Why I squat with my eyes down or forward, head flat

I’m on a quest to figure out why some people like myself, Eduardo Guadamud (310KG x 2), Sergiy Fedosienko (280KG), Misha Koklayev (310KG x 3), Ronnie Coleman squat much much better looking forward or down with a flatter back.

While some guys like Jiri Orsag (300KG)…wait hold on, 90% of the videos on Youtube are videos of guys squatting with their heads/eyes/nose pointed up.

We’ve all been informed to look up. The theory states that our eyes direct where we go. That’s why if we close our eyes and run, we’ll end up running in circles, often to the direction of our handedness. I’m not sure what happens to people who are ambidextrous though. Thus if we look down, we’re going to go down.

On the other hand however, keeping a neutral spine is better to deliver force into the bar. This is because it transfers the power better without losing a percentage of it through flex or excessive arch/curve. No disagreements yet right? A straight stick will deliver more force, than a stick that’s curved right? This is also dependent on durability of the stick, and amount of torsion the stick can handle. But our bodies aren’t sticks.

I’ve been doing some reading, experimenting with clients and myself and my mates, and 90% of us have realized improvements in our squats by looking downwards or forward instead of our previous cue to look UP. Mine’s probably the most extreme, where by looking at a point 3 feet in front of me, I get the best balance and feel. No my back doesn’t round. Tested and checked even with 95% 1RM @ 190KG. The comments I get most by looking downwards or forward are;

– Better stability and ability to feel the weights between the midfoot to the heels.
– They feel their hips and glutes working harder (I personally got up with major butt sores)
– Looking in the ground gives them more confidence
– The quads feel more fired up
– Easier to keep the knees locked in place
– Easier to get the right positions while going down and less mistakes when shooting up.

I can guess to why it happens, but I’m in no way sure, so I’m not about to make assumptions so soon.

In fact, two of our clients always had problems with the hips shooting too far back while the shoulder and bar stays in the same stop. They end up doing a good morning. Myself included, but this was minimized when I did a lot of pulling and front squats. I figure with stronger quads and back, I can keep a more upright position with less leaning forward. For the longest time I saw clients and friends improving, their quads getting all stronger with back squats and I was pretty upset that I had to stick to front squats to get stronger.

My best theory for this improvement;

By keeping a flat back, we have no “platform” to good morning the weight if we shoot our hips shoot back. So this helps us be aware of keeping our hips as close under the bar as possible.

It could also be due to torso length as a lot of our clients have long torsos and keeping a flat back, seems to alleviate the load on the abs and shift it more to the hips.

For the moment, looking down is working well but should the need to move back to looking up arise again, I’ll definitely switch back. Just thought others out there who keep falling over, can give it a shot. Look down, or forward and keep the back flat. Please don’t round the back though.

10 replies
  1. NeoSpartan
    NeoSpartan says:

    I will try this tomorrow. I did a few last night with a broomstick and I could feel that my hips did not want to raise first, nor did my chest feel like caving in (which they always like to do).

  2. NeoSpartan
    NeoSpartan says:

    dude!!!! looking down is awesome!

    It keeps my torso nice and straight WITHOUT having to struggle to keep it that way. (which I constantly have to do when I look up) Also it made my back squats focus on the quads, so the weight on the bar is a bit less than what I normally do. (Usually when it gets heavy my lower back kicks in since I end up doing a 1/3 good mornings up, ugly)

      • NeoSpartan
        NeoSpartan says:

        I think it would interest you to know that I now recover from my snatches looking down too. I feel much more steady standing up, and I feel faster locking my arms overhead. My timing still needs more practice.

        The backsquat #’s are up, it just took the body a lil’ while to get used to the new groove. Still the best thing is that my lowerback no longer hurts after heavy sets.

  3. Mike T Nelson
    Mike T Nelson says:

    I like to have most clients start with a neutral neck.

    If you look at neurology, the main nerves that run to the lats can get “kinked” with a head up position. Less lat activation = less stabiliization.

    Of course, it could be for many reason (as you stated above too). Just what I have seen

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson

  4. Jeremy Regensburg
    Jeremy Regensburg says:

    Hey Kirk,

    First of all, compliments to your site. Being pretty new to oly-lifting, I love reading your site.

    Second, as for squatting with eyes forward/down, this enables better use of your hips. Mark Rippetoe explains this as “Killing the hip drive”. Now he generally speaks about a low-bar, powerlifting-style squat, but to some extent it should be relevant to high bar squats as well. Rippetoe recommends the tennis ball method: pretend as if you have to lock a tennis ball between your chest and chin. This will force a natural curve in the spine, no rounding of the back, etc.

    You can downlo- *cough* buy his book ‘Starting Strength’ in a lot of places, where he explains how this works.

    I do not agree with everything he says (he says weightlifters should do low bar squats and should deadlift more… hmmm), but he does give a lot of information in his books about a lot of subjects, the look-down thing in squatting is a good example.

    I hope this helps!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Kirk on keeping the head in neutral position. Keeping a neutral spine is better to deliver force into the bar. This is because it transfers the power better without losing a percentage of it through flex or excessive arch/curve. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *