5 Techniques to Boost your Low Bar Squat Max

Legs 4 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

They say practice the way you want to play.

But squatting 550lbs isn’t playing.

Why 550lbs?

Because that’s my squat PR, and I used the following techniques to accomplish it.

1. Perfect your SEtup

Your setup should be identical for every squat you do. Some things change when you do a 1RM attempt, but most of them shouldn’t. Here’s the stuff that needs to be perfect and consistent for a big squat.

The more consistent you setup is the more natural your squat will be. It will always feel the same and will take a lot of the guesswork out.


Use the same barbell every time you squat. Barbells vary in thickness, knurling sharpness (the grip smoothness), the markings on the bar, and whether it has a center knurling or not.

Bar Height

Ensure your racked bar height is ~2″ below the top of your squat, and use the same rack every time. You don’t want to waste energy quarter squatting a fully loaded barbell just to get it off the rack.

If it’s too high you will not be able to get in a perfect squat position to remove it from the rack and that will affect your walkout (more on that in the last section).


Be consistent with your shoes, and get good shoes for low bar squatting. Chuck Taylor’s, Nike MetCons, and bare feet are my favorites.


Get a good weightlifting belt. My favorite is the Inzer brand, 4″ wide, 10mm thick, single prong powerlifting belt.

It will last your lifetime. Buy it, and then learn how to use it.


I know this is a weird one, but I have seen plenty of people rip their underwear squatting. Nothing will make you fail a squat quicker then wondering if it was just your underwear that ripped at the bottom of a squat or if it was you.

Get underwear (and shorts) that will stretch and move with you.

2. Visualize

Visualization is one of the strongest tools top athletes use.

Michael Phelps is so good at visualization that he was able to win an Olympic Gold Medal blind (his goggles were filled with water).

When you approach the bar get your hands set, but before you duck under the barbell to shoulder it do this:

– close your eyes
– see yourself in your mind exactly as you are now
– now visualize yourself ducking under the bar and sliding it into the perfect low bar position
– imagine what it will feel like to brace your stomach against the belt and stand that weight up; imagine it feels light
– paint a mental picture of your squat walkout
– now feel yourself squatting that weight down, and then up

The more detail you can see and feel when visualizing the more powerful this exercise is. Be sure to include the following sections in your personalized visualization sequence.

I pair this exercise with video recording each of my sets leading up to a 1RM attempt. A video of your squat will always show you that it moved faster than it felt, and this can be an important part of the psychological battle.

3. Mental Anchor

A mental anchor is like pressing the red button in the M.I.B. (can I still use a Men In Black reference?).

This takes you from whatever state your mind is in and shifts you immediately into the perfect mental arousal level.

A mental anchor can be whatever you want it to be. Michael Phelps has a series of songs he listens to.

I let out a loud but brief “AHH!” immediately before ducking under the bar. I include my mental anchor into my visualization.

4. Perfect your Walkout

The walkout is critical. It begins when you shoulder the weight, and ends when you are in the perfect position to begin your squat.

First, ensure your entire body is tensed and ready to shoulder the weight.

Exhale fully, and then inhale as much air as possible into your stomach.

At the same instant you press out onto the belt to brace you should squat the weight up off the rack. Doing these two things simultaneously will make the bar appear nearly weightless because you have turned your torso into a hydraulic press.

We’re looking for efficiency next.

A perfect walkout is only two steps. Non-dominant foot back a few inches, then dominant foot. You don’t need to walk it out far. Just enough to clear the rack rests (j-cups).

When you get good at it you will step right into your perfect squat stance in just two steps, but it takes a lot of practice.

5. Get Tighter

Squatting big weights is a max effort ordeal. Not just for your legs, but for every muscle in your body.

Before you descend into your squat exhale fully, then inhale as much air as you possibly can before pressing out onto your belt.

Push on that belt like you are trying to bust it off, and tighten every muscle in your body. Your knees should not be locked out and neither should your hips at this point. Maximize your tension.

Tying it all Together

Squatting the biggest weights comes with a lot of practice.

Raw strength will only take you so far, and the techniques in this article will take you farther.

These techniques take a lot of practice to become natural, and when they do you will go from a good squatter to a great squatter.

Keep in mind: these are advanced techniques, and will amplify your squat only if you have great technique to begin with.

Check out our guide on how to low bar squat to learn the basic low bar squats.

Hire a strength coach if you’re ready to learn great technique.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.