helps the elbows stay pointed downward as opposed to chicken winging which will lose the tension created in the lats. Now act as if you are bending that barbell over the back. Envision the same motion as a lat pulldown or an overhand pull-up. This depresses the scapula and squeezes everything into the midline of the body. If you were holding a pencil between your shoulder blades it should not fall. Your lats should at this point be fully engaged.

Why should I engage them in my squat?
The lats play a major role in stabilization of the squat. They aid to keep the barbell securely placed on your back as well as help protect the spinal column and keep an upright torso. If you do not train your lats or are a person who overtrains the front half “mirror muscles” of the body you simply cannot stabilize and support heavy loads on your back. Your back will give out and you will look like the hunchback of Notre Dame trying to squat that weight up. It is said by some fitness professionals in the industry, and I must agree, that if you know how to properly engage your lats in your squat that alone can add up to 30 pounds to your number. Who wouldn’t want to increase their squat by 30 pounds by simply learning how to engage your lats. Not to mention this will also keep your spine and hips healthy as the load of the barbell is more evenly distributed throughout the body.

Bonus: Tips To Strengthen Lats
To strengthen your lats you should double down on any pulling movement as opposed to pushing movements. This will greatly positively affect your big 3 lifts (squat,bench,deadlift) as well as make you a stronger physical specimen. Strong back = strong body.

My top 3 exercises for bigger, stronger lats:

  1. Heavy deadlifts (heavy is different for everyone based on their current strength level).
  2. Any variation of rows (barbell,dumbbell,cable).
  3. Pull-ups – Don’t sleep on properly executed bodyweight movements.

Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1

“The squat is the perfect analogy for life. It’s about standing back up after something heavy takes you down.” – Unknown

This tip is going to be rather short but by no means is it not important! Hopefully the prior weeks articles have been able to help your squat either become pain free, more confident or even stronger! This weeks tip is something that was brought to my attention by a very strong and local powerlifter. He was watching me squat and noticed a lack of execution on the upward phase of my squat. I was pushing up and out (externally rotating) with my feet as I was coming up out of the hole but my upper body was just along for the ride. I was informed to push with my legs and also push or drive my shoulders straight up into the barbell. Once I did this on my next set I instantly noticed my bar speed drastically increase as the weight flew its way up! Not only was I using my lower body obviously to lift the weight but I now was recruiting even more musculature and energy into the lift by using my upper back to lift the weight in the proper direction.

Doing this also has a few other benefits in your squat. For instance, when if you are having issues on your way up and you tend to fall or lean forward try this cue out. Emphasizing the driving of your shoulders straight upward will hopefully keep you in the same path that you came down in resulting in a more efficient squat pattern. We want that weight distributed throughout the midline of the body/foot the entire portion of the lift. A common mistake that can arise from just someone saying drive your shoulders into the bar without demonstrating it can cause the lifter to shrug their shoulders. DO NOT DO THIS! We don’t want the shoulders to elevate and shrug because then the tightness we created in the upper back can become lost. Rather so, we want to drive up our whole upper body into the barbell. If the shoulders alone rise in a shrug pattern then re-evaluate this cue to yourself. Try videoing yourself and find a way to resolve this issue.

Conclusion

Don’t just push with your legs on your way up.

  • Drive your entire upper back into barbell, creating a straight upward bar path.  
  • If your shrugging the barbell, stop and find out how to fix the issue.

Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1

“Not only are squats not bad for the knees, every legitimate research study on this subject has shown that squats improve knee stability and therefore help reduce the risk of injuries.” – Charles Poliquin

What is external rotation?

External rotation is the turning away or outward from the midline of the body. In this case it would be turning your leg/knee away from your body.

How do I externally rotate?

This movement is able to happen because the leg connects with the hip joint which is a ball in socket joint (a joint in which a ball moves within a socket to allow rotary motion in every direction within certain limits. “Definition Of BALL-AND-SOCKET JOINT”). An often heard cue for external rotation is knees out. I’m sure you may have heard this cue before. To a seasoned lifter who understands the concept it works perfectly, but to others it may not. I remember using it with one of my early on clients who was completely new to squatting. I told him knees out and he took it literal. He squatted down feet narrow and knees out, I couldn’t help but to share a laugh with him at how he looked. He did everything right according to what I said, that cue just didn’t resonate with him quite yet. I then went to another cue which clicked with him. I told him to imagine as if his feet were screws and his legs the screwdriver. I told him to screw those feet into the floor without moving your feet sideways or having them slide out. Doing this ensure that your knees stay in line with your toes as you twist out. He now knew how to externally rotate.

Why should I externally rotate?

