Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Yet Another Squat Grip Article

by Pete Troupos, SSC | October 06, 2020

setting your squat grip

This is the article that no one asked for, to go along with the seven YouTube videos on the subject, another explanation of a specific aspect of the grip for the squat. But since I get to help an inordinate number of people that have never received formal coaching, through camps, seminars, or forum posts, I see a lot of people making the same exact mistakes. I’ve seen this particular issue so frequently I thought it worth mentioning in a short article to help you avoid the same pain point. We’re going to talk about grip width, but specifically grip width before getting under the bar.

At this point, if you’ve read the blue book, you know that a narrower grip in the squat helps to bunch up the posterior shoulder muscle so the bar has something to rest on, and this makes for a more secure position of the barbell – as narrow as you can get while keeping the wrists straight. That’s still accurate, and the best guidance for lifters that are new to the way we teach the squat.

But some lifters have taken this to mean that they should set the grip narrow before getting under the bar. And the problem this can potentially create is that you won’t be able to get the bar down low enough – under the spine of the scapula, on top of the posterior delts. Everything will feel nice and tight when you walk it out, but it will inevitably go to shit when you try and lean over to send the hips back and the bar starts to roll up toward your neck. And you have to lean over to keep everything over mid-foot through the rep while having any hope of using your hips effectively out of the bottom.

This is ultimately why a proper grip is important. If the bar isn’t secure, you won’t lean over to set the proper back angle. If you don’t set the proper back angle, you’ll be off balance and have to waste energy trying not to fall over – energy you could be using to move more weight. So, for the sake of all that is holy, let’s fix this easily-fixable issue so you can obsess over something else, like knee slide, or whether the world is controlled by the lizard people.

Fortunately, in the latest dump of Wikileaks documents, we were able to obtain the top secret fix for this common problem. And as sure as Epstein didn’t kill himself, this simple remedy will work. Take a wider grip than you think you need to before getting under the bar. Then, get the bar in the right location, on the “shelf” under the spine of the scaps and above the rear delts, so that it doesn’t move when you slightly extend the shoulders and thoracic spine to hold it in position. Once you’re certain it’s in the right place, walk the hands in along the bar toward the shoulders as close as you can while keeping the wrists neutral. You may actually be surprised at how much more secure the bar feels when you unrack it and while you’re going through your set.

Finally, to clarify, when faced with a decision between bar placement, grip width, and wrist position, bar position on the back should be the priority. Everything else adjusts around making sure the bar is securely in the right spot to avoid the back angle issues described earlier. And of course this assumes that you can keep the bar in that spot securely with a narrow enough grip and wrists in a position that places the load on the back rather than carrying it in hands. If you’re not able to at first, you may have to be deliberate about stretching the shoulders.

Discuss in Forums

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.