The Low Bar Funnel

The Low Bar Funnel

The Low Bar back squat is the lift that we use in WAR to funnel people safely into the broad world of strength and conditioning. If one focuses solely on this lift, where they strive each week to progress linearly, then all other lifts will linearly progress as well, especially for the novice. However, this lift has to be done properly, and with full range of motion, meaning it cannot be cut short by not dropping down below parallel.

The hip drive, or the pull with the hamstrings coming out of the squat hole, is then where the true art of the lift can be found. Since the bar is placed on the lower part of the back, and directly below the spine of the scapula, it allows for a forward lean to take place while the hip drive and hamstring pull take place.

This lift strengthens the back and entire posterior chain, along with everything else in the human body. This lift strengthens the mind, as it is a lift that creates toughness, coordination, and obviously confidence. When one travels to the length of being strong in this lift, squatting upwards of four hundred pounds, then an unfolding of confidence, accomplishment, and self worth arises within the participators mind and soul that will be lasting and powerful, for a new memory will have been created–one that will outshine and outlast all others, and will help to make room for more healthy memories.

Athleticism is what the low bar back squat offers people–and who doesn’t enjoy feeling athletic? The one who has never been or felt athletic–but who now feels athletic, can come to experience a new and improved frame of mind. Now they are running, jumping, picking heavy things up and then putting them over their head; they are now hiking, riding their bike, playing with their kids, and most importantly they are confident in most, if not all, of their  physical abilities, which  in turn leads them to living a happy, healthy, confident, and physically active life.

It’s safe to say, then, that the low bar back squat can play a key role in helping those that struggle with addiction by helping them to feel athletic, strong, and better about themselves. The one who is strong physically can be led to being stronger mentally. The confidence from the physical can lead them to finding the necessary motivation to enhance their spiritual and mental selves as well, which makes the low bar back squat the lift of all lifts–in how it can lift the physical, mental, and spiritual.


The Art of the Low Bar Back Squat

The Art of the Low Bar Back Squat

by Dustin Hawkins

I’m not going to go into too much detail on how to actually perform the Low Bar Back Squat; finding out how to perform this lift with perfection is going to ultimately be up to you. I can give you the basic fundamentals, and a few pictures that might help you to capture the vision of what the lift entails, however, to master the lift in its entirety you must become a true studier, watching videos and practicing the lift without even having a bar on your back. At first you should practice the lift using a broom stick, or a pvc pipe, but not a barbell, especially if you are a novice-meaning you have never performed any type of squat with a barbell on your back in your entire life.

So if you think about the squat then you will come to realize that we use it in all facets of our life. We use it to sit down and stand up; we also use it to pick stuff up, among many others. It’s safe to say that if you lose the ability to squat, then you also lose the ability to do life on a physical level, and are probably in a wheel chair. With that concept in mind, then shouldn’t we become more proficient in how we squat? Shouldn’t we keep our legs, core, and entire posterior chain as strong as we possibly can so that we can live a full life physically? Picture yourself sitting down to use the bathroom; not even on the toilet, but in the woods. How would you do it? My guess is that you would lead with your hips first (not your knees), forcing your knees out, and sitting back on your heals so that you wouldn’t get any shit on your shoes. In fact, why don’t you stop what you are doing and go ahead and give this a try. You don’t need to go out and use the bathroom outside obviously, but just pretend you are using the bathroom outside and go ahead and squat down in the way that you would do it. You should be sitting down with your knees being forced out by your arms, and on your heels, with your feet slightly being wider than shoulder width with having your toes slightly pointed out. This would be the most comfortable and efficient way to use the bathroom in the woods and is also the way that a proper squat unfolds.

photo copy 58

So there you have it; that is how you squat. Need I say more? Of course I need to say more, but the point being is that the squat really isn’t all that tough of a movement to do since we do it all of the time in our daily lives anyway.


Bar Placement   

So if you reach as far as you can for your opposite shoulder blade then you will come to feel the spine of your scapula. Directly below this spine is where the bar needs to be placed.


Notice in the above picture where the Bar is placed, and more importantly how the elbows are up, creating a shelf for the bar to be rested. Another thing to notice is the hand placement on the bar, and how no pressure is being put on the wrists. At first, you may struggle with shoulder and wrist flexibility-and many are forced to wrap their thumb around, which is fine at first; however, as your flexibility increases then so must your technique increase as far as the hand and bar placement goes. The bar placement is crucial as it allows for the bar to remain over the mid-line of your foot as you go down into the squat, then creating the proper forward torso lean- and also a direct line from where the bar is placed on you back to the midline of your foot, then creating a safe plane for the bar to travel as you descend into the squat.