Have you ever seen the bone of a leg in anatomy class or on your favorite criminal investigation show? There are many marks and bumps along the surface. If we do not externally rotate these marks and bumps may get caught or rub up on the contracted muscles limiting our range of motion in the movement or causing pain. Going back to the hip joint being a ball in socket joint we are able to move the femur around to receive a greater ROM in the movement. As you should know by now by my past articles, the more we can distribute weight throughout the body the lighter that load on our back feels and also helps us lift the most amount of weight possible. By screwing our feet into the floor we are also activating the entire lateral side of our leg muscles allowing for more muscle recruitment and stability throughout the squat. You also want to squeeze and activate your glutes prior to externally rotating. This is also how we should go about un-racking the barbell, by externally rotating not just standing up. Try it yourself place your hand along the outside of your leg and screw your feet into the floor. Feel all the muscles turn on? This is a key component to a big squat.

Conclusion:

  • Think of your feet as screws and your legs the driver. Use them to screw your feet in the floor for more stability and muscle recruitment.
  • Externally rotate on the way DOWN and on the way UP of the squat.
  • This will also ensure the knees don’t cave in towards each other which can lead to serious injury.
  • Turn on the muscles needed for your squat. Activate your glutes and thighs from the moment you un-rack the bar.

Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1

“If you find yourself down in the bottom of the squat and you’re just kinda chilling, you’re probably not squatting right.” – Greg Glassman

Ah, the ever so controversial topic of breathing during your lifts, in this case the squat. How many of us have either read or learned in some type of school setting that we are to breath out “exhale” on the concentric (up) part of the lift and inhale “breathe in” on the eccentric (down) portion of the lift? Most people tend to side with my reasoning after I explain the following scenario. John is squatting close to his 1RM. He has mentally prepared himself walks the lift out and begins his decent. As John begins to come up out of that hole with near his 1RM he exhales losing his brace and lets his air out of his stomach aka his “power source”. John begins to get folded in half by the load on his back and ends up missing his lift. Poor John. Does it really make sense to let out our air when that is exactly what is needed to stay braced, engaged and stable throughout the lift? Of course not! If we are not able to remain stable it is impossible for us to be strong, no matter what lift we are performing. I teach my clients/athletes to either hold their breath on their way up keeping their “IAP” intra-abdominal pressure (pressure within the abdominal cavity) locked in IF and ONLY IF they are experienced enough lifters who are comfortable doing so. The more common way I would inform a client to breathe while staying braced is to let out short quick burst of air out of their mouth as they begin to power out of the hole. Think “tss” “tss” tss” all the way up as you might hear a pro boxer as he delivers punch after punch to his opponent. Sometimes you may hear loud manly grunts be a result of this. Trust me it is not always controllable, we are not trying to be the alpha in the building it is just the effect of pushing through big weights. Keeping that air in your belly will ensure we keep and use our IAP, stay braced and get enough blood to the brain avoiding the “passing out” side effect of holding our breath, especially doing so under a heavy load. Not only does this help our spine and our core from wanting to break or give out but it will help aid our upper back to stay strong and hold that barbell in the same position from the time we go down till the time we stand back up and rack the weight.

Proper breathing and bracing of our core for the squat is an important factor to protecting our spinal column and avoiding injury. You cannot simply just take in a bunch of air and forget to brace. Just as you cannot flex your abs “bracing” without first gathering air into the diaphragm. To learn how to do this correctly, give this test from Squat University a try. Place one hand onto your stomach with the other on your side towards your lower ribs. From here I want you to take a big breath. If this move was done properly you should feel your stomach both rise and fall, with a little pressure towards those lower ribs expanding laterally out to the side. This is creating an increase in volume in our core. When we take that big breath our diaphragm contracts and descends down towards our stomach. Think of pushing that air down in your gut as if you were trying to give birth to a baby. If this move is done improperly, you will notice the chest rise and fall as if you were gasping for breath. Not a very effective place for one to store their air for the squat.

How to brace now that we have our breath?

Let’s take our hand back to our stomach again for another demonstration. With our hand on our stomach take a big breath. Once we have taken the breath I want you to brace your core “stomach” muscles as if you were about to get sucker punched in the gut. Another cue that always seems to work is act like you are pushing your lunch out of your back end on the toilet, graphic I know but this one works and usually gets a few chuckles, especially from the males. Combining both the actions of breathing and bracing increases the IAP mentioned before inside our abdominal cavity. No more volume can enter, we are locked and loaded! Our core is braced, the lower spine is stabilized and safe and we are ready to push some weight!

Conclusion:

  • Forget the books. Don’t let all your air out on your way up of the squat.
  • You must breath AND brace to protect your spine and get all the benefits.

