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.