Lifting heavy weight is a scary proposition for most. Back squatting heavy weight? Even more so. After all, what happens when the weight gets so heavy that you can’t stand up with it? It’s definitely a question worth asking before venturing into your first heavy squat session. The good news is that you have a bailing option. You always have a bailing option. Bailing a back squat isn’t difficult, but it does require some practice/experience. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll become. This will also bode well for your back squat numbers. The less concerned you are with how to bail a weight means the more weight you’ll be willing to put on the bar in the first place.
How To Bail
Essentially, when you reach the sticking point of the squat, throw the bar backwards while you (your body) falls forward. No need to throw the bar across the room; a decent push will get it moving away from you plenty. However, no push in the world is going to matter if you don’t get your body out of the way. Save your lower back, and possibly even your feet, from a very painful experience and get out of the way. Take note of Melody falling to her knees in the above video. This is the only sure-fire way to make sure the ground is the only surface to experience the harsh impact of the barbell.
How Not To Bail
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Yes, there’s also more than one way to bail a back squat. There isn’t, however, more than one safe way to bail a back squat. Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to dump the bar over the head. The risk of something going wrong is just too high. This doesn’t mean you won’t see these types of bails in the gym at one point or another. Pushing the limits of your body will, sometimes, result in the brain shutting off. Please avoid it if at all possible though.
The Type Of Back Squat Matters
There are two different kinds of back squats: high bar (right photo) and low bar (left photo). Make sure you are using the correct standing technique in order to avoid potentially dangerous bailing situations. (Low bar back squat photo) (High bar back squat photo) For the low bar back squat, the bar sits low on the back, atop the shoulder blades. In order to keep the bar in that position the torso must angle forward while descending. Likewise, the hips must rise first (hip drive) upon standing, keeping the torso in its angled position. In the past we’ve talked lots about this hip drive (leading with the butt) being the key to getting out of the hole. Indeed it is, but ONLY for a low bar back squat.
To the contrary, during a high bar back squat the bar sits atop the trapezius muscles (traps). Any angling forward of the torso will cause the bar to roll onto the neck. The neck is not meant to support hundreds of pounds. The goal, therefore, is an upright squat. Any sort of exaggerated hip drive from the bottom would cause the torso to angle forward resulting in a forward shift of the barbell onto the neck. Not fun. What does it all mean? Don’t excessively hip drive during a high bar back squat. This is an especially useful piece of information considering most people tend to default to a high bar back squat technique when squatting. Know the difference between the two.
When In Doubt
Regardless of the type of back squat, there is one simple rule that will keep you safe at all times when squatting. DO NOT LET YOUR HIPS GET HIGHER THAN THE HEIGHT OF YOUR SHOULDERS….EVER! If that happens, it doesn’t really matter what kind of squat you’re doing. The bar will roll forward, toward your head, and you will be forced to bail in a way you aren’t mean to bail.
Now go lift heavy!