3 Exercises To Help You Squat Deeper. Without a Single Mobility Drill

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Today’s guest post comes courtesy of fellow Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio (AKA: the other Tony). He’s got some excellent pointers on squat technique and how you can go about improving squat depth without mention of a single mobility exercise.

Enjoy!

 

I didn’t like hip-hop music until I met Tony Gentilcore. I’m more of a heavy metal guy, but when TG handles DJ duties during staff lift, I can’t help but get amped up to the sounds of the 90’s Hip Hop or Dirty South Pandora stations.

Note From TG: Tribe Called Quest Radio. You’re welcome.

So when Ludacris poses the esoteric question, “How low can you go?” during a heavy squat workout, it gets me thinking how I can get my clients to safely improve their squat depth.

TG is right when he says not everyone should (or needs to) squat as low as possible. But outside of our baseball players at CSP, I deal primarily with powerlifters who need to squat below parallel in competition. If they can’t get low enough, their squats won’t count, so we prioritize hitting depth in training.

When we combine deep squats with heavy loads and we know not everyone can hit depth (defined as the hip joint passing below the top of the knee joint) easily, how do we get there in the best position possible.

Well, you could stretch, foam roll and mobilize every joint head to toe. Or you could just learn how to squat.

The second option is my favorite. In my experience, nine times out of 10, a person’s inability to squat to depth is NOT a mobility issue but rather a squat strategy issue. Simply picking the right squat accessory exercises to hammer home an optimal squat pattern will almost always improve depth and strength. Here are my three favorite squat exercises to help you drop it low and crush heavy weights.

Squatting: Upright vs. Hip Hinge

First, here’s a harsh reality: an upright squat will always be the most mechanically efficient squat. If you’re pointing your nipples at the floor to use “hip drive,” you’ll never maximize the contribution of your legs and abs. There’s a reason every 1,000-pound squatter (raw or geared) stays almost perfectly vertical through their torso instead of leaning forward.

 

Are YOU gonna tell Malanichev to lean forward with 1,036 pounds on his back? Didn’t think so.

Here’s what happens far too often when people try to squat: they puff their chest up (thoracic extension), which pulls the ribcage up. They take a big breath, which is entirely ineffective because you can’t get good intra-abdominal pressure with a poor rib cage position. Then, they push their butt back as they squat down (lumbar extension, anterior pelvic tilt and hip flexion simultaneously).

Like a seesaw, as one side drops (the chest), the other side must go up to maintain balance (the hips). Not surprisingly, you can’t hip depth if your hips are shooting up and back to keep you from falling forward.

This scenario also effectively minimizes the space the head of the femur has to glide in the hip socket while limiting the contribution from your anterior core to keep your torso upright. What happens? Your hips get stuck so you fall forward to try to get lower. All bad news if you want to squat low and heavy safely.

That said, the optimal squat pattern is going to have an upright torso, knees out and slightly forward of the toes and the hips between the knees. This is much preferred to leaning forward with a vertical shin and over-arched lower back if greater depth is desired.

Here’s how to dial in that optimal pattern:

1. Front Squats

Front squats can cure your depth woes by teaching you to sit straight down between your knees instead of sitting behind your knees. You simply can’t sit back and dump your pelvis forward or you’ll dump the bar, so you internalize proper positioning. Carry this same strategy over to your back squat and you’ll be in business.

 

That’s why we use so many front squat variations at CSP. It immediately dials in a solid ribcage position and forces you to stabilize with your anterior core instead of your lumbar extensors.

I’ve lost count of the number of athletes who get stuck above parallel with a back squat or body weight squat but can magically sit their butt to their heels with a front squat. Kind of throws the mobility excuse out the window, huh?

By learning to keep the ribs down, chest up and knees out, you create proper alignment for nailing a deep squat. If you struggle with depth, try front squatting for a few weeks before returning to the back squat and I’m confident your depth will improve.

2. High-Bar Pause Squats

Also called Olympic squats because of their popularity with weightlifters, high-bar squats bridge the gap between front squats and a powerlifting-style back squat.

 

A low-bar position (i.e. holding the bar across the rear deltoids instead of the traps) has ruined many a squatter’s depth. You might be able to handle more weight because it keeps the bar closer to your hips, but it doesn’t matter one bit if you can’t hip depth because it pitches you forward too much.

Switching to a slightly higher bar position has helped many of my lifters get lower. Similar to the front squat, it lets you stay more upright so you can lock the ribcage down and stabilize with your abs instead of your lower back.

Adding a brief pause at the bottom position builds confidence in the hole, which eliminates much of the fear associated with squatting low. This also forces the lifter to initiate the reversal by staying tall and driving the knees out.

Try high-bar pause squats as your second exercise on a squat day. Pause anywhere from 1 to 5 seconds and do sets of 3-8 reps. You can pause at the lowest position, right below parallel, or even on the way back up to target specific sticking points.

Note From TG: These suck donkey balls. You’ll hate life, but they work. Get it done.

3. Squat to Pins

Not to be confused with an Anderson squat where the bar starts on the pins, squatting to the pins hammers home the same technique points as a front squat but is even more sinister and unforgiving.

 

By lowering the bar to the pins and pausing, you’ll have virtually no room for error in torso position. If you sit back and lean forward, you’ll immediately get stuck as you try to squat back up. Only by staying tall, driving the knees out and keeping the bar over the mid-foot will you be able to stand up.

Few exercises build control and confidence like squatting to the pins. These not only cured my falling-forward problem, but also eliminated my knee cave issues by forcing me to spread the floor and keep tension in my hips.

