Bottom Up or Anderson Squats: 3 Benefits and Muscles Worked

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
September 21, 2022

When most lifters think of the squat, they picture themselves stepping beneath the bar and then descending from a standing position. 

While this is a tried and tested method of inducing significant training stimulus to the lower body, there are actually several drawbacks to such a movement pattern.

This is where the bottom up squat comes into play, addressing such issues and providing a novel approach to the traditional back squat so as to remedy deficits and errors made in the execution of the latter exercise.

The bottom up squat is a back squat variation where the lifter places the barbell at the lowest pin of the rack (or on the safety bars at a low elevation) prior to lifting it into a standing position and then returning the barbell back to its original placement.

What are Bottom-Up Squats or Anderson Squats?

To put it in more descriptive terms, the bottom up squat (or Anderson Squat) is a free weight compound movement with a particular focus on the posterior chain and quadriceps femoris muscle groups of the lower body. 

Anderson squat

Much like many other squat variations, the bottom up squat makes use of knee extension, external hip rotation and core-driven spine neutrality throughout the movement.

It requires the usage of a barbell, pair of weight plates, and some sort of barbell rack in order to execute properly.

Bottom up squats are most often used as a secondary compound movement in athletic training programs, or as a temporary substitute to the traditional back squat for individuals with issues relating to its performance.

Who Should Perform the Bottom Up Squat?

The bottom up squat is somewhat more complex in terms of technicality and requires a greater level of muscular control to execute. As such, it is considered to be somewhat more difficult than the traditional back squat and is not suitable for novice lifters.

Otherwise, the bottom up squat is particularly useful for athletes seeking greater rate of force development in their posterior chain, or lifters with issues relating to traditional back squat form cues.

These cues are primarily bar path asymmetry, poor parallel or below parallel stability, knee valgus during the concentric phase and insufficient hip rotation during the eccentric phase.

While performing the bottom up squat will not directly fix all of these mechanical issues, combining it with proper mobility work and form practice will doubtless aid in such efforts.

How is the Bottom Up Squat Performed?

Prior to covering proper bottom up squat performance, we would like to stress that all the ordinary form cues and mechanics of the conventional back squat will also apply to the bottom up squat - meaning that, even if not mentioned here, the lifter must still adhere to the same form as if they are performing the traditional squat instead.

bottom up squat muscles

Setting Up

Prior to performing a set of the bottom up squat, the lifter must set the safety bars or rack pins to an elevation that allows them to begin the squat repetition at their lowest squat depth. 

This can vary between individuals of different flexibilities, and as such it is most advisable to use a power cage with adjustable safety bars in small increments for the most comfort possible. 

Additionally, the lifter may wish to begin with just the bar alone - especially if they are uncomfortable with the reversed movement of the bottom up squat. This will allow them to become more familiar with the starting point, power requirement and general movement pattern of the exercise.

Concentric Phase

To begin performing a bottom up squat set, the lifter will position themselves in a squat position beneath the barbell and draw themselves upwards at the hips and chest - recruiting as much explosive power as possible while keeping their heels firmly on the floor.

The feet should be placed approximately hip width or somewhat wider apart, while the chest remains pushed outwards and upright, just as is the case in practically any squat variation.

Once the lifter has reached a point of full leg extension, they will begin the eccentric phase in a slow and controlled manner.

Eccentric Phase

The eccentric phase of the bottom up squat begins with the lifter pushing their pelvis backwards as they bend at the knees, lowering the barbell in a slow descent until it makes contact with the rack - thereby ending the repetition.

Benefits of the Bottom Up Squat

Apart from the usual benefits that come with practically any variation of the squat exercise, there are certain advantages that are solely derived from the performance of the bottom up squat itself.

These are mostly technical in nature, and are generally not needed for novice or casual weightlifters - making the addition of the bottom up squat something that is primarily seen in advanced athletic training.

1. Greater Stability Development

One of the most significant benefits of regular bottom up squat performance is in stability - both from isometric development of the leg’s musculature, as well as improvements in general exercise mechanics that directly translate to conventional back squat movement.

