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Low Bar Squatting Experience at Gym


(Gym owner says not to squat SS style)

I recently got interested in lifting weights and have started getting interested in powerlifting, I am a complete novice and have very little experience besides a few squats in commercial gyms with no instruction or coaching.

I finally got myself down to the bodybuilding/Powerlifting gym in town ran by an IFBB bodybuilder and powerlifter who took up powerlifting a few years ago. He squats over 500 lbs, benches over 300lbs and deadlifts 600lbs.

He seems a cracking guy and really welcoming and friendly and the atmosphere at the gym was really good, no joining fees, very moderate price and lots of big and very strong people train there. I would much prefer to train here than at some globo gym.

I was left a bit confused though at the advice he gave me which was at complete opposites to the advice in the book I have been using to learn to squat, starting strength by Mark Rippetoe.

It was my first time squatting for a full workout with someone watching today and I did a squat as I had seen in starting strength, I looked low down and fixed my eyes on a spot, I had a lean forward not vertical trunk yet kept a straight back, knees tracking out and forward in line with toes, rising using hip drive.

He told me I was lifting the weight with my lower back and neglecting the legs, which would become the weakest link in my squat, he told me to look slightly up and keep my torso vertical, completely opposite advice that Rippetoe gives in starting strength.

I followed his advice on the last set of squats of the three and it felt much harder and after 5 reps my quads and glutes were throbbing.

Basically it looked much more like an olympic squat but I was suing the Rippetoe hand and bar placement on the lower back.

I guess my question is, is his advice different because he is a guy who is into raw powerlifting and Mark Rippetoe teaches lifting for GPP? Both of them seem to know what they are talking about yet they both come from completely opposite places as far as advice goes.


I wouldnt recommend the rippetoe style of squatting but others may tell you different. Truth is since you are so new your squat form is going to change dramatically over time. Id start with a fairly neutral style of squatting. High to mid bar placement, moderate stance width and so on. The things it seems like he was trying to coach you are good cues, like keeping knees out and having them track over the toes. Id just stick with the advice you are getting in person as opposed to starting strength if you are confident in him as a trainer.


If you're only starting out, honestly I think you should just go high bar like the dude says. It'll probably build your leg strength a lot more. You can always move to low bar later on.


If I do stick with a vertical squat, should I start having the bar on my taps and a full grip or keep a ow bar hands over bar position?


Man you can do whatever you want, I was just saying if I could go back and do it again I would start with high bar squats from the get go. Your grip isn't a big deal, and your torso angle should feel natural. If you're low bar you'll be a bit more leaned over, and if you're high bar you'll be more upright. It shouldn't be something you're forcing. Just find your power position and hit depth.


You are lucky you are in an environment where people are passing on knowledge. I would go with what these guys are doing, and see how it works out. If you actually squatted in front of Rip you might find he also has issues with how you squat.

Give it a go.


Thanks guys. I am back at the gym tomorrow, I am going to try out high bar and see how it feels. I will just tinker as I go and try and find what works best.

I did the following workout on monday:


5 x bar
5 x 40kg
5 x 50kg low bar (my original form)
5 x 50kg low bar (my original form)
5 x 50kg new vertical torso low bar form

Bench press

5 x bar
5 x 30kg
5 x 40kg
5 x 40kg
5 x 40kg


5 x 60kg
5 x 70kg
5 x 70kg
5 x 70kg

My first full workout. Obviously very low numbers and volume but I really feel worn down this morning, my quads and glutes are aching really bad, although no soreness in my hamstrings. My traps are very sore too, presumably from the deadlifting. My pecs are relatively sore too.

Doing a lot of walking this morning and later will probably help ease my elgs a bit, just the walk to work this morning has soothed them somewhat.


I would continue lifting low-bar and ignore the gym owner. It's impossible to really say much without seeing your squat form. It's easier to good morning a low bar Rippetoe style squat than high bar, but that low and wide foot placement style works better for me personally. Then again, when I started the high bar squat felt more natural to me and it took a long time to make the switch.


