Learning how to squat with perfect form will increase the effectiveness of the exercise and completely reduce the risk of injury.
The squat is performed by standing up with the bar across your upper back, squat down bending through your hips and knees until your hips come slightly lower than your knees (slightly below parallel), then you explode up back to the starting position. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately there’s a lot more to it than that. When performed correctly the squat is considered a vital exercise for increasing strength and building muscle, primarily on the legs and buttocks. However the squat also works the lower back, upper back, the abdominals, the trunk muscles, the shoulders, the arms, as well as developing core strength. This is probably why people call squats “the king of all exercises”.
Its best to have someone spot you and help you with your form when performing the squat. If you can get a coach to talk you through it that’s even better. Here is a step by step breakdown of the squat movement:
Step 1. Set up the barbell on a squat rack, power cage, or squat stands so that its roughly the same height as your collar bone.
Step 2. Step under the bar and put it between your traps and rear shoulder muscles (low bar). Make sure your feet are directly under the bar. Grab the bar so that your palms are facing forward in front of you with a thumb less grip. Your arms should form a W shape with your elbows pointing towards the floor. The width of your grip will depend on flexibility.
Step 3. Once the bar is on your back, unrack the bar by standing up, brace your core, take one step back with one leg, then step back with the other leg. Stand straight with your chest up, upper back tight, knees and hips locked for stability. Your foot placement should be, heels about shoulder width apart or slightly wider with your toes pointed out at about 30 degrees.
Step 4. Find a point on the floor or wall about 4-5 foot in front of you so your eye gaze is directed downwards. Take a big breath, hold it, squat down slowly by pushing your hips and butt back, with your knees to the side. Squat down until you reach just below parallel, your hip crease should go just below the top of your knee.
Step 5. Quickly reverse the movement by driving your hips straight up. Lock your hips and knees at the top, exhale and rest a second. Then take a big breath, hold it and squat your next rep.
You have completed the squat.
Here is a diagram that was inspired by the book Starting Strength, which is one of the best books on the market for learning how to squat with perfect form.
This is how it would look when you reach the bottom of the squat. As you can see, the hips should go slightly below the top of the knee, this is called breaking parallel. The barbell must stay over the mid foot throughout the entire movement. Eye gaze directed down about 4-5 feet in front of you if possible.
There’s know doubt about the effectiveness of the squat, however, if your not built for this type of squatting, you might not find it so effective. If your structure isn’t good at the movement pattern of this squat, it can also be dangerous and could cause injuries. If your like me with long legs and a short torso, the whole movement can get dangerous as the weight on the bar gets heavier. I recommend you try squatting using perfect form first to see how your body responds. If not you could think about choosing one of the many other squat variations including one legged squats.
Thanks for reading guys, if you would like more step by step breakdowns like this of the basic compound movements click here to check out my book Lean Dense Muscle and Strength which is also a complete training and nutrition guide.