The question arose this morning regarding whether to look down, straight or upward (not cranking your neck) while squatting in low-bar position. The reason this came up is because I noticed the athlete had forward inclination, compromising the structure of the lift and the lower back during tempo squats.
The athlete mentioned Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength, 2005) says to look down to build hip drive and power and strength out of the posterior chain. I'm very please the athlete had read Rippetoe. I also appreciated the athlete's respectful approach to my feedback.
I recommended the athlete look straight. The moment they did...
...their lift was significantly better - the bar was balanced over the mid-foot with confirmed visual of proper weight distribution and virtually no forward inclination on the rise from bottom position.
This isn't about whose right and who's wrong. It's about form. The revered Charles Poliquin (athletes include Olympic Champion Dimitri Klokov... and considered the world's most successful Strength Coach), for example, has said that one should look straight when squatting.
Both Poliquin and Rippetoe agree the more upright you can stay while performing a Squat, the less stress on the spine.
The point: The correct eye placement varies for every athlete, and there is no one, universal truth, to eye placement... however, structure rules them all. That said, it's important to experiment with eye placement. Sure, we are all trying to improve hip drive and strength (more power), but that is secondary to structure, since power is useless if you're injured, even slightly.
I've encountered many athletes over the years with lower back injury as a result of posterior compromise for the sake of power, especially as a result of squatting. My lifting philosophy has always been to prioritize structure over power. If I can use a LOTR analogy to emphasize this...
In reference to "Them," being your lifts... STRUCTURE IS...
One thing to rule them all, one thing to refine them, One thing to bring them all and on the platform bind them.
Hope this helps you in your squat quest.
- Coach John