The bottom up squat can induce significant improvements in a lifter’s stability during the bottom of their conventional squat repetition, as well as aid in pushing out of “the hole” by improving the contractive strength of the posterior chain.

2. Squat Mechanical Issues

The bottom up squat also sees significant use in powerlifting training due to its capacity to show and remedy issues relating to proper performance of the conventional squat.

The majority of these remedied mechanical errors have to do with the bottom of the squat movement, though the bottom up squat also addresses issues relating to proper stance width and internally rotating knees.

3. Greater Explosiveness Development

Due to the fact that the lifter begins the bottom up squat in a sitting position, they will need to produce significant force in a short span of time in order to complete the concentric phase of the repetition. 

This, in turn, produces a type of training stimulus that surpasses the conventional back squat in terms of explosive power production by the lower body - carrying over to practically any other athletic activity involving the legs.

Common Mistakes of the Bottom Up Squat

Insufficient Depth

Either due to equipment limitations or by error, many lifters perform the bottom up squat at a depth that does not recreate the full range of motion of a traditional squat. This reduces the effectiveness and potential of the exercise, defeating the entire purpose of its execution.

The proper depth of the bottom up squat should be at an elevation where the feet are flat on the ground and evenly distributing the weight of the barbell, with the lower back maintained in a neutral curvature. Deviations from this can result in acute injuries.

Excessive Weight

The bottom up squat requires significantly greater posterior chain strength than other squat variations, meaning that the lifter will not be able to move as much weight in comparison. 

Generally, most lifters will find that performing repetitions of half of their total back squat working weight is the safest starting point for the bottom up squat.

“Bouncing” Between Repetitions

As a major component of the bottom up squat is in its explosive push during the concentric phase of the movement, lifters utilizing momentum or the gluteal stretch mechanic so as to aid in the repetition will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise itself.

A good method of ensuring that this does not occur is taking a pause between each repetition, allowing the weight of the barbell to fully settle on the rack prior to lifting it upwards once again.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are There Bottom Up Front Squats?

Yes - performing bottom up front squats is essentially the same as performing bottom up back squats, with the sole difference being that the lifter places the safety pins at a higher elevation so as to allow the lifter to keep the barbell atop their chest shelf.

barbell pin front squat

How to Adjust for Rack Pins Being Too Low/High?

If the adjustable pins of your power cage or squat rack aren’t at the right height, it is possible to place weight plates or similarly stable items beneath your feet so as to position yourself at the correct elevation. 

This should allow you to adjust your own elevation alongside the barbell’s in order to achieve the correct depth for your mobility level.

Should Bottom Up Squats Replace Back Squats?

Unless the exerciser is a powerlifter in the off-season, or attempting to remedy issues with their back squat execution; no, replacing back squats with bottom up squats is not advisable.

This is due to a number of different reasons, with the most important being that bottom up squats do not produce the same sort of training stimulus as back squats - both because of the reduced weight involved in the exercise, as well as the fact that the concentric phase of the repetition is performed in an explosive manner, reducing time under tension.

Final Thoughts

To conclude this article, we can see that the bottom up squat (like other squat variations) can be a situational yet highly effective tool in any weightlifter’s arsenal. The trick is knowing when to use it, and for what purpose.

As always, ensure that you have mastered the correct form and mechanics of the bottom up squat prior to attempting to perform it with a full working weight load in order to avoid injury.

References

1. Myer GD, Kushner AM, Brent JL, Schoenfeld BJ, Hugentobler J, Lloyd RS, Vermeil A, Chu DA, Harbin J, McGill SM. The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength Cond J. 2014 Dec 1;36(6):4-27. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103. PMID: 25506270; PMCID: PMC4262933.

2. Miletello, WM, Beam, JR, and Cooper, ZC. A biomechanical analysis of the squat between competitive collegiate, competitive high school, and novice powerlifters. J Strength Cond Res 23(5): 1611-1617, 2009

3. Coratella, Giuseppe, Gianpaolo Tornatore, Francesca Caccavale, Stefano Longo, Fabio Esposito, and Emiliano Cè. 2021. "The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 2: 772. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020772

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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