Cues to Cure Your Squat Woes

Remember these useful cues as you practice these squat variations:

  • “Belt buckle toward your chin” – This prevents unlocking the pelvis as you sit down.
  • “Take all the air out of the room” – This stabilizes your spine by filling your belly and lower back with air.
  • “Bend the bar around your traps” – This locks in the lats to help you tay upright.
  • “Spread the floor apart” – This tenses up your hips and glutes to keep your knees out.

Notice there’s not a single instance of “chest up” or “sit back” on that list. Ditch these antiquated strategies for the ones above and you’ll be hitting depth more consistently while getting stronger.

Optimizing the “Big 3.”

Want to learn these strategies in person? Come see me and Greg Robins at our Optimizing the Big 3 seminar at Warhorse Barbell in Philadelphia on September 19.

There are only a few spots left, so sign up today.

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  • Roberto Vázquez

    Great stuff! Actually, I have had to learn to squat again because I realised my squat technique isn’t good enough. I’ve been improving my squat with Goblet squats, which have similar benefits to front squats (upright torso, abs stabilization…). I usually do band squats (TG talk about that in some post of this blog) to avoid keens in.

    Thanks!

    Keep it up!

  • Dimitar Mihov

    Interesting. I don’t mean to hate but that is not entirely true topic here.

    1) First of all if i’m not mistaken the first photo is from Mark Ripptoe’s seminar. Which clearly shows a correct squat. WITH BIG LEAN.

    Second part is that Dan Green is another example with bigger lean that Andrey. Are you telling me, that for different athletes with different morphology, the mid-foot-balance of either low or high bar squat… is gonna look the same? What is this, a robotic-class?

    I have two clients. Both squat with same “tehchnical” training and style. However one of them has really looong torso. The other one doesn’t. Also they’re both female and hypermobile, so no mobility is stopping either one. They squat with DIFFERENT leanness due to their differences.

    Nowhere any sensible coach has ever suggested peforming a DEADLIFT (an RDL hip-hinge movement) for the squat. The squat is the SQUAT.

    If i remember correctly Starting Strength points that knees should go out and hips should go back and down. But just hips hinge is never being discussed as a proper technique.

    However a more or less upright squat NEVER is determined by your efforts as much as your build. The strongest squat will always be your best.

    EVERY SINGLE ONE of those strong powerlifters drives with their hips up. Not back, but up. Look at Jeremy Hamilton — the newest World record. You will notice he’s a bit more lean forward that Alexey, but not as much as Dan. However he still drives with his hips aggresively up!

    Then can we point out Johnie Candito? So you’re telling me Candito is weak right? Because last time i checked, he got his latest PR with a HUGE leanning forward to make up the lift itself, even though he started a bit more upright. HIS BUILT IS WHAT DICTATES THAT.

    2) Tony are you certain that mobility issues are the problem with squat depth? Are you telling me that there isn’t an optimal hip placement due to individual bony structures stopping the squat? And really how much Stretching or front squatting does a person need to reach his maximal depth before anatomically rounding with the pelvis?

    • Dimitar Mihov

      And to add a bit more since i cant edit my guest entry:

      Is Layne Norton weak then? He’s got a HUGE lean.
      Is Chris Duffin weak? He’s got middle lean.

      I own Cressey Products (HP manual), but such posts makes me double check for the next time!

      • TonyGentilcore

        Dimitar: this wasn’t meant to be an end-all-be-all post on squat mechanics. At the end of the day there’s no such thing as ONE best way to squat.

        This post was meant to shed some light on how some people may be able to go about squatting deeper (if that tends to be an issue).

        I’ve written in the past on how anatomy comes into play and that not everyone is meant to squat deep. Again, this article wasn’t meant to answer EVERY question on squatting mechanics. but rather just to bring up a few talking points for those who “may” be struggling with depth.

        And, I don’t believe Tony (B) was calling out anyone for being weak.

        PS: You’re TOTALLY right on that pic I included from Rippetoe’s seminar. I removed that from the post (I added it, not Tony B and it certainly didn’t fit the message of this post).

  • You are using Starting Strength material without understanding it. After showing the illustration telling us that back angle is determined by bar position, you go on to talk about achieving various back angles regardless of bar position. You also fail to mention anthropometry, that a squat with a long-legged person will look different to one short-legged, etc.

    If the bar is over midfoot while the back is locked in extension, then the position is good, even if it looks “too upright” or “too leaned-forward.” If you’re used to seeing front squats then a correctly-performed low-bar squat will look like a good morning; if you’re used to seeing low-bar then a front squat will look ridiculous. From the tone of the article it’s obvious you’re not used to seeing low-bar squats.

    If a person is able to achieve depth with one kind of squat but not another, I agree this isn’t mobility. If it’s an issue beyond the first set, then it’s coaching. Do not confuse your inability to teach something with the person’s inability to do it. When my lifters fail, I look first to myself.

    Tony, you should have taken my suggestion to go see Rip when you were in Austin. You could then have taught Cressey something.

    • TonyGentilcore

      It was my mistake for adding the illustration. Total brain fart on my end.

      Really, my intent for the initial use was to show the depth of the squat with the thigh being below knee level (it wasn’t to dispute bar placement and torso angle, etc). Total asshat moment on my part.

      And, I don’t feel neither I (nor Tony B, who wrote the post) have ever stated we disagree with Rippetoe. We both wholeheartedly understand bar over midfoot, etc.

      I really don’t feel this post should be taken as a BE ALL approach to how we coach the squat, nor should it stand as a reflection of every coach at CSP.

