Squat Stance and Grip
Squat positioning and stance
The squat stance, bar position and grip can all have an effect on your squat technique and the load you can lift. Experiment with different stances and positions until you find the one that works best for you.
When preparing to squat, your hands should be placed evenly on the bar, just outside your shoulders, with your head directly behind it, face forward.
Duck beneath the bar to position yourself with the bar directly behind you, just resting on your shoulders, ready to take it off the hooks.
Be careful not to permit any rounding of the lower back when preparing your squat stance. Your back should be straight with possibly a slight arch at this moment.
Feet should be placed a shoulder width and a half apart or a little wider and toes turned slightly out, never inward.
Squat bar positioning
Once you have found your squat stance, you need to position the bar on your shoulders.
The barbell can be positioned low or high on the shoulders and the squat bar position you choose is a matter of personal preference.
Low bar squat technique
The low bar squat is the normal squat technique for regular training. The bar should be placed a couple of inches lower than the top of your shoulder, at the base of the traps, or top of the posterior deltoid.
This is a comfortable position as your muscles bunch together to hold the bar in place naturally as you get into your squat position and prepare to receive the bar. This low bar squat is favourable for normal training use.
High bar squat technique
The high bar squat is an alternative squat technique where you position the bar so it sits higher on the back, just at the base of your neck, on top of the trapezius.
A good squat stance also includes a proper squat grip. For the squat, you should place hands in as close a grip as you can, which will be a little wider than shoulder width.
A narrower squat grip will encourage the shoulder blades to pull together more, creating a comfortable ridge of muscle mass for the bar to position itself.
When gripping the bar for the squat, always use a pronated grip, that is, with palms turned away from you and keep wrists straight, not flexed. Thumbs should ideally be on top of the bar along with fingers, and not wrapped under.
Elbows should be up and back, not directly under the bar. If you position elbows and wrists under the bar then some of the weight will be taken by your arms and wrists which could cause pain or injury.
The whole weight of the bar should be taken on the back. By keeping your hands on top of the bar and your elbows high and back, the back will take all the load and minimise your risk of injury.
Some weight lifters find the bar digs into the neck or shoulders when squatting with a barbell. To avoid this, you can use a squat pad to protect the neck and shoulders.
If you don’t have access to a squat pad, you could even use a towel, though you need to be careful this doesn’t slip while performing the lift.
Read more about the squat: