Low Bar vs High Bar Back Squat

Question: Which should you do?


Answer: Low Bar

Arguments commonly made for High Bar (which is what 95% of people doing CrossFit do):

  • It translates more to the clean and snatch
  • You stay more upright

Arguments I make for Low Bar

  • So what if it translates more to your clean and snatch? If you’re that worried about your O lifts and want perfect translation, just stick to the front squat and overhead squat.
  • Plus, this is CrossFit, not olympic lifting. I’ve had events in competition where back squat was a movement. I’ve had to do a hundreds of 135 lb back squats in a workout, and I’ve also had a 3RM back squat in competition, and at that point I couldn’t care less about my clean and snatch.
  • Low Bar is mechanically advantageous for lifting more weight which translates into more overall strength.
  • Safer for the knees because load is shifted even farther back.
  • Develops a super strong posterior chain.
  • May not translate as well to increasing your Front Squat, but because of the increase hip angle at the bottom, it translates better to pulling in the clean and snatch.

This being said, we are going to take a systemized approach these next two weeks. We are going to squat every day. Not a lot of reps, but squat none-the-less every day Mon-Thur for the next two weeks. We will be exploring two things, first the low bar back squat, and two a very useful skill. This “useful skill” has roots in ancient training but I heard Rob Orlando talk about his own “cold bar” training he did when I attended the CrossFit Strongman Cert. You can read about that a little here. He did it for bench press, but I applied it to the two heavy lifts so I could boost testosterone quickly while training intensely.

Every day for about 3 weeks, I squatted 135 lbs once, 225 once, 315 once, and 405 once. Now, I’m not advocating that you go squat heavy without warming up, but I remember hearing Kelly Starett say, “The gazelle doesn’t get to warm and and stretch when it begins to be chased by a cheetah.” I worked up to being able to do that. I had a 405 lb barbell in the gym at Finish Line that I would pick up every time I would walk by it, about 5-12 times a day.

I don’t want you to think that you won’t be getting a sufficient warm up because you will. 5 mindful and active reps are better for warm up and for training that 5 haphazard reps. We will be talking about cadence, angles, stretch reflex, foot and bar position and more. Strength is largely a skill, so training the CNS to do movement correctly is more important than how many reps you get, unless it’s benchmark Friday or a CrossFit competition, then just do what it takes to get the reps.

I am a huge proponent of mobility work, I spend a lot of time personally doing it. In fact, as I write, I’m in a prone cobra-like position getting  a passive hip and lower back stretch. But I am also a huge proponent of learning to maintain more of a ready state throughout the day (start with a small morning routine, I have one I’ve done every day for the last 6 or 7 years or so). I realize not everybody has the same time as I might to dedicate to stretching, but showers, putting on shoes, scrubbing your back, putting on socks, taking phone calls and writing emails can all be opportunities throughout the day to get into proper stretching positions to increase our flexibility and quality of movement.

If you want to take a positional assessment so you can focus a couple stretching exercises to get the most benefit out of your deficiencies, you’re in luck. Soon to come, Griffin, studying to be a doctor will be leading a F.O.R.M. (Full, Optimal Range of Motion) class starting soon.  This class will breakdown common movements in CrossFit using a full-body, integrated approach. Limitations in movement, efficiency, and performance will be revealed, and various techniques to address these issues will be given. Mobility work needs a proactive approach. It’s used to prevent injury, boost recovery, and enhance performance. It is never too late to start the process. Join us on Thursdays at 6PM.

So, these next two weeks will be squats. Depending on how many days you have come in so far that week will determine your sets and percentages. It won’t be high percentages at first, but our goal is more to decrease the time needed to get to our heavier load. As always, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t push it. Coaches will be there to help. The first day you come in, do day 1. The second day you come in, even if it is Thursday, you do day 2, not day 4. This is important. Try to come everyday. It’s good for you; trust me.

Perform 5 Reps at the first percentage, 2 reps at the second percentage, and 1 for the rest. This will be the protocol this week but percentages will be adjusted as need on an individual basis. The tendency will be to want to do more weight and reps than prescribed. We are more concerned about strength as a skill, learning full recruitment of musculature in a new position, and training our bodies through minimal warm specific warm up so fight the urge to do more. If you need a greater challenge, and you don’t feel the weight is challenging enough, that’s fine. Try to create even more full-body tension during your squat. Focus on the points of performance gone over for the low-bar squat. And take it slow realizing that we will be squatting every day so we don’t want to be sore from the first day of squats. We are easing in, allowing soft tissue time to adjust.

We will also, during these two weeks, be diligent to stretch at the end.


Bear Crawl, Monkey, Frogger Introduction

Back Squat:

Day 1: 50, 60, 70, 75

Day 2: 50, 65, 75, 80

Day 3: 55, 70, 75, 80

Day 4: 60, 75, 80, 85

Do not think we will start class with rep 1. We will be going over three basic movement patterns in the coming weeks to aid us in our general warm up. In Steve Maxwell’s Mobility Cert I attended, the only thing we did was roll over and crawl. There are crawling variations that I cannot do, yet. The Bear Crawl, The Monkey, and The Frogger will be basic  locomotive patters that will help with body control and movement by increasing flexibility and core strength.


8 min AMRAP:


10 I forgets

15 Hollow Rocks


Modified Pigeon Pose: 3 sets of 10 pulses and 10 breaths.


Oh, and I went to order something from DATSUSARA but got this below, quite interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-11-27 at 10.17.20 AM

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