      We all understand that different people are different and that the squat should be catered to fit the individual. We DO have people squat with low bar (and high). Narrow stance (and wide). Upright torso and forward lean.

      THIS post was just to give some insight on depth and some things (maybe, possibly) that could be used to help people get there.

      To reiterate it was MY fault for including the initial diagram (it was supposed to reflect what “good” depth was meant to look like). Total deserve any backlash in that regard.

      In all, though, I’d like to think the amount of material that I, and the rest of the CSP staff would reflect that we know how to coach a squat (and that every cue is NOT meant to match every person, ever).

      It’s a blog post, not a 400 page dissertation.

      • Tim Enfield

        Wow. remind me not to write about squat positioning in a blog post. I actually liked this post, particularly Tony B’s videos. The article is intended to demonstrate that an athlete should demonstrate a solid zone of apposition to stabilize the trunk whilst squatting. Tony coaches athletes (not unlike Rip) where the importance of posture, pattern and positioning is a priority.. Still more, The use of external cues such as these as a method of teaching is well supported by research in its efficacy. Young coaches and personal trainers would be well served in reading this. Good job Tony.

        • TonyGentilcore

          It’s the internet. Shit happens…….

  • Thomas Campitelli

    Dear Messrs. Bonvechio and Gentilcore,

    Please remove the picture of the woman squatting from the top of this article. I took that picture at a Starting Strength Seminar and gave permission for Mark Rippetoe to use it in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post. That permission was not extended to you so please remove it.

    Further, your usage of that picture is puzzling given several assertions in the article. The woman pictured there is doing a low bar squat, with an appropriate amount of forward lean, and using “hip drive,” with which you take issue below.

    > First, here’s a harsh reality: an upright squat will always
    > be the most mechanically efficient squat. If you’re
    > pointing your nipples at the floor to use “hip drive,”
    > you’ll never maximize the contribution of your legs and abs.

    This is, of course incorrect.

    > There’s a reason every 1,000-pound squatter (raw or geared)
    > stays almost perfectly vertical through their torso instead
    > of leaning forward.

    This is also, of course, incorrect. The examples are so numerous and obvious that pointing them out is almost unnecessary. As others have noted, Dan Green, Layne Norton, Kirk Karwoski, and Ed Coan all lean over significantly and carry the bar in a low position across the back. This becomes more puzzling when you say the following:

    > Are YOU gonna tell Malanichev to lean forward with 1,036
    > pounds on his back? Didn’t think so.

    I am not going to tell Mr. Malanichev anything because he is already leaning over and doing a hip driven, low bar squat.

    > This scenario also effectively minimizes the space the head
    > of the femur has to glide in the hip socket while limiting
    > the contribution from your anterior core to keep your torso
    > upright.

    Your anterior “core” can only contract to produce force. This would result in in spinal flexion if done concentrically. An isometric contraction of the abdominals helps with overall tightness and is required for a good squat, but it is your posterior musculature including the erector spinae and hamstrings which will control your back angle and hold the spine in normal anatomical position.

    > A low-bar position (i.e. holding the bar across the rear
    > deltoids instead of the traps) has ruined many a squatter’s
    > depth. You might be able to handle more weight because it
    > keeps the bar closer to your hips, but it doesn’t matter
    > one bit if you can’t hip depth because it pitches you
    > forward too much.

    Once again, this is factually incorrect. However, if this is truly your assertion, why then did you choose a picture of a woman doing a low bar squat at a Starting Strength Seminar and a video of Andrey Malanichev?

    > Switching to a slightly higher bar position has helped many
    > of my lifters get lower. Similar to the front squat, it
    > lets you stay more upright so you can lock the ribcage down
    > and stabilize with your abs instead of your lower back.

    All of my lifters squat low bar. The carry the bar just below the scapular spine and on top of the rear delts. They look down, lean over, and get below parallel every time. That is because I coach them to do so.

    In a comment above, Mr. Gentilcore said:

    > And, I don’t feel neither I (nor Tony B, who wrote the
    > post) have ever stated we disagree with Rippetoe. We both
    > wholeheartedly understand bar over midfoot, etc.

    I am convinced that neither you nor Mr. Bonvechio are even passingly familiar with what Mark Rippetoe advocates. That you could have read Mr. Bonvechio’s article and not picked up several fundamental points of contention with Rippetoe’s ideas confirms this.

    To sum up, please remove my picture from your article. It is not yours to use. Further, I would never grant you permission to use it in this context because not only does it fundamentally conflict with the points you are trying to make, it is being used to advocate ideas with which I disagree and I have shown above to be incorrect. Mr. Bonvechio’s analysis is deeply and fundamentally flawed. His inability to identify what actually happens in the squat is made clear in his article. All claims of “it’s just a blog post” fall flat. You have used material that is not yours to incorrectly describe things you do not understand.

    I would urge both you and your readers to visit http://www.startingstrength.com, read the books, train using the methods recommended, and attend a seminar. I guarantee you will come away with a much better understanding of these lifts, their physical and anatomical underpinnings, and how to effectively coach them. Doing so would help to avoid such embarrassing errors in the future.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Photo removed. My apologies for it’s use. I’ll own that snafu for sure Thomas. It was me and NOT Tony B who placed it into the article.

      For what it’s worth: we do implement Starting Strength modalities into our programming (and I for one do hope to make a seminar in the future) Unfortunate that my mistake has translated into a pissing contest on who’s right and wrong (when I’m sure we’d all agree on quite a bit).

      Again, sorry for the use of the photograph. Sincerest regards

      • Thomas Campitelli

        Appreciated. Should you ever want me to write an article on the squat for your website, let me know.

