How to perform the barbell squat with a perfect form
Stand with your feet more than the shoulder-width apart – this wide stance will allow you a deeper squat, getting your glutes and hamstrings involved.
Hold a barbell across your upper back with the overhand grip – avoid resting it on your neck. Hug a bar into your traps to engage your upper back muscles.
Take the weight of the bar and slowly squat down – head up, back straight, buns out. Lower yourself until your hips are aligned with your knees, with the legs at 90 degrees – a deeper squat will be more beneficial but get the strength and the flexibility first. Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up. Keep form until you are stood up straight: that’s one
Rest the bar on your collarbone (either side of a neck); your shoulders will be able to bear some of the weight if they are broad enough. Stick your elbows out so your triceps are parallel to the ground and support the bar with your fingertips. Make sure your arms stay in this position throughout a squat, to prevent the bar from rolling. Squat as you would normally.
Front squats give you all benefits of a regular back squat but take some of the pressure away from your back and knees, meaning that you may train for longer. This technique requires more flexibility so ensures more than simple muscle mass. It will take practice, but your body will thank you for it.
Keep the same stance but cradle the bar in the crook of your elbows instead. Make sure your back is straight, not in the curved shape, and your core is tensed throughout. Shift the weight back onto your heels, feet slightly beyond the shoulder-width apart. Keep your fists together or cup one hand inside the other. Squat until the bar touches your knees, just keeps thighs parallel. Pause, and then drive up hard.
Front or back squats can put the strain on your wrists and hips, as well as beat up your shoulders. Shifting to the Zercher position, the squat is an easier to manage due to the lower center of gravity. It also gives your abs and biceps the thorough workout in the process.
Your starting position is with a bar above your head, so get in there in stages: lift it from the floor to your chest, then lift it until your arms are very straight above you. Your hands must be wider than shoulder width apart with the bar slightly behind your head. Retracting your shoulder blades will help you to get it there. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground, keeping the bar in the steady position above your head. Push up with your legs; careful not to explode too forcefully, or you will lose your balance with the bar.
Keeping the bar overhead engages your shoulders in the way other than being resting pads, and gives your triceps workout too. This will definitely engage your core and maintain the flexibility in your upper torso. You will also look pretty cool in the process.
Get into the deadlift position before stepping over the bar, keeping your hands where they are. Keep the tight grip on the bar with your palms facing backward, your back needs to be straight and your head up. Focus on extending of your hips out and lifting your chest, until you are stood with the bar behind your glutes. Your forearm strength will dictate how much you lift.
Most squat variations will put pressure on your spine, compressing it unless your back muscles are too strong enough. Moving the center of gravity lower than your core will relieve this pressure, but it will give your quads more of the job to do; perfect if you are building for beach shorts.
Warm-up to bulk up A study in Spain found that the bodyweight squat drills helped leg muscles lift more explosively. Use jumping lunges to get an advantage lunge forward until your knee is almost touching the floor then jump into the air, switching the position of your feet so you land in the lunge. Repeat this for four reps per side.
Get low – but not too low. There is no one correct depth when it comes to squatting, so long as your back arch is natural and your hips are not tucking under. Any lower than this and the large amount of hydraulic pressure will be imposed on discs in your spine, leading to tissue damage and back pain. How low you go depends on your own body type; Dr. Rafael Escamilla, the department of physical therapy at California State University, says that bending so that your thighs are parallel with a ground is enough to build bigger and stronger legs. Only go lower if it’s safe for you.
Find a foot position that will suit you. PT Andy Vincent recommends squatting bare foot, but if your gym is all shoes and no toes (it rhymes…maybe?) then find some of the flat-soled footwear. Let your feet turn outwards if they want to, you will only put unnecessary strain on your knees by forcing them inwards. “We all have a different ideal foot position for the squat,” says Vincent. “It’s about finding yours.”
Go early or go home. Squats are big, powerful movements than it requires a lot of energy and use a range of muscles, so get them in your workout early to maximize the benefit. “They let you play with your leg muscles with the huge amount of weight, which triggers growth,” says Christian Finn, founder of musclevo.net. Make your quads your favourites to keep them growing.