Drive Shoulders Into The Bar | Squat Tips 5 of 7

hanley —  May 23, 2019 — Leave a comment

“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.


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

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