        • TonyGentilcore

          Sure. Why not? I’d be down. Did we just internet hug and make up?

          • Thomas Campitelli

            Indeed, we did. I will drop you an email from the contact form on your website.

          • TonyGentilcore

            OMG. Without name calling or ad hominem attacks. We totally win the internet today. Look forward to hearing from you.

          • Thomas Campitelli

            Email has been sent. I am looking forward to working with you as well.

          • Dimitar Mihov

            Thomas i agree with everything you said. I have most of my lifters with low bar position happily squatting.. some of them to the floor. The ONLY instances where we use high bar is due to inability to grab the bar so low (mobility, elder people, etc.). Some of them switch to low bar over time.
            But you seem to be very well informed, i should find your YouTube channel to subscribe!

            I do not intent to hate or destroy CP, i like them. I’ve always read Eric’s stuff in the years.

            However what is right is right, and we must abide by it and just call on the bullshit.

            Also it is very ironic that the picture for the header now is Johnie Candito… WHO SQUATS WITH BIG LEAN HAHAHAHA!

            I am thankful for Tony for at least taking the balls to respond and apologize, so yes i cannot diss CP so easlily, trust me.

            But unprepared blog posts are always a dissapointment!

          • TonyGentilcore

            Where in any part of the post did anyone say we disagree with a forward lean? It’s impossible to squat without one. I think people are getting a bit too nit-picky on their own personal definitions of what constitutes as too much of a forward lean.

            Lean, BIG LEAN, lean lean, or however many different iterations of capitalized leans you’d like to use….it’s all good. But if someone leans so much that their nipples do in fact point towards the floor (which does happen, and yes, some elite squatters do squat that way, and they’re outliers) then it might bode well to tell them to implement accessory movements that help them not lean so much.

            Work on owning rib position, creating a “canister” effect (increased stability) and lets roll.

            High bar, low bar, whatever. Either can be performed with however much of a lean someone needs to be successful and not increase the likelihood they’ll fall flat on their face.

          • Dimitar Mihov

            Please don’t try to nizzle away. DON’t fucking hide.

            “First, here’s a harsh reality: an upright squat will
            always be the most mechanically efficient squat. If you’re pointing your
            nipples at the floor to use “hip drive,” you’ll never maximize the
            contribution of your legs and abs. There’s a reason every 1,000-pound
            squatter (raw or geared) stays almost perfectly vertical through their
            torso instead of leaning forward.”

            YOU in YOUR blog awolled this to be put.

            Vertical Torso?? Nipples to the floor?

            This all reeks of amateurishness and lack of understanding of the squat.

            I was all clinched and though everyone was a bit too harsh with the “read SS bro” comments, but now i do in fact support them. Read SS. Really.

            “A low-bar position (i.e. holding the bar across the rear deltoids
            instead of the traps) has ruined many a squatter’s depth. You might be
            able to handle more weight because it keeps the bar closer to your hips,
            but it doesn’t matter one bit if you can’t hip depth because it pitches
            you forward too much.”

            DONT TRY TO GET AWAY. Man up and take responsibility Both of you Tony. And don’t you dare edit the text.

            “That said, the optimal squat pattern is going to have an upright torso,
            knees out and slightly forward of the toes and the hips between the
            knees.” — Straight up bullshit.

            I’m calling it now. I take my words back. This seems like total disaster only made worse by the efforts to “yeah well we actually… yeah that and yeah we actually agree… cuz you know its bad for our blog to ruin our Repo now… so yeah we actually meant that..”.

          • TonyGentilcore

            LOL – Alright dude. Can’t make everyone happy. No point in arguing back and forth. No good is going to come of this once F-bombs start making their way into the conversation and everything is reduced to ” you’re wrong; no YOU’RE wrong” back and forth. Everyone is dug in and unwilling to bend. I’m sure we’re all getting results with our clients/athletes, upright torsos and forward leans notwithstanding.

          • Dimitar Mihov

            So Without the ability to defend your own arguments… You prove the lack of knowledge you spread through this blog post.

            Sir you’ve just acknowledged yourself what we all saw here.

          • TonyGentilcore

            I don’t owe any explanation (I didn’t write the article). And even if I did write it, I still wouldn’t owe you any explanation or be obligated to defend anything. If I spent all this time defending EVERYTHING I’ve ever written (or what other people have written), I’d never have a life outside of the internet.

            Besides, it’s clear you prefer what you prefer. The cues made in the article don’t apply to you or what you subscribe to. Big deal. Move on.

          • Dimitar Mihov

            You dont owe us explanation. True.
            But we don’t own you trust. Because you sure as hell loose it like that, and for the whole Cressey Performance team.

          • TonyGentilcore

            We don’t even lift!

          • Dimitar Mihov

            Again trying to distort the truth here? Still you have QUITE A LOT OF TIME to reply to every single comment of mine. Are you sure you don’t have the time to defend your arguments instead? Or you mean you just can’t.
            And now you resort to childish comments instead? Very professional. I hope trainers around the world are not treating their craft so jokingly, but are seeking to spread and learn the truth instead!

  • I can’t emphasize how important front squats are not just for increasing your squat, but just overall strength and mobility.

    I noticed after doing front squats that I am standing more upright and tall.

    Great post and the “spread the floor apart” tip for squatting sounds like a great queue I gotta try next time I squat.

