T Nation

Squat - Pulling the Bar Down


Way back in high school, the football coach taught us to pull down on the bar (when squatting) if you had the sensation to fall forward. I still do it today, but does anybody else do this? I also pull the bar down if I feel like I?m going to stall on the way up. Either way it seems to help.

I should also note that I high bar squat - what difference that makes I'm not sure.


The first time I heard of this technique I thought it was a bad joke. I thought the person was telling me this in hopes that he would see me fall on my face the first time I tried it.

Sounds completely counterintuitive, but it works. I only use it if I'm really struggling to grind out my very last rep.


Completely agree. Doesn't make sense but it works ... or has worked so far.


my totally random guess is it forces you to tighten your upper back ... maybe?


Pull down (elbows DOWN) on the bar like you are trying to break it over your back...this will lock in your back, and force the chest up and out. Be sure to keep it locked in and not to loosen up at the bottom.

And it makes complete sense.


Pulling the bar down, pulling your shoulder blades together, putting your elbows back, pushing your chest up, they're all the same; they make your shoulder blades come together.


hey I just kind of automatically do that if I think I am going to stall. Never heard anyone mention it before.



Not that counterintuitive... most people when they start to fall forward in a squat cave their chest and their elbows go up and behind them as they cave. Pulling the bar down forces the elbows down, tightens the back, and forces the chest up.

Do it on all your reps to get used to keeping the right muscles tight and in the right groove, not just when you are failing.


I would disagree on the elbows back part. It may bring your shoulder blades together but it also tilts your scapula forward which in turn forces your chest down, not up. I would advise people to pull their elbows forward (under the bar), this will force the chest up and lessen the likelyhood of folding over in the Squat.


I too use technique every time I think a squat into a good morning.

Off topic- I heard from an EFS seminar to pull your elbows forward, which I find painful. Am I doing this incorrect?

My elbows are much more comfortable pulling down.


Bringing your elbows back and up will result in forcing your chest down, but back, back-down, or down (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, start) will force the shoulder blades together and chest up.

My problem with bringing the elbows forward is this: try holding your fist at shoulder height (where the bar would be); keep your fist stationary and at the same time move your elbow forward. What do you feel? It's like giving yourself an americana (arm lock), an unnatural position, which could quickly become very painful if the bar shifts just a little bit.


Trust me, I know plenty of people who prefer to bring their elbows back. It certainly helps create a bigger shelf for the bar to sit on. Rippetoe is a big advocate of that style as well.

However, I prefer to Squat with my elbows forward, and have had much more success with this style. When I pull my elbows under the bar, it forces my chest up and really locks in my upper back in place. It used to bother my shoulders with a low bar position, but I've since addressed that issue. I'm only speaking from personal experience here.


Down! That's what I was missing for a long time. I had been trying to pull my elbows up and back. This of course caused me to round over with heavy weights. I read last week in a Dave Tate article that I should pull the elbows down and forward, under the bar, like you describe, and it's been working much better.


Pulling down on a bar to help push up a bar that your struggling to push up = counterintuitive


Eh, I dig it. That's why I said it wasn't completely (that) counterintuitive. It is to a degree, but if you look closer it makes sense.

I will say that this one, somewhat counterintuitive tip, helped me stop chicken winging more than anything else I did.


Great stuff guys! I was hoping there was a more complex explanation than 'it helps'.


When I was doing rippetoe squats i fell forward at higher weights. I came here and people told me to cut that shit out. Works.

rip doesnt advocate elbows back, people just do it and call it his way.


Excerpt from Starting Strength:

"4) Place the bar on your back across the low portion of the traps and rear delts (low bar position). Elevate your elbows as high behind you as possible, while keeping your chest upright. If your pectorals are sore, you will feel this as a deep stretch in the pectorals and possibly delts. "


Doesn't he also advocate stuff like looking down?


No he actually says to look pretty much straight ahead.

8) Keep your chest high and the bar balanced above the midfoot, take a deep breath, hold it, and squat down all the way. Do not look up, do not look down, do not look side to side. Keep your eyes focused on a point that is ~ 6-10' ahead of you on the floor, or if you have a wall close enough, focus on a point a few feet above the floor along the wall.


I stand corrected.

The above quote was not from Rippetoe. He does in fact state that you should focus on a spot on the floor 5-6 feet in front of you.

Actually both quotes were paraphrased by someone else (my fault for not checking the source closely enough). Regarding the elbows, he says that the elbows should be elevated to the rear with the hands on top, not place ddirectly under the bar where they intercept part of the weight.

He also uses the terms "raising the elbows" and "lifting the elbows". He makes it clear that you do not want to pull the elbows under the bar, and that is where I disagree with his teachings.