When it comes to training, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or if you’ve been pushin’ weight for 20 years; you can never stray too far from the basics. Exercises like the bench press and the deadlift should always be in the rotation. There’s another big lift you can always count on, “old reliable”, “the godfather”, I’m talkin’ about the back squat. Like the saying goes “when in doubt, SQUAT.” I’m not sure if that’s an actual saying or just something I like to say but it sounds pretty good to me!
Just like a house that stands on a solid foundation, the back squat is fundamental to a good strength and conditioning program. The benefits are countless: lower body strength development, lower body muscular development, athletic development, core strength, and a faster metabolism to name just a few.
As important as the back squat is, it’s value is in direct proportion to the ability to perform it correctly. In other words, if you can’t squat you ain’t doing squat. That’s a lot of squats in one sentence. There are a few key things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of this exercise. Let’s take a look at some quick and simple fixes to get the most out of this exercise.
1. Keep your shoulder blades pinched – It’s important to keep your shoulder blades “pinched” together while holding the barbell. This provides more support for the barbell and prevents unnecessary rounding of the back throughout the movement.
2. Break at the knees first – The squat is initiated by bending the knees first THEN pushing the hips down and back. If you try to break at the hips first, there will be a tendency for excess forward lean at the torso. Keeping a relatively upright torso will take stress of the back and onto the legs where you want it.
3. Turn your feet and knees out slightly – By rotating your feet and knees out in an “11” and “1” formation will allow your hips to descend more freely making it easier to reach full depth. Also, if you have poor ankle mobility, this make it easier to squat without your heels coming off the floor.
4. Push your knees out – With your feet turned out, it’s important to remember to push your knees out both on the way down and the way up. This will prevent the knees from coming to far over the toes and maintain tension on the hips rather than the knees.
5. Maintain neutral spine at the bottom – Ideally, you want to be able to squat below parallel but only if your strength and mobility allow you to. If your lower back is rounding at the bottom, you’ve gone too deep and adding stress to your lower back. Squat as deep as you can with the best form you can.
Not enough good things can said about the squat but training smart and staying pain free are critical to your success. Keep these tips in mind the next time you get under bar.
The video below illustrates some of the key points to squatting effectively. Check it out.
Are there any other exercises you struggle with? If so, drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get more great articles!