  • Christian Gotcher

    Reading the comments, I think there’s a great deal that everyone in the conversation agrees with:
    1) a shins-vertical squat is a bad squat
    2) most people have no business squatting ATG, and many people sacrifice good form by trying
    3) “mobility” isn’t really the problem with getting depth most of the time.
    4) Tony Gentilcore is a class act

    Something tells me much of the disagreement here is in terminology and what TB uses to cue himself and his clients as he lifts. I would describe the squat in his YouTube tutorial (1:33- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chfnfI3DhYU ) and his 500# PR video as a low-bar squat with significant forward lean and some definite hip drive. I’m sure it *feels* like an upright torso and like the hips are going straight down, and those may be necessary cues for someone who’s having issues because they were taught a shins-vertical-geared-“powerlifting”-squat, even if that’s not what’s actually happening to the lifter’s body.

    The Malanichev video’s a great choice, but the forward camera angle makes him look more vertical than he actually is. I think this one may show it a little clearer- an above-and-side-angle view from his 1034 lift at Boss of Bosses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06q42Utd26Y . He puts the bar in the low-bar position and maintains a significant forward forward lean (in the hole, I’d put him at about 45 degrees-ish)- because that’s where he squats best.

    All in all, though I may disagree with the biomechanics described in the article, it serves as a useful talking point, there are some useful takeaways, and I’m impressed by how quickly Tony pulled down the bad illustration. Cheers!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Christian. Appreciate the kind words. Again, we’re not debating (or against) using a forward lean. You’re right, the “real” argument is use of terminology.

    • Thanks Christian. No matter how much forward lean I have or any other greater squatter has, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that we are all TRYING as hard as possible to stay tall and vertical through the torso (i.e. NOT fall forward) and to stay tall while driving out of the hole. Any coach who says otherwise (that they’re purposefully leaning forward to allow the bar to travel forward) or that they WANT the hips to shoot up before the chest is doing themselves and their athletes a disservice.

      I’m NOT saying that SS coaches coach the squat in a way that encourages falling forward. What I AM saying is the way I coach the squat eliminates that problem for my lifters.

      • Christian Gotcher

        I’m tracking- that’s where I figured you were coming from (‘upright’ as cue, not as what’s actually happening). You said in your article that you deal mostly with powerlifters, so I imagine many of them come to you at least somewhat stuck in the shins-vertical box-squat mindset, so it’s probably a great cue for the vast majority of your lifters (as you said- all of them). I hope you can see why I don’t think that distinction comes through in the text:

        “There’s a reason every 1,000-pound squatter (raw or geared) stays almost perfectly vertical through their torsos instead of leaning forward.”
        “That said, the optimal squat pattern is going to have an upright torso.”
        “Are YOU gonna tell Malanichev to lean forward with 1036 pounds on his back?”

        Of course, that’s the limitation of the internet: everyone who’s reading the text is applying that message to them, and the ‘stay vertical’ cue isn’t applicable to everyone. After all, isn’t it possible to be too vertical? Your trainees probably don’t have this problem, but I learned how to front squat first, and when I started squatting, I would lift the chest too early out of the hole, putting the bar behind the midfoot and gumming things up by not allowing the hip extensors to take their share of the load.

        I really do appreciate you taking the time to write the article and reply to people’s comments. You and TG are clearly professional, and I did learn some things from your article, so no sweat from me.

  • Rachel

    Ahh hot topic here! I liked this article and it was also interesting to read the back and forth of different opinions. Definitely helps me as a newer coach improve my awareness of different approaches.

  • Dimitar Mihov

    As a finalle i can add that:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAiC3rv8cVU

    — Eric himself squatting with pretty good lean and hips back / up motion. Now this is not a straight bar, but the COM is pretty close enough (even gets a bit forward of a low bar which makes it more UPRIGHT freindly. Still we cant see that uprightness taking place.)

    I’M SURE he would’ve been MUCH MUCH MUCH stronger if he was uprigth. Riiiigth…

    I also have a footage of our World Silver Champion of Weightlifting IVAN MARKOV in our own gym. WE ALL KNOW how important is for weightlifters to squat uprigth because of the Oly lifts themselves. The funny thing is that even though he uses HIGH bar for that reason – Ivan again pushes his HIPS back and then drives with his HIPS UP similar to low bar squat. Maybe he’s weak amateur?? I don’t think so. And that comes from a person who’s sport NEEDs being upright.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Oh. My. God. I’m really sorry that it’s come down to a gross misunderstanding of what’s the appropriate definition of upright and lean are. Someone CAN lean and still be “upright” (not flat on their face).

      In the video, he IS upright, right? He’s not rounding his back. He’s not “goodmorning’ing” the weight up. He’s “upright.” And yes, there IS a lean.

      Congrats, you win the internet.

      Dimitar: no where in my interactions with you did I resort to calling you names, discredit your expertise and knowledge or even disagree with anything you had to say. How am I dodging anything? I AGREE with you. I am 100% open to learning from other coaches and understand I’m not infallible. I have read SS, I respect what coach Rip has say, and I hope to attend a seminar down the road.

      IMO: we’re arguing over semantics.

      If you still feel I’m being unprofessional, well, I can’t help you there. All I can say is that I’m sorry (again), and I hope these types of misunderstandings don’t get overblown in the future.

      • Dimitar Mihov

        “Like a seesaw, as one side drops (the chest), the other side must go up
        to maintain balance (the hips). Not surprisingly, you can’t hip depth if
        your hips are shooting up and back to keep you from falling forward.”

        Unfortunately Eric himself in that clip IS SHOOTING with hips up first. But his chest does not fall, because that is the job of the erector spinae and the whole core.
        IF he was to keep his chest high and NOT shoot his hips from the hole, like advocated in the article – he would miss the squat.

