If you don’t know how to squat you’re missing out on one of the most important exercises around, whatever your goal in the gym might be, and one of the most popular. But they’re often done incorrectly, which reduces their effectiveness and increases the chance of injury.
The squat exercise sounds and looks pretty simple: just put a barbell across your shoulders, squat down, and then stand up again. But in order to work the right muscles in the right way, without putting pressure on your knees or back, and staying balanced throughout each rep, you need to know how to squat correctly. Isn’t quite as easy as some people think. It’s definitely worth it though, as it’s excellent for the muscles of the quads (rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis), buttocks (gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus), as well as adductors, hips, calves and hamstrings. It also works the muscles of the back, core and the rest of the upper body.
Because so many muscles are involved, once you know how to squat properly the exercise can be used to build muscle, especially in the legs, but also for lowering body fat and improving fitness.
How To Squat
1. Starting with the bar on a squat rack, put that bar across the top of your shoulders and comfortably hold it with both hands. Do not rest the bar on your neck at any time.
2. Lift the bar off the rack and take a step back, then position your feet about shoulder width apart, making sure that your feet are pointing forward with your knees and hips inline.
3. Engage your core, which helps to keep your back strong and in the correct position, then lower yourself into a squat position. Do not just let yourself drop, instead keep your quads and glutes engaged and use your hamstrings to pull you down. Remember also to keep a straight back, bending slightly only at the waist.
4. If you want to know how to squat properly, you need to know when your knees are at 90 degrees and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Otherwise you won’t get anywhere near as much benefit as you could from this exercise. Achieve this with your feet flat on the floor and keeping your knees behind your toes.
5. Return to the start position with intention, by which I mean with force and maintaining the quads and glutes engaged.
6. Do not lock your knees and take a quick break. Instead, lower yourself back down for the next rep as soon as you complete the first. This reduces wear and tear on the knees and maintains the tension on the muscles.
Notes For How To Squat
1. Whether you’re a complete novice or a gym veteran, the best way to learn this exercise is to start with an empty bar and concentrate on perfecting technique. When you have, add the weights incrementally and do not progress until your technique is ready for it.
2. There are many variations to the standard squat described above.
The Front Squat has the bar held on the front of the shoulders and concentrates the effort more on the quad muscles. It is also easier to maintain a straight back with this exercise.
A Deep Squat is one where you lower yourself to a position where your thighs are beyond parallel to the floor.
The Single Leg Squat is an excellent bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment and is lot more difficult than it sounds.
3. Unless you have chronic back problems, avoid using a belt. Doing so might be useful if your goal is to lift a bit more weight, but if you can’t manage this without a belt there is no reason to bother doing it with one. The muscles and tendons the belt “protects” will not become stronger as the weight increases, so if you then try to lift without it don’t be surprised if you get injured.
4. If you have flexibility problems that make it hard to keep a straight back, try putting a small weight under your toes to raise them by an inch or two that will help tilt your hips back slightly. Do not rely on this however, use it only to perfect your technique and until you are flexible enough not to need it.
Although knowing how to squat correctly is one of the best ways to work your legs, the benefits to the rest of your body mean that this exercise is an essential for any workout.
As always, any questions or feedback leave a comment below.