References

  • Horschig, Aaron, and Kevin Sonthana. “How To Breathe When Squatting”. Squat University, 2016, https://squatuniversity.com/2016/02/12/the-squat-fix-core-stability-proper-breathing/.

Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1

“Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat”. – Louie Simmons

Welcome back to the squat tip series! Last week we brought to your attention to how important your head and eye position can be during your squats. This week we’re gonna talk about how to be efficient and get the absolute most out of our walkout.

How many of us have either seen or been a victim to walking up to the squat bar, placing it on our backs and then go straight to un-racking it, walking it out as fast as we can like its a race and dropping it like its hot in the hole and beginning your sets? I know that I have fallen a victim to this at some point in my lifting career and if I could I would go back to those times and punch myself straight in the kisser. Better yet how many of us go on social media to learn how to perfect our form? This is actually a beneficial tool to use but only if we are being careful who we take those tips from. Some “fit pro” who has hundreds of thousands of followers (probably solely off of their looks) but their squat looks like a flamingo trying to take a shit is not someone who I would trust advice from. Going back to the quote above, which is probably my favorite of all time, don’t be fooled by nice things and “fame” on Instagram. Get valuable knowledge from someone with actual experience either under the bar themselves or who has worked with higher level lifters/athletes. Ok, rant done back to the main topic here, which is being efficient in your un-rack/walkout.

Cue #1: Head Position From The Un-rack Position

As we’ve all read in week 1’s article going over head/eye positioning during your squat it is very important and all starts from the get go. From the moment you take that first step towards your barbell you should be thinking to put yourself in an efficient position. We know where to look and place our head DURING our squats but where should we be at when un-racking and walking the weight out? Well its simple. If the point is to not get bent over by the weight and stay in the most optimal position possible then why would we do anything other than start our movement in the same position that we would squat in. When getting that barbell placed securely on your back/traps your head should be in that neutral position as if your looking out into that audience. As we begin to take our steps back in our walkout at NO TIME do we move our head and look down. Even if we look down for a second we are getting loose in our upper back (we will cover this in a later article) and little by little that weight is going to start to fold us over and your chest will cave downward. But what if I can’t see where I’m walking since I’m going backwards? Simple. you should have already inspected your surroundings making sure there are no loose weights for you to trip on. Plus I will mention this cue soon, you shouldn’t be walking too far to begin with. Now we’re walked out, head is in the correct position and we can now begin our squat in an efficient position.

Cue #2: Breathing

Ah, the ever so controversial topic of breathing during your lifts, in this case the squat. This week I will just touch on the subject and the importance of our breath during the walkout. Next week we will dive deeper into bracing and breathing during the entirety of the squat. Without getting to far out ahead of ourselves here I will give a little spoiler, I want you to hold your breath. Yes you heard me right! HOLD YOUR BREATH. Not necessarily for the whole squat as you will see next week but rather so only for our walkout. If we un-rack the barbell and as we walk out exhale a few breaths, that load on our back is going to use gravity to slowly fold us over. We do not want our upper back to get loose at all during this process. That barbell on our back should stay in the same position from the un-rack until we walk back in to re-rack the weight. By holding our breath during this walkout process (which should be a short process) we are making sure we are staying efficient and setting ourselves the best we can to complete the lift. Once we are done walking the weight out we will need to get a new breath of air before descending into our squat. This process does take some practice so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it right away. I want you to keep that head in the correct position from cue #1, then I want a short and quick breath out of your mouth and then without letting a second to waste grabbing all of that air quickly back into your body. Think 25% of the air out on the exhale and 100% air back in so we can have that to use to stay stable and strong. If you can I like to teach to get the air into your body for the squat through your nose as opposed to your mouth. Reason being is that if we take a breath in through our mouth it is easy to hold that air in our cheeks like a chipmunk and not in our diaphragm were we need it the most. In next week’s article I will dive into how to properly brace your core and protect your spine during the squat.

Cue #3: Un-rack Stance Mimics Squat Stance

For those of you who may not know their are typically 2 different styles to choose from when squatting; low bar and high bar. The low bar squat is generally seen more in the sport of powerlifting and those who lift really really heavy weight. this style of squat is more hamstring and glute dominant as the lifter is able to stay more upright in their torso, create a shorter range of motion and is done so in a wide stance with the toes slightly pointed out. The other style is referred to as, you guessed it a high bar squat. This is typically what you will see in your gym especially if you have any weightlifters around. The high bar squat is more quad dominant and calls for more ankle mobility as the knees track more so in front of the toes and is done so in a closer or “shoulder width” stance with the toes again slightly pointed out. So if we know that we are going to be squatting a low bar stance it only makes sense that we avoid any unnecessary steps under load that could lead to a mishap or put us out of position. So a low bar squat calls for setting up under the bar to un-rack with our feet already in a “wide” stance just as if we were squatting high bar we would set up our un-rack in a “shoulder width” stance. Then from here taking no more than 3-4 steps until we settle and begin our descent. This leads us into cue #4.