        And no Eric is NOT upright. Don’t try to sneak away this one! Eric is PRETTY DARN more lean than the author here suggests we all should be. Or wait a second… all those citations are mu hallucinations? And I’m sure that Thomas Campitelli has no rigth in his argument as well..

        Eric is indeed quite hip-hinged if you ask me or anyone with good pair of eyes. CONTRARY TO WHAT IS DESCRIBED (and showed) as PROPER pattern by the blog post here!
        iTS JUst that Eric has THIS structure and he NEEDs to have THIS degree of back angle. Don’t make me matematically chart it because with heavy weights its not for much of a debate anyway.

        OTOH Alexey is a bad example for all squats (just like Cressey alone would be, or Dan Green or anyone) because he’s just ONE individual.
        And the author choose the worst camera angle FOR EVEN THAT ONE PERSON to even show that. making his squat seem (Alexey’s) even MORE upright just so he could prove his point.

        Let me ask you this. Do you believe the quality of the Content is more important than the CopyBlogger’s recommendations for “Regular Delivery”?

        The reason why i keep is that You could’ve just Manned UP and accepted responsibility for the mistake. But instead you try to “make it alright” by twisting some terms around here.

        I hope people read how to squat from SS rather than here, because at the end of the day they would probably end up with unclear material and no definite vision of the authors on what the poor person must do.

        Again i’m fan of Cressey’s stuff…. but looks like only the one written by Eric himself.

        • Jake Duckworth

          I think the article was good! I agree with a lot of it, I don’t know that many lifters or athletes who like the very low ‘starting strength’ bar position. It’s a question of individual body type and leverage, I would agree with the authors point that low bar makes it difficult to hit or go lower than parallel for many people and I personally think a high bar is more advantageous and generally suits most athletes better than a low bar.
          What ever works for you is the best method ……..

  • Roberto Vázquez

    Wow… a lot of comments about this post. That’s good! This is the right way to improve our wisdom about it.

    I’m agree with Dimitar, Kyle, Thomas… and all people who think the squat is a very complex exercise (with plenty of leverages involved in it) to establish rules for its correct execution.

    I also think that some of biggest lifters don’t follow this rules. But, be careful, I know people who lift a lot of kg(lb) but with a very poor technique too. You should think that many lifters talk about how they realised some things in their technique were wrong and how, after changing them, they improve their technique and increase their weights. So, a good lifter (or athlete, in general terms) may be the best, but maybe, he (or she) might be even better if improve some thing about his technique.

    In my opinion, “the Tonys” only wanted to show us some issues which could have some people to do deep squats.

    Some people have issues related with CNS and mobility patterns that produce in them problems like “hip pinch”. When they learn what is a neutral spine position, avoid anterior pelvic tilt, correct breathing patterns… magicaly they improve their squat.

    BUT, it’s also true that there are a lot of people who perform all I’ve just said and they aren’t able to go deeper in their squat. Why? Acetabular issues not related with CNS nor mobility… or maybe other causes.

    I’m agree with “Tonys” too. The main tip of this post you have to realise is the fact that the correct posture for squatting (like for most human movements) is a neutral spine posture. If some lifters are able to perform a non-upright squat BUT they have a neutral spine posture, it still remains ok.

    BUT, I’m going to say it again, there are a lot of people (NOT ALL PEOPLE ARROUND THE WORLD) who aren’t able to perform a correct deep squat due to CNS or mobility issues. AND there are also a lot of people (NOT ALL PEOPLE ARROUND THE WORLD) who aren’t able to perform a correct deep squat due to anatomical bone proportions, real muscle shortness… whatever, and they won’t improve their squat even they do all the best world mobility drills.

    Eventually, I’d like to add “GURÚS NOT! PLEASE”. I mean, nobody knows all about something, so if we read something wrong, we’re able to talk (and write) politely about that, but we are NEVER allow to say someone hasn’t knowledge enough to be consider a good coach (like “Tonys” or Cressey). They have trained many more elite athletes than all our clients together. Please, respect them.

    Thanks all.

    P.S.: sorry for my English. I’m not native speaker.

    • Dimitar Mihov

      What kind of issues did we just fix with this article? I mean for real.
      Don’t twist it. This article has NOTHING to do with straight lumbar spine. As a matter of fact even the “hips back” proponents have never said anything about flexing your back didn’t they?

      Again WHAT issues were solved here?

      • Dimitar –

        I can see you take lots of issues with what I wrote, so I’ll
        address everything as best I can:

        – Nowhere did I say that Starting Strength teaches squats incorrectly. I simply took 2 common SS cues (“hip drive” and “nipples to the floor”) that are commonly misused/misinterpreted and explained why I don’t use those cues.

        – Can we agree that falling forward during the squat is undesirable? And that the hips extending so early that the torso pitches forward is also undesirable? And that leaning forward LESS (i.e. leaning forward some but staying more vertical than not) is a reasonable way to avoid falling forward?

        – Maybe you misunderstand what I mean by “lean” and “vertical torso”. Yes, everyone leans forward some, myself included. But if you can still see a lifters shirt logo and belt buckle, I consider that fairly vertical and believe it’s in every squatter’s best interest to try to stay vertical. If the lifter leans forward so much that their ass shoots up out of the hole first and pitches the bar forward, that’s too much.

        – Green and Malanichev don’t lean forward all that much. In fact, I learned most of the techniques I wrote about from Dan in person at one of his seminars. He coaches people out of excessive lumbar extension and forward lean. He also recommends both the high-bar pause squat and front squat as his go-to squat accessory exercises. Not sure if you’ve met Dan, but I highly suggest attending one of his workshops.

