T Nation

Physically Can Not High Bar Squat


Hey guys,

I am new to lifting and am about to start my first real program (5/3/1) but I am having a problem. I want to squat high bar and while I have found it quite easy to squat low bar with somewhat decent form I am finding it almost impossible to do so with high bar.

I have noticed that the biggest obvious problems I have I've been able to find following some mobility drills online from people like Kelly Starret. Squatting with my toes next to a wall facing it and trying to squat down as low as possible without any of my body touching the wall wither with my arms hanging down in front of me or holding a kettle bell or holding a broom or band overhead.

The most glaring problems I have are the following:

  1. Forward lean of the torso and the inability to remain upright

  2. The inability to sit back at all without losing balance (this leads to bar travel forward and thus bad squatting)

  3. Inner groin tightness making it difficult to engage me hips

  4. Upper back and shoulder rounding leading to problems stabilising my lower back properly

  5. Ankle and shin stiffness meaning that i find it hard to get in the correct positions because I can't use proper ankle dorsiflexion

I was just going to do a low bar squat but I am now thinking this will just mask my current and rather severe mobility problems and lead to me having greater problems in the long run.

I was hoping for some pointers on addressing these issues while still squatting. I have seen other people list these same problems online and usually it takes them at least 6-8 months to competently resolve these issues. The people who have posted success stories however seem to refrain from weightlifting and running while dealing with them.

I want to be able to workout while addressing them, is this even doable and how would you approach it?


Why insist on squatting high bar?

If your goal is to squat big weights you should use whatever is best for you to progress. If the goal is hypertrophy the squat may not be the best exercise for you if you are not built for it.


I don't see any reason for you to put your strength goals on hold while you solve your mobility issues.

Dan John advocates working on mobility and soft tissue work in between work sets. I'd consider picking a squat variation that you can do well for your strength work and work on mobility in between sets until you can squat the way you want.


For a few reasons really:

  1. Just something i want to be able to do
  2. I want to develop strong and big legs, i fell low bar is not the best way to do this (my personal opinion)
  3. The challenge of doing it because I currently can not do it
  4. to address my mobility issues, the high bar squat which I currently struggle with is a good marker for progress.


  1. I respect that.
  2. You can do that with the leg press.
  3. Why not make it a challenge to low bar squat more than 400lbs instead?
  4. Or it may simply be your leverages not being suitable for high bar.


Ftr, i am not telling you that you can't do what you want. I am just offering a counter opinion as i remain skeptical of certain online mobility tests.

For your case i would consider shoes with a heel and learning how to load the hips by pulling yourself to the bottom position using your hip flexors.


Go on a 5x5 program.

Start with the bar. Play with your stance until comfortable.

When your form turns sloppy/stiff/improper, re-set, deload and keep moving forward.

Once you reach 225, go back to prior programming.

And I did not know you could get bigger legs by just moving the bar a few inches on your back......


I agree with you from a training point of view, high bar squats aren't essential for any training goal, but if I think it would be wise to deal with some mobility issues anyway. If his mobility is already this compromised, how bad could it get in 20/30/40 years time?


Its not the weight, I can't squat high bar properly with no weight or an empty bar, it is mobility problems.

And splitting the high bar and low bar into categories determined on just bar placement is not very true.

For example when I low bar squat I break at the hip, have a forward trunk lean and stretch my hamstrings, on a high bar squat you drop down not back, you stay vertical and you don't use hip drive to drive up, you drive up with your chest.

I think these are huge differences, if there were not huge differences people wouldn't be able to squat more weight easier with low bar.

compare this:

to this:


I agree. But the ability to high bar squat well is more dependant on individual leverages than mobility, which is what i'm trying to tell him.


It is impossible to analyze what is wrong with a movement without a video of them performing the movement.



Many trainees (me included) say that they do one thing wrong but actually do a bunch of other things wrong.

my 2cents is that you should read this

It could be a mobility issue/leverage issue, it could be form issues, or it could be a combination of the 2.


I have never performed a high bar squat in my life, and truth be told have no idea if I could even if I wanted to.

TC: Be aware that a high bar squat, much like pretty much any other movement under the sun, is not a necessary movement to reach your goals, unless your goal is simply "be able to high bar squat". If that is the case, carry on, but otherwise, you may not be masking a "problem" by not doing high bar squats, but instead simply minimizing the amount of time you spend working on something that is unnecessary for your success.


Compare both to this:


The above cuban weightlifter Idalberto Arranda competed at 54kg and 76kg and squatted 280kg.

Andrey Malanichev is 148kg and squats 460kg, so both are over 3 times bodyweight.

However my point was not who is more impressive, rather there is a massive difference in squat styles beyond just the bar being a few inches higher or lower.


I did not post the vid for people to marvel at his strength.



I stand by my original recommendation. I will now add: Do Limber 11 before EVERY work out.

Or keep complaining that you can't high bar squat.

Also, different people squat different ways.


We agree again, it seems to be a habit. The OP has highlighted some mobility (not leverage) issues that I think he should be dealing with though


your starting to sound like a stubburn idiot at this point. Post a video and get help or keep arguing about styles. You need to squat to get big legs period. If you think you cant get big strong legs from low bar do me a favor and tell that to 90% of all powerlifters.


You don't have to squat high bar.

But I do think you should be capable of squatting high bar. So yeah, work on your mobility. A lot. DAILY.