The barbell squat is a basic (multi-joint) exercise intended to build the muscles of the legs and buttocks. In addition, when performing the exercise, other muscle groups are also included to the work such as the muscles of the arms to hold and fix the bar on the shoulders; the abs and back extensors to hold and fix the body.
When doing squats, large muscle groups are involved, so the exercise is well suited for gaining muscle mass on the whole. And of course, this is a favorite exercise for girls, because it forms beautiful and elastic buttocks. The exercise is technically very difficult, and therefore, there are chances to injure the lower back or knees when doing squats.
To avoid this, firstly, you should master your technique with an empty barbell, and only then start working with heavier weights. Since the barbell squat is a basic exercise, it should be performed at the very beginning of leg workout.
Varieties and technique of barbell squat
There are many varieties of barbell squat. For example, with a barbell, dumbbells or weights. The bar can be positioned both in the back and in the front (front squats). In addition, the stance can be wide, medium or narrow. All this allows you to distribute the load between the leg muscles in different ways. In this article, we will analyze options with different stance of the legs, when the bar is located at the back.
Classic barbell squat
This type of squat means a medium stance (shoulder-width) in the starting position. Before taking off the bar from the rack, you should grab it with a comfortable straight grip (palms away from you), usually a medium grip, slightly wider than your shoulders. Then you need to dive under the barbell and place it on the back of your shoulders. The bodybuilding variant involves placing the barbell high on the shoulders, almost at the neck. Powerlifting variant, on the contrary, involves a low position of the bar on the shoulders, almost on the back. The powerlifting option has more differences, we will consider them below. Before taking off the bar from the rack, you should straighten your back, and slightly bend in the lower back.
Next, take off the barbell from the rack, do a step back so that the rack do not interfere with you and begin to perform the exercise, bending and unbending your knees. It is more correct to take off the bar from the rack with two legs, this will give better stability and reduce the chance of injury.
When you are in the starting position, it is important to keep your toes pointing towards your knees. In no case should they be excessively tucked in or out, this will lead to injury of the knee joints. To optimally load the muscles of the legs and buttocks, squat should be done to parallel (between the thighs and the floor) or slightly lower. At the same time, to avoid injury, your back should always be straight, with a natural bend in the lower back. The sight should be directed forward. In no case should you look down (at your feet). This will cause you to round your back, and with such a back, lower back injury is inevitable.
You should push off from the bottom position with your heels, never lift them off the floor during the exercise, and do not stand on your toes. If you lift off your heels from the floor, this indicates that the load vector when performing squats is not distributed correctly. In addition, standing on your toes, you can simply lose your balance and fall forward with the barbell. The knees should not go over the toes, that is, the body should not bend forward too much. Following all these rules, you will purposefully pump all the bundles of the quadriceps, gluteal muscles and the back of the thigh, and the chance of injury will be minimal.
Wide stance barbell squat
They are also called Sumo squat. This variation is used in powerlifting, since this exercise is the main one of the three competitive ones – bench press, deadlift, barbell squat. As I’ve said, the barbell, in the powerlifting version, is located low on the shoulders, almost on the back. The wide leg stance allows powerlifters to sit deeper without breaking technique. For girls, this variation carries only advantages. A wide leg stance allows you to shift more stress on the biceps femoris and buttocks. In addition, due to the opportunity to sit more deeply, the range of motion increases. That is, the gluteal muscles get more stretch.
Narrow stance barbell squat
The technique of this variation does not differ from the previous ones, but requires better stretching of the pelvis and back to perform the exercise without breaking the technique. A narrow leg stance shifts more load to the quads and allows to work better on the lateral heads of the quadriceps.
In addition, all of these types of squats can be performed in the Smith machine. The machine allows you to better concentrate and isolate the muscles of the legs, due to the fact that the bar moves along the guides. It also allows you to get rid of some mistakes when performing the exercise, such as excessive tilt of the body forward.
In the picture above, the girl demonstrates the narrowest possible stance of the legs. Moreover, she performs an exercise in the Smith machine, which allowed her to step forward a little. In fact, this technique simulates the hack squat. The load on the quads with this performance will be maximum.
Squat with a friend on shoulders
There is another type of squat, the one on the gif. The girl performs classic squat, but instead of a barbell she has a friend. To be in shape, it is very convenient to use these squats on trips where there is no gym nearby. It should be noted that the athlete is quite prepared. A friend weighs about 50 kilograms, and to have balance with her is much more difficult than with a barbell.
Well, now let’s go back to squat.
Tips on performing barbell squat
1) Always do 2-3 warm-up sets before working weight to warm up your muscles.
2) Breathe correctly while doing the exercise, and do not hold your breath. When going up – exhale, when lowering – inhale.
3) Do not chase to weights, concentrate on muscle work, perform squats with the correct technique, stretching the muscles as much as possible at the lowest point and stressing at the top. Heavy weights will break your technique, which will inevitably lead to injury.
4) Use an athletic belt when performing work sets. It protects the spine from injury by supporting the body.
5) Do not converge your knees, this will injure your knee joints. Most often this happens due to heavy weight on the barbell. Therefore, if you notice that your knees begin to converge during the exercise, you should reduce the working weight.
6) At the top of the amplitude, do not bend your legs to the end and do not protrude your pelvis forward. Leaving the upper part of the amplitude a little unfinished, you, firstly, relieve the unwanted load from the knee joints. And secondly, you will keep the muscles in tension throughout the entire set.
7) Include pre-fatigue into your leg workout. This is when you do some isolation exercises, such as leg curls and extensions, before basic squats. Firstly, it allows you to shock the muscles of the legs and buttocks, which will create positive preconditions for muscle growth. And secondly, to reduce the load on the ligaments and joints during squats, due to the fact that the muscles are already tired and the weight on the bar will be much less. It is especially important for athletes working on squats with large weights and those who cannot build the leg muscles.
8) If you are working with really heavy weights, do not forget to use the help of a partner. Just do not need to choose the same as in the gif =)
Well, that’s all, this article has come to an end. Below you can still watch a detailed video on barbell squat with a perfect technique. I say goodbye to you and wish huge legs!