        – You wrote: “Nowhere any sensible coach has ever suggested peforming a DEADLIFT (an RDL hip-hinge movement) for the squat. The squat is the SQUAT.” But I have encountered many coaches who coach the squat this way. It never ends well for the lifter.

        – You wrote: “Then can we point out Johnie Candito? So you’re telling me Candito is weak right? Because last time i checked, he got his latest PR with a HUGE leanning forward to make up the lift itself, even though he started a bit more upright. HIS BUILT IS WHAT DICTATES THAT.” I disagree. Heavy-ass weight is what caused that. Candito, like most lifters, is trying to stay upright but when heavy weight pitches you forward and your hips extend without maintaining torso position, your only choice is to try to correct
        your position with lumbar and thoracic extension. The forward lean was more
        reactionary than purposeful.

        – You wrote: “Tony are you certain that mobility issues are the problem with squat depth?” I think I made it pretty clear (it even says it in the title) that mobility is usually not the problem with hitting depth.

        – Layne Norton certainly leans a lot. Chris Duffin does not. Not sure what video you’re watching.

        – You wrote: “This all reeks of amateurishness and lack of understanding of the squat.” I really have no idea what that means.

        – You wrote: “Straight up bullshit.” In reference to my paragraphs on low bar position and torso position but didn’t explain why. I’m curious as to why you disagree.

        – You wrote: “But we don’t own you trust. Because you sure as hell loose it like that, and for the whole Cressey Performance team.” I’ll be sure to apologize to Eric Cressey for losing a fan because I told you not to fall forward when you squat.

        – You point to Eric’s mock powerlifting meet video and talk about him leaning forward during his squat. He’s also squatting with a giant cambered bar. If you’ve ever used one, you understand that it pitches you forward significantly. You can’t use that to argue your point because it’s not the same as a barbell back squat.

        – You wrote: “But his chest does not fall, because that is the job of the erector spinae and the whole core.” Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to stay more upright and not fall forward to begin with? That’s my whole point here. Why lean forward, THEN fall forward, THEN “hip drive” to correct for falling forward? Seems inefficient at best.

        Did I cover everything?

        • Dimitar Mihov

          Nice way to twist over the article.

          So at the end of the day you just agreed that you can’t stay upright, also that when the weight is heavy enough – the lifter will always get his strongest form if he’s to make it – like Candito does. Also he explains his own bigger lean in a video recently.

          Are you telling me that a giant Cambered bar pitches you with the weight more back? I can’t imagine so because the bar itself even moved a bit forward (similiat to SS yoke) which would make you MORE UPRIGTH. But i have not used it so i really cannot tell.

          I also point a lot of times that Dan has a significant lean:

          http://i.ytimg.com/vi/FN8xvB-tP-4/maxresdefault.jpg
          http://www.lift.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/dan-squat.jpg

          And that Chris duffin has a medium lean point.

          But yeah man… i mean… Dan doesn’t look at the floor man… his nipples are waaaay not pointed there man… you’re right man…

          Wow and interesting point – NONE OF THIS IS OF CHOICE. IT’s all because of their builds. Now if you try to balance the bar over heels or fingers then that would also change things even more, but that would be very very… “not-smart” so to speak.

          But hey — i like it how you just agreed that half of the quotes you made were actually not that accurate and that a big lean is also a good possibility. Great!

          • Your definition of “nipples towards the floor” must be different than mine, because Dan’s certainly aren’t in either of those pictures. Also still pictures don’t say much about whether the hips and chest come up at the same time as he squats back up.

          • If your car keeps sliding to the right, you pull the wheel to the left to make it go straight. You don’t really want to go left, you want to go straight. Then someone sees you pulling left and asks why you’re driving wrong.

            When people come onto their toes, I tell them to push/pull through their heels. In fact I don’t want them to do that, what I want is the weight through midfoot. But if their default is the toes and they try to overcorrect onto their heels, they actually end up midfoot. So I’m giving them a cue which is objectively wrong, but which will work to make things right anyway.

            Likewise, we don’t actually want people to point their nipples to the floor, since a horizontal trunk is less than ideal in the squat. But if their tendency is to be too upright… which it usually is when people first learn the low-bar.

            Likewise with the hip drive cue.

            So we use cues for each lifter to get them moving right, and these cues may appear to be overcorrections. And if we find that a particular overcorrection is useful for most of the people we work with, well then that becomes an official part of the teaching method. And then someone reads it and says, “but dude, it’s a bad idea to point your nipples to the floor.”

            Context.

      • Roberto Vázquez

        Well, maybe I’ve been reading lately a lot about neutral spine, avoiding hyperextension in squat and all that stuff, that I saw more valuable content in this article than it really has.

        About squat:

        I don’t think “you should try to perform squat the more upright you’re able to do it” be a bad advice in order to improve our squat technique. And I don’t think front squat or Goblet squat are bad exercises to achieve it neither.

        I also think all you’ve said about squat isn’t wrong. In fact, I think you’re right.

        In my opinion, the problem here is squat is a very complex movement which involves a lot of different factors that depend on plenty of anatomic variables ( and even personal issues from who executes it). For this reason, is very difficult establish “rules” and “laws” that allow us judge how right or wrong is a squat.

        But this is my opinion. Nothing more.

        Thanks.

        • Dimitar Mihov

          However the strongest squat will involve HIP drive as very easily and straigth-without-bullshitedly written in SS. Which also allows for constant big torso-to-hip angle throughout the movement (like shown my Cressey himself).

          The Author-suggested maneuver here to keep torso as upright as possible will kill hip-drive. And don’t generalize on this either — i’m a coach as well and have tried both with me and my students.