Notice the line running down from the bar, through the knees, and then onto the midline of the foot. Also, look at the positioning of the head and torso, which the torso is at a slight forward lean due to placement of the bar; and the head is looking straight to slightly down, as apposed to cranking it up as so many do when they squat.


Hip Drive

As we slowly descend into the squat, forcing our knees out as we get down below that  parallel depth (hip drop below knee), keeping ours elbow slightly elevated to insure no bar movement; we must now go into the direction of climbing out of the squat hole. So how do we do it? Most will want to drive up using their quads only, which is not the art of the Low Bar Back Squat. The Art of the Low Bar Back squat lies within the hip drive and forward lean. So the first thing we must do when coming out of the bottom is drive up with our hips first, then pulling with our hamstrings (back of legs), and through our foot. Your natural reaction is going to be to drive up with using your quads first; but with the hips coming up first activates the entire posterior chain (along with the quad) and the lift will not be so quad dominant, but will recruit far more muscles since the entire posterior chain will be utilized. Such a hip drive will create a small forward lean-as this is a natural occurrence due to the hips going first. However, its important to note that the hips and shoulders must rise at the same time, or the Low Bar Art is lost, and that straight line going from the bar to the midline of the foot will also be lost.

See the picture below for a comparison. Picture came from Mark Rippetoes book “Starting Strength.”



So there you have it. My effort to explain the Low Bar Back Squat in a simple way, and without overwhelming you. I’ve made reference to Mark Rippetoe and his book Starting Strength and I feel that it would be very beneficial for you to have this book on hand. We live in a time where information is granted to us immediately, and through the click of a single button; so do just that: utilize google and youtube to find videos on how to perform this lift properly. It’s important that you do learn how to do this lift properly or your progression will stall out. If you are cutting your squat short always, and aren’t using the hip drive in the proper way then you not only run the risk of injury, but also the risk of not experiencing the overall wellness that this lift can lead you to having. I’m a firm believer that this lift can keep us young both in mind and body, and my hope is that you will come to experience what I am talking about by coming to know and understand the true Art of the Low Bar Back Squat and how it pertains to escaping the dark, depressed, and addicted mind.






The Art of Strength & Conditioning

Art of Strength & Conditioning

       by Dustin Hawkins

The art of Strength and Conditioning lies within linear progression. You will only come to understand this truth of the art if you come to find yourself working in a linear way, meaning tracking strength progress so that you can add weight to your loads each training session. In WAR we put all of our efforts into developing the squat, namely the low bar back squat. So if we are squatting on Monday and Thursday we will have needed to make progress in our loading on Thursday compared to Monday. Then from Thursday to Monday we will have needed to make progress in our loading on Monday compared to the previous Thursday; and so on and so fourth we will go working the sets across model, meaning sticking to the same weight for three to five sets across on a five rep scheme (3-5 x 5). So maybe the first Monday you do three sets of five reps with using sixty-five pounds. Then on Thursday you do three sets of five reps with using seventy-five pounds. And you will continue this upward progression each and every week, adding small increments of weight to insure that linear progression remains steady.

I have found that this linear progressive model can continue on for upwards of ten weeks (and even more), that is if the programming on the other gym experience days are programmed properly. The nutrition will also come to play an important role, and maybe the most important role since it is true that what fuel we put in to our human engine is what determines how our human engine runs, performs, and recovers. Also, if you get in the habit of cutting your squat short as your weight gets heavier due to you trying to jump too fast, then your progress will most definitely stall out and can’t remain.

Depth and range of motion has to be consistent in all lifts, especially the squat. At first, your consistency and flexibility will be lacking, however, as you keep working at it you will come to find this consistency and flexibility, though just as in all facets of life, you must work to gain it and not get lazy in your approach to doing so.

Once you’ve developed the necessary coordination to perform the low bar back squat on a consistent basis, and with having perfect technique, it is then that the programming can become more artistic and fun. Now at the end of a sets across squat session you can take eighty percent of that set across load and perform a max reps set, or even and eight rep scheme, where you rest sixty seconds, and then perform another eight rep scheme. So now at this level you’re presented with little rest, or a max effort for reps set that will not only increase your heart rate, but will also promote mental toughness and muscular endurance.

