Barbell Squat Exercise
Barbell squat is perhaps one of the most beneficial lifts you can master (the king of all lifts). This multi-joint exercise is extremely effective at developing the muscles of your legs, but also promote full-body mobility and stability. If you are looking to build muscle, overall power and strength, burn fat, and get freaky strong then adding squats to your weekly program is a must. Before attempting squats, you need proper base strength. Those with poor strength or flexibility should practice squats without weights before progressing to light weights. Beginners can learn the correct technique by using no weights and squatting down to a chair or box.
Exercise Instructions – Perfect Barbell Squat Technique
Squats can be dangerous if done improperly. You must learn proper form before tackling even moderate weight.
STARTING POSITION (SETUP) : Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width (toes pointing out slightly) and position the barbell across your traps (upper part of your back) and shoulders using a thumb-lock grip. Your hands should be wider than your hip width. Keep your head up, chin pointing forward, spine in a neutral position, and chest out. Your weight should be evenly distributed across both feet.
EXERCISE EXECUTION (ACTION): Begin to lower your body by thrusting (retracting ) your hips back. A common mistake is to begin the movement by bending your knees, which can easily pull you out of position. Keeping your spine in a neutral position, continue to lower your body by moving your hips back and bending at your knees and waist until your upper legs are (nearly) parallel with the floor and your spine is at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Your knees should extend slightly forwards, with your chest and head up. Your knees should be directly over the front of your feet. At the bottom, pause and be sure you have a firm grip on the bar and a stable stance. Then gradually stand up, keeping the barbell steady on your shoulders and your back arched. Don’t bounce at the bottom to make standing easier.
Barbell Squat Additional Tips & Key Points
- Your hips and spine slide down and backwards while your knees slide forwards until the bottom of the movement; then your knees, hips, and back move straight up simultaneously.
- Do not lean forward as you squat down; if you hold your shoulders back and keep your chest out, you can more easily keep the correct torso position.
- Do not let your back round at any time during the lift (keep your spine straight – in a neutral position).
- Don’t let your knees track past (beyond) your toes (avoid letting your knees slide until they are either wider or narrower than your feet). If your knees track forward past your toes in the bottom position, this can place unnecessary stress on your knees.
- The barbell has to drop down in a vertical line, directly above the mid-foot to heel.
- Keep your abdominal muscles taut and your hands on the bar, with some tension in your grip.
- Wear a belt to support your lower back and have a spotter nearby for safety.
- Some advanced bodybuilders go down so far that their buttocks touch their ankles, but this can place enormous strain on your knees and back if you’re not prepared.
- Placing small but stable objects (many people use 5- to 10-pound plates) under your heels helps focus the movement more toward the quads and less on the gluteals.
Muscles Engaged in Barbell Squat
Squats mainly work the thighs, but also tie in the buttocks and hamstrings.
Main (primary) muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus
Secondary muscles: hamstrings, adductors, gastrocnemius, muscles of the lower back and along the spine
Antagonists: iliopsoas, sartorius
- Front barbell squat: Performing the squat with the barbell held across the front of your shoulders shifts the emphasis to the quads, away from the gluteals. The front squat poses a higher degree of difficulty and requires lighter weights.
- Smith machine squat: Performing this exercise using a machine, such as a Smith machine, helps balance and improves safety.
- Hack squat (machine) – A hack machine also has rails for weight to travel on, but they are angled at 45 to 60 degrees, not vertically.
- Dumbbell squat
- Barbell hack squat