I just saw his recent powerlifting meet video, he totalled over 1400lbs in the 181lb weight class. Would I be correct in assuming that is an elite total? I know different federations have different classifications and pro elite totals are higher.


When you say high bar do you mean an ATG olympic squat or just a high bar below parallel general squat?

Do you mean this kind of squat?


I think this is what he means; a powerlifting squat with the hip crease just below the knees.


Is the bar on his traps there or is it a highish low bar position? Is he using hip drive or is he leading with the chest? I read someone today mentioned using hip drive and raising with the chest together in order to create a more upright squat.


Dude, you are way overthinking this. Put the bar on your back, squat and stand up. As you get more training under your belt and more weight on the bar you can start fine tunning stuff, but right now the only wrong thing you can do is NOT train.


best advice yet.

I've used every bar placement, foot placement, and hand placement you can think of. It's all worked. As long as you're getting stronger, you're doing it right. I made a lot of progress when I switched to low bar, but I also ended up with a ton of elbow pain from it. I'm squatting high bar now, and still making progress.


Was just about to write the same thing.


read the original post again, it is not the gym owner telling him to squat hi bar, it is people on this forum. the gym owner said look up not down and try not to fold like a staple, just using your back.


another thing, I used to be a cat II IPF ref, reffed Francis when she shattered the WR total back in August 1980 at the Sydney Opera House, and I am seeing today a lot of lifter starting their squats leaning 15 -20 degrees because the bar is 2-4 " down their back. At our last state meet we had to go into the warm up room and tell the girls to fix it before they went on platform.

Me I personally blame Facebook,


My personal experience: got my squat up from nothing to 330 for 3x5 reps only by following the starting strength book. A few years later I hire the coach who is the head coach for our national powerlifting team (I don't live in the US). I worked with him personally for 8 weeks, 3 times a week. Prior to this I felt I had a really solid squat. He wanted to change everything from the ground up. Everything from food placement, where I looked, tempo etc. I ended up getting fairly comfortable with how he wanted me to squat, even though it felt really different from how I had been doing it.

After those 8 weeks I was back training on my own and I realized something interesting. For the first few reps in my sets I would use this new style of how he teached me, but when I started getting tired I would adjust and use the old SS-style and the reps would feel much better, like I could keep cranking out more reps. Now I'm back to only squatting SS-style, even though I use a few of the things the coach taught me. The point is this: no matter what some coach tell you in real life, Mark Rippetoe is still king!


Were I in your situation, I would have concluded that 8 weeks is not enough time to correct years of baby habits. That's what I learned from fighting.


I don't quite understand this part. What does he mean by lifting the weight with your lower back? Does he mean that you were essentially doing a good morning instead of an actual squat? (This is a big issue for a lot of beginners btw, and very different from whatever Rippetoe says)

I don't think a powerlifter would recommend that you do a full Olympic-style squat, so my guess would be that he is seeing a lot of issues with your squat form beyond just thinking the way Rippetoe teaches the squat is bad.

The amount of lean you have will depend on the actual bar placement, as the lean is more a result of balancing the weight than some random artificial thing. The higher the bar is, the less forward lean you'll have. The lower the bar is, the more forward lean you'll have.

The way you squat is the way you squat. Tinker a lot and see what works best for you. Keep with a certain squat form until you hit a wall, and then see if the wall is because of your form. Then fix it and go on. So on and so forth.

But I wouldn't go and outright reject what someone who squats 500lb says. Try what he says first. I'm pretty sure that's more than Rippetoe ever squatted.

Oh, and I don't like Rippetoe's squat form. I began lifting by following Rippetoe's squat form. I got to about 225lb and started getting back pain from heavy squatting. A year and a halfish later and lots of form tinkering and I have absolutely no back-pain even when I go for PR attempts in both weight or volume.