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Old 08-02-2013, 02:11 AM   #1
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Default Elbow position while squatting

Recently, I have been hearing a lot of opinions regarding elbow position during the squat. The overwhelming majority seems to be to force the elbows down, some even going so far as to say that this is the only "correct" way to squat big weight.

Personally, I disagree with this opinion. It may work well for some and that is fine. What I don't like about this opinion is that is seems trendy and parroted more than tried and true. I feel that the individual, particularly the late beginner-early intermediate lifters should experiment with different setup on their squat and find out what works best for them. Provided there are no major technical flaws or weaknesses, I do not believe in a catch-all "correct" squat form.

What is bothering me about the elbow position specifically, is that it is not always the correct advice to give a lifter. There are several factors that play a role in elbow placement.

In hope of adding some credibility to my position, here is a video of me squatting. Some may have seen it already. I am currently squatting in the mid 500s raw without wraps or a belt. It certainly isn't an elite squat for my bodyweight, but it's what I've got and I have worked hard to get there!



I have shorter limbs and a long torso and am 6' tall. I have to layover a bit to hit depth. My elbows are at about a 40 degree angle from my spine at the beginning, but when I am at depth, they are virtually parallel. In my opinion, this is the correct way for ME to squat.

What are your thoughts on elbow positioning during the squat? Why do you take the position you take? Please discuss!
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Old 08-02-2013, 02:34 AM   #2
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The only person that I can think of that squats with a vertical arm placement with anymore of back tightness is Vladimir Bonderenko, other than that no one really sticks out. Most people I coach/am around are at a 30-45 degree
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Old 08-02-2013, 02:37 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Rynpel View Post
The only person that I can think of that squats with a vertical arm placement with anymore of back tightness is Vladimir Bonderenko, other than that no one really sticks out. Most people I coach/am around are at a 30-45 degree
Excellent point. I have made a similar observation. This is partly why I feel the way I do about elbow positioning, and am frankly somewhat disgusted with the advice I am seeing/hearing spouted off to other lifters.
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Old 08-02-2013, 09:24 AM   #4
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Your video shows good elbow placement and back tightness. "Elbows down" was meant for those people that squat with their elbows pulled up towards the ceiling and lose all tightness in their upper backs. I don't believe it was ever meant to mean that the elbows should be parallel to the body. Like everything else on the internet, the "elbows down" form cue has been exaggerated beyond what was originally recommended.
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Old 08-02-2013, 10:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
Your video shows good elbow placement and back tightness. "Elbows down" was meant for those people that squat with their elbows pulled up towards the ceiling and lose all tightness in their upper backs. I don't believe it was ever meant to mean that the elbows should be parallel to the body. Like everything else on the internet, the "elbows down" form cue has been exaggerated beyond what was originally recommended.
exactly. It also helps people whom don't know what to do with them and ending trying to fly.
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Old 08-02-2013, 11:14 AM   #6
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Not much to add. I watch for elbow's flying on sets. That is usually an indication that the lifter is loosing tightness and will most likely start to good morning a squat.

When I teach the squat, I tell people after every rep to make sure they are tight in the arms and back before taking their breath and doing another rep.

I don't care where the arm position is as long as it's not generally above 30-40 degrees.
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Old 08-02-2013, 12:10 PM   #7
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Do what works for you. As far as I am concetened there is not an optimal poss. Further if we are trying to set an specific angle flexibility comes into it. Many top squatters 'attempt' elbows under ad a que to get into the poss they want. What poss they end up in varies.

Some great squatters will activity keep elbows back.

Work with the cues and poss that gets the job done for you.
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Old 08-02-2013, 01:22 PM   #8
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I have to force my elbows down or I will lose weights towards the top due to upper back being lose. They will never be straight up and down to flexibility, but if you squat a big enough weight with elbows "up" you will lose tightness. Just my experience and those of who I train with.
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Old 08-02-2013, 03:17 PM   #9
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Good stuff. It sounds like we are all in agreement. Normally, I am pretty laid back and try not to sweat the small stuff. Hearing this "elbows down" cue given to other lifters when I didn't think it was warranted was really getting to me though, haha!

It has definitely been exaggerated beyond what was originally recommended. I am not an experienced high bar squatter, but I suspect that the elbows down cue is much more important for a high bar squat with a narrow grip on the bar.
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Old 08-02-2013, 05:11 PM   #10
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They key of the que is to actually be pulling the elbows down and in... activating the lats. Basically bending the bar over your back and towards the floor. This single que when done properly takes care of a number of imuscle engagement patterns. This means the arms are actually going to be parallel with your upper body as in your video...but not nescarily perpendicular to the floor. It also means that someone can 'elbow down' but not even be accomplishing the desired goal of activating the lats be not bending the bar.

Anyone that is chicken winging it with the elbows up high and behind the bar (not like in your video) simply won't be able to activate the level of tightness or activate the lats of someone that has them in better position.
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