Back Squat Geometry Part 1

By Mark Rippetoe

In Powerlifting, Videos

November 01, 2007

Video Article

What constitutes good form for barbell lifts is not a matter of opinion or up for debate, argues lifting coach Mark Rippetoe. Rather, proper mechanics are about understanding the relevant bits of human skeletal anatomy and the principles of force and physics. These are what determine the most efficient, strongest, and mechanically sound body positions for all the lifts and these are what we, as lifters and trainers, need to learn to recognize and analyze. In this video article, he explains the skeletal geometry that is the basis for the back squat in particular.

The salient parts for geometric analysis of the squat are the shin, thigh, and back and the three angles formed by them: the knee angle (formed by the tibia and the femur), hip angle (rigid back and the femur), and back angle (the back and the floor). The relationships among these--with the added point that the bar will always be directly over the mid-foot if the system is to be in balance--determine the correct position of the bar on the back and of the elements of the body under that bar. Once the pieces are in place, then the force of the bar on the spine (and other joints) and the force generated by the body are applied in appropriate planes and the lifter is poised to be efficient and correct.

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3 Comments on “Back Squat Geometry Part 1”


wrote …

When I perform low bar back squats it forces me to bend over more at the hips. When I perform high bar back squats I can stay more erect when I descend to the bottom position of the squat. This means that the torgue about the hip is less when performing high bar back squats. This is the opposite of what Mark Rippetoe states. Also, when I perform low bar back squats I get pain in my elbows from the greater stretch that is needed to hold the bar lower on the back. What am I doing wrong?


wrote …

During this discussion, Mark should have mentioned the effects of the hip sled machine that you find in virtually every gym in America. When performing the hip sled, the back is perpendicular to the legs, which means the lower back is seeing almost all shear forces. I routinely see average people performing the hip sled with more than 500 pounds. Then they complain about their lower back hurting.


replied to comment from Brady Mattingly

Brad hopefully this helps. When you place the bar farther down the back as to where Mark says it is to be placed, you are actually placing it farther away (posteriorly) from that imaginary midline ( which he descibed for several lifts). This measurement is very minimal, but when considering the distance from the bar to the hips, it is a good percentage. When you bend at the hips, your upper body has to compinsate for this change by leaning forwad more. Take a look at the drawing he has on the chalk board and imagine that bar, represented by a circle, sliding down the back. If that drawing was life size, you would see that it moved a couple of inches behind the pre-existing midline. Your upper body would instinctivally lean forward to compensate for the additional weigth placed behind it. An example Mark gave is during a front squat. The bar would then be placed in front of the existing midline, and would cause the spine to be placed in a more upright position. In this examply, your spine would be more upright(leaning back farther) in order to compensate for the additional weight placed on its anterior side.

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