          The author then proceeds to claim how ALL of the strongest powerlifters squat upright as possible. Which is a lie again. If we look at statistics ONLY some powerlifters do it. And that is not because they intent to, their body is built that way. As a matter of fact EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM USES hip-drive.

          Not a good attempt this time.

          Guys the thing is – this is not Yoga. This is Strength and Conditioning fitness training. It has a large base of OBJECTIVENESS because of the nature of this “sphere of life” – and because of that it can easily be tracked with good enough eyes and concentration. Political-types-of-messages don’t really float around here.

          • Dimitar –

            If you’re offended because I took a shot at “hip drive” (which I put in quotations because it’s a term that’s bastardized by a lot of crappy squatters who don’t know much about SS or any other quality strength program), I don’t know what to tell you. It wasn’t a shot at you or SS.

            It was a shot at people who allow themselves to fall forward as they stand up because the hips come up before the chest. Can you agree that this is not desirable?

          • The “hip drive” cue often leads to people driving hips back rather than up, leading to knee slide as you’ve observed. I’m still assessing how much this is due to how people move in everyday life, one of those instinctive-but-bad things they do like go onto their toes in the squat or lift their feet off the floor in heavy benches, and how much it’s due to the SS teaching method.

  • Jake

    Now listening to “Tribe Called Quest radio”. Sweet

    • TonyGentilcore

      You’re life is now so much better…..;o)

  • Whoa! Party up in here! Believe it or not, Tony G and I spend all day coaching, so it’s tough to respond quickly. I stand by everything I wrote, so I’ll reply to everyone as fast as I can.

  • Rubén

    I recommend you to read this (althought in spanish) to rethink about what is a squat

    http://www.protrainingcenter.es/blog/una-persona,-una-sentadilla

  • Roberto Vázquez

    I’ll try to add some valuable resources to discussion in order to help to ALL OF US to know a little more about squat mechanics. Due to, although some people in this discussion know much more than others, I think all of us could always learn something new.

    These are three part of an article written by Anders Hansson (and translated to English by Ola Hansson) about squat mechanics. In it, Anders talk about:
    – Different squat variations.
    – Different muscles which are activated along the squat.
    – How body proportion affect to squat deepness.
    – Why some people are able to perform squats in a more upright possition than others.

    Part 1: http://www.athleticdesign.se/athletics/squat_article_1_english.html
    Part 2: http://www.athleticdesign.se/athletics/squat_article_1_english_page2.html
    Part 3: http://www.athleticdesign.se/athletics/squat_article_1_english_page3.html

    For all who be more confortable reading in Spanish, here you could find these same articles translated: http://fisiomorfosis.com/articulos/rutinas-y-tecnicas/la-sentadilla-profunda-y-su-mecanica-anders-hansson.

    I still think the most important thing is respect. If we think that only we have the right answer, we’ll never learn anything from anybody and this discussion will never ends.

    Please, be polite. Listen. Think. Be gentlemen.

    P.S.: thanks for your contribution, Rubén. I don’t like Smith machines, but I have to admit that Smith machine, which appears in the video, looks like more “adaptable”. It’s got a little of swinging. I like that.

    Thanks

    • Dimitar Mihov

      That smith machine actually we had it our gym. It is clear that you have not used it because it is truly a piece of crap and surprisigly it is more dangerous that a free bar if you have to drop/fail.

      Again people who do not know what they talk about always seem to “generalize” so as to “agree with everyone”.

      Specifity is key.

      If a coach cannot answer DEAD-ON a question regarding HIS ideas about training, then he simply doesn’t fucking know what he’s talking about.

      Ask Wendler why he believes squats have to be done with “this” or “that” and let me see a weeble-wobble answer like “yeah but you know thats actually what i meant”.

  • Dale G.

    Plenty of excellent squatters squat without the exaggerated forward lean advocated by the barbell fundamentalists over at startingstrength.com, including Chris Duffin and Jonni Candito.

    • Dimitar Mihov

      Johnie Candito himself squats with huge lean and supports 100% SS’s teachings (his words).

      Again trying to soften the mistakes in the blog post by false commenting?

      • Not sure you understand what a hip hinge is. You said yourself earlier that no good coach would instruct someone to hip hinge during a squat.

        At 1:07, Jonnie misses his squat because his hips shoot up earlier than his chest. That’s all I’m trying to instruct against in my article. Again, if you think the hips shooting up before the chest during the squat is a GOOD idea, then we disagree about the optimal way to squat.

        • Dimitar Mihov

          And that is why in his most recent competition he won it with a big hip hinge?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbD3CxPKeEA – 1:03 — it doesn’t really seem like “upright” to me, no matter how much you accuse me of not understanding what hip hinge is.

          I’m sure that the only reason a lifter can miss as squat is the fact that a lifter was not upright enough.

          • Before we go any further, please answer the following question: Do you think it’s a good idea to fall forward when you squat?

    • I agree. Change “plenty” to “most” and I agree 100 percent.

  • Seen

    Let’s introduce Dimitar to Naudi Aguilar and see what happens?

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  • Dale G.

    Jonni was getting folded over a bit on that max lift, thus breaking form, not demonstrating ideal form. He had a video up on his channel criticizing Rip’s methods but took it down, probably to avoid controversy. He sure doesn’t squat like a Rip protege. For starters, he’s more upright with a narrower stance, toes are pointed out less, and his elbows are pulled under the bar and his thumbs are wrapped around it. It seems to work pretty well for him. What’s annoying about Rip is that he thinks he has reverse engineered the barbell lifts and found the one true way that will work best for everybody.

  • Salahuddin Ahmed
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