Is It Okay to “Bounce” Out of Your Squats?

To bounce, or not to bounce? Apparently, I’ve been squatting wrong all these years. I’m very ashamed to say it, but I have indeed been…bouncing!

Wait a minute, do I not bounce (“rebound” or “catch the bounce”) in the reception of my clean? Should I not do that there either? Well, if I don’t, I personally won’t be able to lift as much because I certainly don’t think I can power clean as much as I can full clean, and I don’t believe I will be able to stop the weight from pushing me down to that point at which the bounce happens. So, I think I’ll keep on with the bounce in the squat so I can practice the timing, as well as maintain my mobility and strength in and coming out of that “buried” bottom position(where the bounce occurs) for the continued benefit, or rather insurance and performance of the clean. I’m thinking if bouncing is wrong, I surely don’t wanna be right!

BUT, this doesn’t mean that athletes should just run to the gym and start slamming into their buried bottom position. Particularly those that are newer to the Olympic lifts should understand first where their true bottom position really is (usually it is lower than one thinks), and then if that bottom position is currently usable within the reception of snatches and cleans, and therefore ready to practice this “bouncing” within their squats (for most it is not). Don’t get it twisted though; even many experienced lifters of all levels from what I’ve seen could stand to go back and re-evaluate in this regard.

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So, what does it mean for ones bottom position to be “usable?” To me, it is ensuring that this position is as flexible, comfortable, and strong as possible. To have more range of motion within your bottom position means that you can get lower(while using a quality foot position,) and therefore potentially get under more weight, as well as more room to use the legs as cushion or shocks as one receives the bar for a more efficient “bounce” within.

Comfortable first of all means just that, you are comfortable within that lowest position. You can sit there for minutes without really working or getting tired, or as I’ve heard as a requirement for ones bottom position before, you need to be able to carry on a normal conversation while there. This comfort, of course, requires sufficient flexibility as already mentioned (which is why they are stated in that specific order), but also the awareness, coordination, and stability to be able to relax what needs to be relaxed and tighten what needs to be tightened. If you are sitting with good posture within a chair, your legs/quads are not working to hold you up, and your back is not slouched. You should be able to sit on yourself in this way in your bottom position, which means that your quads/hamstrings are turned off, while core tension is maintained. Lastly, the strength to support greater and greater loads than you are trying to clean, and the strength coming out of it.

For purposes of bottom position preparation to lead to the best ability to catch the bounce within ones cleans (and snatches), I believe that athletes of all levels should be performing “pause squats” regularly within their training program. This helps with development and maintenance of the position where needed, as well as range of motion consistency between receiving positions(where these end ranges are more unavoidable) and depth of the squat as an exercise. Without the pause, and to truly practice and prepare the bounce, one must as well be consistent with that depth within all forms of squat; I see athletes of all levels, even National and International level, missing out on this range of motion consistency between snatch/clean reception and squat, which can again lead to that bottom position being less and less usable, and the buried position more and more compensated within the reception.

Also, keep in mind the ideal timing of the reception. We don’t want “brakes” (i.e. power clean; stopping the weight and coming up), or “nothing” (i.e. drop to your bottom position without interacting with the bar and you find yourself sitting in the bottom waiting for the bar as it then crashes into your front rack). So, we need shocks, meaning that you meet the bar (the bar makes contact with and lands in your front rack) at anything above that buried position (usually 1 inch up to about a parallel depth position, depending on the weight and skill of the lifter), the legs then absorb the weight, relax for a split second at the change of direction point (your buried position), to then re-fire and hopefully stand the load.

How does one ensure the “prerequisites” and then learn and develop the rest from there? You can check out my YouTube channel, Instagram account, weightlifting programs, and/or other writings for continual support in this regard. Also, if one truly wants to see where they are at and put in the necessary work, you don’t have to look too far for a good coach in or around your area who can give you a good assessment and set you on the right path!

So, BOUNCE away as you must as a weightlifter, but do so with a purpose, and with the proper preparation and timing!

Editor’s Note: Weightlifting House Founder and BarBend Reader Seb Ostrowicz had this to say after reading the above:

“Bouncing in the squat is important for all lifters, but pauses have their place. They improve both positioning and comfort in the squat, and they develop starting strength in a lifter, which is particularly important in the beginning stages. But as weightlifters advance and training becomes more specific, the need for auxiliary exercises to mimic the competition lifts becomes more necessary. Bouncing in the squat teaches us to conserve energy when standing up out of a clean; the correct sequencing of muscular contractions as we stand up; and develops the tendons and ligaments around the knee, aiding in injury prevention.”

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Chad Vaughn is a 2-time Olympian, 9-time US National Champion, 2003 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, and American Record Holder in the sport of Weightlifting. Chad also holds CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2 certificates, as well as being a USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach. With over 20 years of utilizing and application of elite level training programs, Chad has shared this knowledge with athletes of all levels throughout the world through weekly weightlifting classes, seminars, online coaching, videos, and written content. Chad is also the co-founder of Vaughn Weightlifting, a Power Monkey Fitness coach, and the host of the Vaughn Weightlifting Podcast.