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During back squats, the bar sits on your upper shoulders.
Using a barbell during your squatting workouts allows you to significantly increase the load that your muscles have to lift. However, to avoid injury, it's important that the barbell is placed in the proper position. Where you should place the barbell depends on what type of squat you're doing. The back squat involves placing the bar on the back of your shoulders, while the front squat requires you to hold the bar at the front of your shoulders.
Back it Up
During the back squat exercise, you want to place the barbell high up on the back of your shoulders so that it's resting right at the base of your neck. Avoid allowing the bar to make contact with your neck as this can place too much stress on your cervical spine. If the bar resting on your shoulders is uncomfortable, you can wrap it with a towel or use a barbell pad. Grip the bar with both hands just outside the width of your shoulders.
Out in Front
The front squat involves the same exercise technique as the back squat but is done with the barbell at the front of your shoulders. There are a couple of ways you can hold the bar in position. First, you can cross your arms and place your hands on top of the bar, holding your arms so that they're parallel to the floor. The other way you can hold the bar is to hook your fingers under the bar right at your shoulders, lifting your elbows up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Consider the Weight
Master the technique of the squat using just your own body weight as resistance before incorporating a weighted barbell. Once you incorporate a bar, increase the weight you're lifting progressively. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the most common reasons that lifters suffer from back problems caused by squatting is that they are trying to lift too much weight. This increase in weight causes you to bend forward too much when you're lowering into the squat, which places torque on your spine.
Prioritize Your Safety
To safely place the barbell on the front or back of your shoulders, use a squat rack. Set the bar on the rack so that it's positioned a couple of inches lower than the height of your shoulders. With the bar on the rack, you can load the bar up with any weighted plates that you'll be using. Step up to the bar, ducking underneath it and lifting it up with your shoulders if you're doing the back squat or squatting down slightly and lifting up the bar if you're doing front squats. Once you have the bar racked, move to an area where you have space to complete your squats.