When an individual finally gets to the point in their strength and conditioning journey where they now can perform multiple sets of the low bar with now having the ability to handle more physical and mental stress than ever before – then that is when the art of strength and conditioning can become seen by them. This art, with what started off with the low bar, can then advance into the vast world of strength and conditioning because they will now have the coordination to do all things. Their posterior chain will be strong and mature enough that they will now realize how this powerful chain can be of use to them in all areas of their life. From them learning the low bar, and the beautiful art of the hip drive, they will have become familiar on how to use their hamstrings and lower back in a way that promotes longevity, wellness, and athleticism.

For the person that struggles often with the dark addicted mind then this art of strength and conditioning can be the light that can pull them out of the shadows. Since the low bar recruits so much muscle when done properly, then it only makes sense that muscle growth will happen due to the broad range of motion that this movement gives way to. The body of the participator will most definitely change, and the feeling of toughness and accomplishment they will feel running through their system as they linear progress in this lift is matched by no other lift due to the Low Bars innate ability to stimulate the central nervous system – which then causes a testosterone release to occur that promotes confidence and a feeling of well being.

It’s the learning of how to handle a barbell that also makes up the art of strength and conditioning. Knowing the grips, understanding the loading and how to use percentages, when to back off, and when to go for it. If this art, along with much more, isn’t pursued to be learned then you will never come to understand or experience strength and conditioning and how it might pertain to saving you from your own addictive self. When you are in a garage gym setting, and you find yourself going hard with using a barbell properly – then you can actually escape your own self for a time especially if your intensity is so high that it causes you to be uncomfortable. It is during this time that your addiction can’t even come close to touching you.

A lot of times the addict cannot escape the torments of their own mind, which is why relapse is common. However, the Art of Strength and Conditioning carries so much power in its ability to create a sport that can be tracked – that it will give you the opportunity to set goals for yourself, which is something that all human beings need to have (goals) in their life anyway in order to keep making personal progress.

It’s seems that the barbell is the piece that completes the addiction puzzle. It’s used with chalk; it’s used in the clean & jerk; it’s used in the snatch; and of course it’s in the squats, playing the cornerstone roll in all of these big lifts. Lifts that if done properly, and linearly, they create a confidence in all of life, making it so that your old way of life is but a glimpse in your mind due to it now being focused on the barbell way of life.

The posterior chain is what feeds athleticism. And by feeling athletic we can feel confident, since feeling and being athletic is fun. This concept holds especially true for all age groups. The young kid can benefit greatly from developing athleticism because now they are more prone to being good at sports, which them remaining good at sports will keep them active in playing something healthy as apposed to them hanging out in all the wrong places after school – and with all the wrong people.

For the individual who is in their mid twenties, thirties, forties, or even fifties, feeling athletic can be quite beneficial to them as well since they will feel young and athletic, now giving them the opportunity to enjoy all of life’s physical labors without having fear.

It is starting to be my understanding that as we travel forward in age that we are supposed to try our best at staying as a child. As children we were not only innocent in our thinking, but we were also innocent in our physical selves. We jumped, we ran, we played, we threw rocks and baseballs, we road bikes, and because of us doing these things we remained healthy and happy. So it is now, as we get older that we stop doing all of these things because we claim that we are too busy, or too old for that matter. And what’s happened? Many have dark minds or addiction problems. So what I’m promoting is that in order for us to truly be healed of our addiction disease then we must get back into running, jumping, lifting weights, and playing so that we can get back in touch with our child self.

Fear seams sideline us all at times, especially as we travel past our addiction and upwards in age. The clear life can be scary at first, but it is through the Art of Strength & Conditioning that we can learn to fear no more. The barbell can act as a magical wand, and if used properly can help us to transform mentally, physically, and spiritually. The mental comes in the form of diligence and discipline, and also in the learning of how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The physical comes in the form of developing a deep underlying strength, which then leads to an actual physical transformation that then breeds confidence. The spiritual comes in the form of the perfect platform that Strength and Conditioning creates for the ushering in of charitable concepts, and how it can feed light into the darkest of all minds.

Search to familiarize yourself with how to use a barbell. The way of the barbell lifestyle is a life full of strength in mind, body, and spirit. Don’t spend too much time on trying to build up your small muscles by doing curls, or focusing on you calves; but rely on the big lifts since they are the ones that have the capability of changing the way that you think, even making you mentally tougher.

I have found, that if I can take someone who struggles intensely with addiction and teach them this truth concerning strength and conditioning then I can help them to change and become their best self. If I can get them to work hard not only while they are with me but also when then are not with me, then I can help them to further advance their understanding of how it is that they too can come to live the full, abundant life.