A Perfect Setup Leads to a Bigger Squat

A perfect squat setup can be the difference between a successful lift and a failed lift. As a powerlifter, I train to make this portion of the squat as efficient as possible. These powerlifting techniques can help any strength trainer not just powerlifters, take advantage of them.

Don’t rush it. There is no excuse for your setup to not be perfect on every set you do from your first warm-up to your last working set. You have more control over the setup than you do over the actual lift. You have time to think about what you are doing every step of the way. Take advantage of this fact, and make it perfect every time.

  • Hand placement: Hand placement is of course somewhat dependent upon your flexibility, but the closer you bring your hands in, the tighter you will be able to keep your upper back, providing more support to the bar.
  • Bar placement: Bar placement can be affected by a number of factors (muscles targeted, individual body proportions, upper body flexibility). Generally speaking, however, placing it across the back of the delts versus on top of the traps allows you to generate the greater power.
  • Foot placement: Place your feet under the bar in a standard conventional deadlift stance (approximately hip width apart, toes pointed forward); this will give you the most stability as you lift the bar out of the rack.
  • Breathing: Take a deep breath and tighten your core before unracking the bar (Squat Breathing Technique). This creates a very solid, stable core and allows you to support the weight of the bar. Continue to hold your breath until you have walked the bar out.
  • Rotate your hips under the bar: Keeping your back flat, shift your hips forward by rotating at the bar and your shoulders – do not flex your lumbar spine to push your hips forward.

Rotate at the shoulders to shift your hips forward

    • Unrack the bar: Lift the bar straight up using your legs, primarily your quads; if you have not properly rotated your hips under the bar, this looks like a good morning, making the bar feel much heavier.
  • Walk the bar out:
    • After unracking, pause briefly allowing the bar to settle briefly before stepping back.
    • Watch your feet as you walk out so that you can place them exactly where you want them.
    • Your first step should be straight back. This will allow you to clear the rack so that you don’t bump it on the way out. It should be a short step, your toe should not move much farther back than the heel of your other foot.
    • Move your other foot back into your squatting position.
    • Shift your first foot straight out into your squatting position.
    • Practice this walkout to minimize shifting and shuffling once you’ve walked out.
    • Let the bar settle briefly again, begin breathing again and your are ready to squat.

Practice these steps from your very first warm-ups, and make them automatic. Done right, the correct setup can make the weight feel much lighter, giving you greater confidence in your lift!

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