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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Low Bar Demon

I have competed, lifted, conducted attitude seminars, and helped with many Pendlay seminars all over the world, and I have never once seen anyone perform the "low bar squat".  Actually, I didn't even find out what it was until a few months back when someone asked me if they should do high bar or low bar for the squats I just prescribed them.  I am still in shock that athletes actually perform such a "nails on a chalk board" lift, especially for a weightlifter that should make the bottom position their home.  The number one problem I see with beginner weightlifters is their depth, or lack there of.  Watching a weightlifter low bar squat makes me want to take the elevator to the highest floor, and then jump.  Low bar squatting is just as bad as a beginner doing power snatch and power clean more than the full lifts.  Both of these weightlifting killers create incorrect movement patterns, horrible rhythm, awful consistency, and do not increase the novice weightlifter's flexibility.  The low bar squat is not just ugly and painful to watch, but teaches you to move slower than a turtle that just drank two bottles of nyquil.

 Brand new client, brand new dreams of becoming an Olympic weightlifter, in a brand new sport where the sky is the limit. We work on catching the bar in the hole over and over for hours. After catching a lift in the hole, I would have him sit down there and get comfy.  I would throw him a bag of popcorn and tell him to watch a movie down there.  I would tell him to bounce like tigger over and over to create stability, balance, and for the great practice of at times having to catch that second or third bounce to stand up with a heavy weight.  I introduced him to his new home.  He then started to make progress in the lifts, especially after I told him never to do a power snatch or power clean again, until he became a champion at the "full" lifts.  A fist pump followed by a smile is the action and emotion that he got when he was able to lift more weight by receiving the bar as low as he could.  I dropped out of physics, but I have the innate ability to understand that weightlifting is nothing more than a race against gravity.  I get excited for him; I get excited for his new PR. We slap hands and drink more coffee, going over how the training went and what we both want in the near and far future.  I think he thought the training session was over because he started to take his Pendlay shoes off.  I then laughed and told him that the fire in Hell was still burning bright and high, and now we had to squat.  Tired but still motivated, he took another sip of miss brown eyes, and began to slap the big bearded man's shoes back on.  Back squats, 5 sets of 2, lets go.  I had to take a number one from all the coffee that has been poured down my throat since I woke about 7 hours ago.  In a full on sprint to the bathroom I yelled without looking behind me, "Get warmed up!".  As I slowly started walking back from one of the best things God himself ever invented, I heard a bunch of little kids crying and screaming for their mothers.  People everywhere where running past me to the door like the building was on fire.  Coach Pendlay stood up and yelled for someone to call 911, and then he walked fast....not ran, because everyone knows that Coach never runs....well unless he is imitating my teammate Kevin Cornell.  As I was spinning in circles trying to comprehend what was happening in the quiet town of San Ramon, Donny bumped into me spilling my coffee all over my deep v Attitude Nation shirt.  He told me that a red fire breathing demon with sharp fangs and dinosaur scales dripping down its greasy back was killing people by its grotesque image alone.  I pushed through the panicking crowd and to my horror......I saw my client doing low bar back squats.

The world ended hours later.

High bar 2016


  1. Jon I have very poor front rack position and I started forcing myself to hold onto the bar and drop as far as I could. What resulted is I tore either the muscles and connective ligaments in my hand. I continue to work flexibility daily but am forced to do some power movements while my wrists heal each time. Would you agree with this or tell me to stop the power even though the muscles only tear when I drop on heavier loads of the clean?

  2. Above comment: im not jon north but... first of all, do nothing that causes you pain. YOU MUST address mobility issue to be able to receive the bar in the front rack position without tearing your s**t up! It took you years and years to get that tight, it will take some time to gain that range of motion. there are plenty of exercises you can do - including some deep tissue work - that will help improve that. again DO NOT squat clean if every time you do you hurt yourself. can you power clean and THEN front squat it? If so i would do that in the mean time... at least you will be getting the full range of motion down.

    JON NORTH I LOVE YOU GODDAMMIT!!!!!!! I have been battling with people as I read through Mark Rippeote's "Starting Strength"... they are obsessed with the low bar back squat. We are argue but then i just say "STFU JON NORTH said not to do it so kiss my a** I aint doing it." BOOM.

  3. Hi John,

    Excuse my ignorance if it exists, but doesn't the bottom of the snatch position in some of the heaviest snatches have a similar back angle (to the horizontal) than low bar squats? Look @ 2:00 and 4:20 for examples here -> . It appears as if in the recovery out of the bottom position of a snatch, the back angle closes until the hip crease is 2-3 inches above parallel and then it stays the same until opening up for the finish.