Muscles Worked: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes & abductors
Spotter Required: No, must be performed in a squat rack with safety catchers or squat stands
Minimum Equipment required: Standard barbell with weights and squat stands
The Best Equipment to Use: Olympic weights and barbell in a squat rack with safety catchers.
Warming up: To warm up, perform about 4 warm-up sets. Set1: 12 reps with light weight, Set2: 6 reps with 50% of weight you would normally lift, Set3: 3 reps with 85% of weight you would normally lift, Set4: 1-2 reps with 95% of the weight you would normally lift.
How often should I perform this exercise: Full Barbell Squats are a compound exercise and should be included in your leg workouts. I recommend performing squats at least two times a week, if you can do it three times that’s a bonus!
When should I perform this exercise: Barbell Squats use a lot of energy, requires mental preparation and releases a lot of growth hormone, so it’s best to perform it at the start of your leg workout.
How to do the exercise: With the bar set in the squat rack, grab hold of it with a grip just wider than shoulder width, keeping your elbows down and placing the bar on top of your traps, squeezing your shoulder blades together and sticking your chest out and back slightly arched. Stand firmly with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your toes pointing slightly outwards (about 30 degrees), lift the bar off the rack and walk backwards, ready to begin the squat.
Now take a deep breath and hold it, begin to lower your body at the hips, sticking your glutes out as if you were squatting on a toilet, until your hips are below parallel. At the bottom of the movement you must drive up through your heels & hips until you are standing upright, at this point you can exhale and take another deep breath ready for the next rep.
Think of pushing the weight back up using your hips, this will help keep you from driving up at the knees. Another tip is to look on the floor about 6 feet in front of you and keep your eyes fixated at this distance during the squat, I like to place a 5lb weight plate about 6 feet in front of me and keep my eyes on it during the squat, I find this helps me drive up from the hips.
Mentality: Because Barbell Squats is a compound exercise it requires a lot of concentration, a good tip which I find effective is closing your eyes and image yourself lifting the weight before you actually perform the squat. Do not be put off by the weight, it can sometimes be intimidating to see a 7ft barbell with several weight plates on it, as long as you know the weight is manageable and safe for you to lift you’ll be fine!
- Use approximately a shoulder width foot stance pointing the toes out slightly to match the tracking of the knees during descent.
- Make sure when the bar is on the rack it is lower than your traps, you need to go under the bar and lift it onto your traps, if the bar is too high when you lift it this could cause injury.
- Drive up through the hips at the bottom of the movement until lockout.
- Descent and ascend in a controlling manner, allowing the muscle to perform the movement without using momentum.
- Take a deep breath and hold it for the entire rep, exhaling as you come out of the sticking point at the top of the movement. Holding your breath is necessary as it keeps your torso tight and your back safe during the squat.
- Avoid bouncing or twisting at the bottom of the movement, doing so will place undue force on the knees.
- Do not lean forward on the knee as this will increase shear forces on the knee, which can be damaging.
- feet should be kept flat on the floor during the movement, driving up through the heels & hips will keep your feet planted flat. Also its best to wear flat shoes or bear foot when squatting.
- Keep your head neutral with your spine at all times, do not look up the whole time.
- Do not perform barbell squats in a smith machine, smith machines put way to much pressure on the knees. Always use a squat rack, with safety catchers set appropriately.
- Make sure the tracking of the knee is inline with the toes, if your legs bent inwards/outwards during descend and don’t match the tracking of your toes you need to either alter the angle of the toes or widen/shorten your stance.
- Have a professional check your technique, bad habits have a tendency to creep up on you, so regularly get a professional to correct any mistakes.
- Abdominal exercises will help towards improving your squat. Also to increase flexibility try sitting in a “third world squat” position for a few minutes a day. This is where you sit right down with your hamstrings touching your calves.