T Nation

Form check: Squat and Deadlift

Trying to get stronger for Jiu Jitsu. Been following starting strength for several weeks and want to check my squat and deadlift form. After hitting 200 lbs on my squat I starting having trouble locking the bar in place in low bar position and having shoulder and wrist pain. Decided to back the weight off a bit and try high bar instead and see if it feels more natural; this is my second go in a high bar position.


My thoughts: Not getting the depth I want. Want to get at least a few more inches lower. It looks to me like the bar is drifting forward; I’m thinking that’s stopping my descent early as I start tipping forward. Maybe I need to focus more on keeping my chest up?


My thoughts: Back is rounding. Not sure if I’m setting right. I’m not really feeling the pull in my hamstrings. Feels like my quads and back are doing most of the work.

For the squat, you’re definitely not tight enough. You need to be tight from head to toe, as that’ll lock you in position and let the bar travel in a vertical line up and down. With the shoulder/wrist pain try any or all of the following: move your grip out; go thumbless’ put your pinkie under the bar. High vs low bar is really a personal preference, but I think if you fix your grip you’ll be able to squat low bar quite comfortably.

To get tight, start by driving your head hard back into the bar; pull the bar down into your shoulders as if you’re trying to bend it; and pull your elbows under the bar. That’ll pretty much take care of keeping your chest up. Get a big bellyful of air and squeeze down on it from all directions, squeeze your glutes and go straight down (not too fast, because you’ll lose your tightness) pushing your knees out (if you squat wider, it might be better to pull your butt back rather than straight down, but it looks like you’re not squatting so wide). Hit depth and reverse direction hard and fast, keep pushing the knees out and lead with your chest.

For the deadlift, there are a few things you should probably work on. First, get tight (again). It’s a bit simpler for the deadlift IMO, just fill your belly with air and squeeze down on it before you drop to grip the bar. With the pull itself, your hips shoot up before the bar actually leaves the ground so you’re not getting much leg drive off the ground at all. That could be a weakness in the hamstrings themselves along with less than optimal technique. The weakness is an easy fix, just do a bunch of GHRs and some good mornings. Technique isn’t a hard fix either. Your back rounding is also probably a mix of weakness/technique, although getting tight will make a huge difference. For the strength side, do lots of rows and chins along with good mornings as well as front squats. Those will also strengthen your whole back and make it easier to stay rigid, which will translate well to your squat too.

In terms of technique for the deadlift I would recommend the following:

  • when standing at the bar, make sure it is over your mid-foot
  • get tight
  • drop to grip the bar and pull it into your shins keeping your shoulders behind the bar
  • point the bottom of your ribcage at the floor: this will a) get your back into a good position and b) put your hips where they should be
  • push hard and fast off the floor without shooting your hips up too early or letting your shoulders drift forward
  • throughout the movement pull the bar into you rather than up and keep your weight behind the bar
  • once the bar is moving, then you push your hips through

High bar squat is as good of a strength builder as the low bar squat so you don’t have to use low bar if it’s harder to learn. Front squat and zercher squats may also be good alternatives for jiu jitsu.

MarkKO provided some good advice. If it’s a lot to take in, the one thing you should for sure prioritize is bracing your abs. Learn to brace your abs using hollow holds while taking deep breaths, holding it and bracing your abs as tight as possible. Do this a few times a day to practice this skill. This will teach you how to brace your abs while keeping a neutral spine. As it gets easier to achieve, brace your abs while doing your heavy lifts.

Use weights that are light enough that you can maintain that brace throughout the lift and even when going to failure but still heavy enough that it’s challenging you to get better. After a week or two, post another video showing the improvement with a more rigid core.

Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

The “Push your head back into the bar” queue seemed to help a lot. The bar path was much straighter this time and I didn’t feel like I was falling forward.

For the low bar position, a big problem I had was that (aside for general shoulder and wrist comfort) after a few reps the bar would start to slide down my back and put a lot of pressure on my wrists to keep the bar from dropping. Like you said though, I was probably loosing tightness (if I just had the bar too low?).