Use Your Hands To Your Advantage | Squat Tips 7 of 7

hanley —  June 10, 2019 — Leave a comment

“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?


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

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