Setting Up the Squat

by Chris on October 5, 2012

I want to talk to you today about an important issue that affects hundreds of billions of people every day: poorly set up squats. This is a preventable condition that can put you and the ones you love at risk. Today I am taking a stand to stomp out this terrible affliction.

If there is one lift that I claim to know inside and out it’s the squat. While my deadlift claims bigger numbers, my comfort level, experience and technique on the squat have definitely made it my pet life over the past years.

If your aim is to add weight to your squat then technique is critical. Obviously you need to have good execution of the lift itself. That’s a given. However, your set up is just as important – and unfortunately it’s something that most people don’t give too much thought to.

Think about it though: don’t you think putting a few hundred pounds on the top of your spine and taking a few steps with it deserves a little more attention?

Check out the video below where I give some quick cues and demonstrate the squat set up and walk out that I use and teach.

It’s worth noting here that I did about 20 takes trying to shoot video of my actually explaining this before I realized that I have no business being on camera. It was disastrous. I also tried doing a voiceover about 10 times. Eventually those failures led me to the conclusion that writing is a little more my style.

So basically there are 3 important aspects to pay attention to:

Hand Placement

I see people all the time putting their hands pretty much on the weight plates when they squat. Unless you’re a hyooge friggin’ guy you ain’t goin’ nowhere using this grip. (Bonus points for getting that reference)

I generally recommend gripping the bar as close to the body as your shoulder mobility will allow. Yes, this is different for everybody but the idea is the same. This tightens the upper back and lats and sets up a stable shelf for the bar from the shoulders down through the torso.

Bar Placement

Where you put the bar on your back has a big impact on your lift because it directly affects your leverage. Powerlifters tend to use a lower bar position because this gives the best leverage and allows lifting the most weight. Olympic lifters tend to use a higher bar position as it is more particular to their sports. Both have their merits and I cycle many different bar positions regularly in my training.

The Walk Out

Ah, the walk out. This is important because it sets the tone for the whole lift. A good walk out builds confidence and leaves you feeling strong before squatting.

As I mentioned in the video I use a 3-Step Walkout that was taught to me by my friend Ellen Stein, a many many time World Powerlifting Champion. The first step is straight back, distancing yourself from the rack. The second step is with the opposite foot in a “C” motion and places that foot exactly where you want it for the lift. The final step is with the first foot and is a small adjustment that should leave you at your desires squat position.

The goal here is to maximize stability and conserve effort for the lift. Once you have for foot placement set, take a big deep breath, brace and squat.

Remember, only YOU can prevent poorly set up squats.

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Leave questions or comments below.


steve October 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Nice article chris.
the final foot position on my squat is probably my weak link.I usually shimmy 2 or 3 times before I feel perfect.still working on that.I would like to conserve my energy
those billions of squaters must come in the afternoon to cyberzone because I don’t see any in the morning

Chris October 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Thanks Steve. Work that walkout and focus on nailing down your foot placement in 3 steps and you’ll notice a huge difference. Remember, the final step is the adjustment step so get any “wiggling” out of the way with that.

And it’s hundreds of billions.

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