Where should the hands be positioned on the bar when doing a squat?
Most question if they should go tight to the shoulder or wider towards the plates, as well as where they should put their elbows.
The rule of thumb is to position your hands wherever you feel most comfortable, but that does not always hold true. A great deal depends on the mobility of the shoulders and the positioning of the bar on your back.
If you want to create more hypertrophy or direct recruitment of the quadriceps, then you should position your elbows more vertical. With that being said, you need to be able to achieve the proper range of motion within your shoulders.
If you cannot, and you try and put the hands close to the shoulders, one of two things can happen: 1) the chest will flare which can force you into an uninviting position for a squat or 2) your elbows will shoot back forcing you to bend forward with your upper body.
Keeping your hands close to your shoulders and the elbows below the wrist it is often used when squatting with a “high bar.” This simply means that the bar sits more along the top of your trapezoids.
If you’re looking to gain relative strength and/or trying to focus on posterior strength with a squat, then you would rather have your elbows pointed back.
This position allows you to place your hands a little wider, especially for those that have minimal shoulder mobility.
You can try going tight if your shoulders will allow it, but the positioning of the elbows will force the upper body into more of an angled versus vertical position.
Pointing your elbows back is suitable when squatting with a “low bar,” meaning the bars sits more on your posterior deltoids (back of the shoulder).
Often with the high bar squat and the elbows being more vertical, the first movement is a break at the knees putting the quads into a vulnerable position first.
With the low bar squat and the elbows pointed back, the first movement is a break at the hips putting the posterior chain at the most vulnerable position first.
So, next time you go to squat, either utilize the high bar for your quads or the low bar for posterior strength.