I’ve often found that when I’m squatting (though usually only when I’m pushing my limits, and especially as I’m tiring, starting to near failure), as I’m coming up and pushing the barbell up with the back of my neck that I’m (mostly involuntarily) also pulling the bar back downward against my back using my hands/arms, perhaps seemingly actively working against myself but probably objectively not really.

I wonder what the reason for this phenomenon is, and if the purpose is to avoid either the bar falling off of my back to the rear, or my entire body weighed down by the bar falling forward by my waist bending too excessively forward.

I also wonder if it’s known to be a common phenomenon.

  • Is this low bar or high bar? Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 21:29
  • Okay never mind, I’ve just looked this up and was never previously familiar with the distinction. To be honest I’ve never paid any attention to it but I think I might often start out in high bar position but I think over the course of a set it may sometimes slip down into low. So it’s often a mixture of both. But why, does it make a big difference to this question?
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 10:31
  • This response got kind of long so I'm just going to post it as an answer. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 3:16
  • 1
    @Frank if you're needing to pull down to prevent the bar from rolling up onto your neck, that's a clue that you might be attempting to squat in a low bar style (bending forward a lot rather than keeping your torso mostly upright and pushing your knees forwards) with the bar in a high bar position. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 3:40
  • 2
    Low bar is OK, high bar is OK, but I'd say slipping from one to the other during a rep is not a good idea. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 7:50

1 Answer 1


It depends on whether you're doing low bar or high bar squats.

With low bar squats, you're supposed to be keeping your chest down and leading with your hips as you rise, so what your description would indicate to me is that you're picking your chest up too early. Pulling down on the bar shouldn't be necessary, because the bar rests on the shelf you make with your delts securely enough that (ideally) the only function of your hands is the keep the bar from sliding down your back. Your arms are locked in really tightly, so the focus is keeping your shoulders tight, rather than pulling on the bar. Some people can even squat hands-free in this position (as a form exercise-- not recommended at training weights).

On the other hand, with high bar squats, pulling down on the bar like you're saying is the standard advice. It does help keep the bar secure, but more importantly, it engages your lats and helps keep your core tight. It also helps you remember to keep your elbows down, thus your chest up, which is important for high bar squats.

You should probably pick low bar or high bar rather than using a mixture, because the mechanics are actually pretty different, not just from pulling the bar, but throughout the whole movement.

  • What do you mean by your arms being locked in really tightly?
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 11:06
  • @Frank With low bar, your hand position should be as narrow as you can manage, so that when you wedge yourself under the bar, you're locking it into place against rigidity of the forearm bone, as opposed to using your arm muscles to hold the bar in place. You should be barely be able to move your elbows-- if you can, either grip is too wide or bar is not low enough. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 21:28

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