Cue #4: Speed & Length Of Walkout

If there’s one thing I see in the weightroom that makes me cringe besides witnessing someone perform bicep curls in the squat rack, it would be seeing someone speed walk the barbell out of the rack while taking a million steps before settling themselves to what seems halfway across the gym. Talk about wasted energy. As we all should know by now there are A LOT of little cues that go into properly un-racking and walking out the barbell. When walking out the barbell often times there is going to be weight on the ends causing the barbell to move up and down with each step that you take. The faster steps you take, the more unstable that barbell becomes. We need to take our time and under control un-rack the barbell and take short slow steps to get to our desired placement. Doing this ensures minimal bar whip (bar whip is the bouncing up and down of the barbell that occurs when the bar changes directions quickly). Next we need to decide how far one should walk out under control. This is all about conserving our energy for the actual squat. All that needs to happen if you’re squatting in a cage or out of a squat rack is you need to clear the collars (the collars are what the racked barbell was on prior to the un-rack). So why do some of us feel the need to walkout 15 steps? Let’s focus on taking 3-4 short controlled steps resulting in us ending in our desired squat stance. An example step pattern would be this; stand up “un-rack”, step out and back with the right foot, step out back and plant the left foot, short step with the right foot and plant. Now both of our feet are planted into the ground, we are in our squat stance and we have plenty of energy to put towards our squat.

Conclusion:

  • Neutral head position during the un-rack and walkout.
  • Focus on your breathing and staying tight and stable, we cannot be strong if we are not stable.
  • Have your un-rack stance be the same stance your squat is and have both legs under the barbell when un-racking. NEVER un-rack a barbell in a split stance regardless of the weight.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Control the walkout and save your energy for the actual squat.

“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat” – Mark Rippetoe

Do you want to increase your squat? No one wants to be the guy who has a huge upper body and can bench 3+ wheels but can’t duplicate or even come close to his/her body weight on the squat. If this sounds like you DON’T PANIC! Maybe you’re just missing that one key cue to take your squat numbers through the roof! Over the next few weeks I will be writing an article a week on different cues that I’ve found to be helpful not only in my own training but for others as well.

Let’s start with tip #1: The Body follows the eyes “Head Placement”

Have you ever heard this saying before? Maybe you’ve heard it on the playing field growing up playing sports. Maybe you heard it when you were a young kid trying to learn how to run for the first time. Well this is just as important to think about when lifting weights, particularly when you’re squatting. Often times I see the squatter focusing on a plethora of cues, involving knee positioning, breathing, the walkout but the placement of the head/eyes are overlooked. Where you’re looking is just as important if not even more so than the others. Often times this is teller of whether or not the lifter will successfully complete the lift, and more so do so safely.

How can your head/eye placement make or break your squat you ask?

Envision this. You are under the bar about to squat something heavy, (the weight doesn’t matter, but for the sake of this let’s pretend it does) you unrack the bar, walk it out and begin to start your descent. On your way down your head/eyes are looking straight down at the floor in front of you (not a neutral spine alignment)(see picture above). Now you’ve hit your desired depth, you begin to stand up with the weight only to have that weight start to fold you in half as your center of gravity/barbell carries you forward, your chest caves down right where you’re looking at and ultimately you fail the lift or complete the lift but in an unsafe manner. Now there could be numerous reasons as to why the lift wasn’t completed, but a good spot to start especially if you know the lifter is strong enough is with his/her head/eye placement. You see if you are set up with the bar and you are looking down your body will more often than not naturally follow the eyes resulting in you tracking forward with that weight on your back.

The fix?

Now you wait 5-10 minutes cue your lifter to change the positioning of their head/eyes, (I teach to envision yourself on a stage of a sold out audience, you want to be looking out just over each one of their heads. This will keep you in a proper neutral spine alignment and best position to execute the lift) and do everything else the same way. They hit the lift safely and now learned what could have been causing them issues in their squats.

Conclusion:

  • Keep head and eyes in a neutral position from the time you unrack the bar till the time you rack the bar.
  • Make sure your “logo” on your chest can be seen. Avoid caving that chest downward. If this occurs re check your head/eye positioning
  • Squat BIG weight SAFELY!

Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1