The squat is arguably the king of all strength exercises. It requires you to be able to sit in deep flexion of the hip, knee and ankle while maintaining a neutral spine. Couple this with load and you have a brutal exercise that challenges you not only physically, but mentally as well. Despite having only been the industry for a short time, I have seen some absolutely horrendous squats. Let’s go over the basics to get you moving better, help you stay injury free, and stack a whole heap more weight on the bar!
1. Start by lining up your hands by putting your pinky finger on the ring engraved into the bar. With your hands grasping the bar, move under it and sit the bar on your traps. If you don’t have the flexibility to have your hands in closer, play around with having them out wider. Not matter your hand position you should be pulling you shoulders BACK and DOWN. Keeping the muscles of the upper back activated and tight is crucial throughout the squat.
2. Unrack the bar then sit back into your butt slightly, turning your knees outwards and keeping your chest nice and big. Walk the weight out by taking three steps to get into position. One step back, and two steps outward.
3. Standing nice and tall with your head facing up and forward, descend into the squat with your hips travelling backward and your knees travelling outward.
4. Once you have reached depth, drive through the heels, push your knees out and your back hard and up into the bar. This will ensure you are recruiting all the right muscles to get the weight up.
Note: We are all individuals that possess different limb and torso lengths. These steps are to be used as a general guideline. It is highly recommended you seek an experienced personal trainer or strength coach to find the best squatting style for you.
SQUAT MOBILITY EXERCISES
1. Squat hold
2. Wall stretch
3. Ankle mobilisation
4. Diamond stretch
PROGRAMMING THE SQUAT
A common and effective way to increase your squat is complete 5 sets of 5 reps at a challenging weight, and increase this in small increments (e.g 2.5kg) each week. Say you reach the 4th week and you find that you are losing form or can’t make the reps, scale back a few KG’s or so and work your way up again. This way you will be making strong steady progression.
Example exercise diary log:
Week 1: 5×5 @ 60kg
Week 2: 5×5 @62.5kg
Week 3: 5×5 @ 65kg
Week 4: 3×5, 2×4 @ 67.5kg (Time to scale back)
Week 5: 5×5 @ 62.5kg
There are many other ways to program, but for a novice lifter this simple and easy to understand program will be more than enough. Main focuses should be on developing an efficient motor pattern, mobility work and simple and effective programming.
Included in most programs will be supplementary exercises called assistance/accessory lifts. These lifts can aid us in bringing up weak areas, but should never be prioritised over or be too different from the main movement.
Listed below are some common accessory lifts that lifters use to get them stacking more weight on the bar:
– High and low bar squats (High and low bar refers to the position of the bar on your back. Powerlifters will often squat with the bar sitting lower on their back to gain a better biomechanical advantage in order to squat more weight)
– Front squat
– Pause squat
– Safety bar squat
– One and a quarter squat
– Box squat
– Split squat
DO’s, DON’Ts & DIFFERENCES
Below we have a beautifully constructed collage of some classic do’s, don’ts and differences in squat technique.
First up, we have the lazy ass…
If you find your knees coming in like these, get a thera-band around your knees and aim for 50 bodyweight squats a day for the next month. That should get your new and efficient motor pattern happening nicely… and build up some strength in your butt!
Next we have the half squatter…
If your hip joint isn’t descending below or at least parallel to your knee joint, you ain’t getting’ low enough! Get some mobility happening through the mobility exercises outlined above and squat DEEP!
Lastly, we have the difference between a high bar and low bar squat position…
This was mentioned above in my list of squat variations. A low bar squat is typically only used by powerlifters in order to squat more weight. This is because it changes the biomechanics in a way that allows you to use your posterior chain muscles (think glutes and hamstrings) a lot more than a regular olympic style/high bar squat. Low bar squats are increasing in popularity in strength and conditioning programs for athletes, and are mainly used for variation and also the extra load the athlete will be able to move with the lower bar position as well as solid posterior chain development which is crucial in sport.
Feel free to comment with any questions or clarifications. Get squatting!
This article was written by Revolutions Strength Specialist Alex Deken. To learn a little more about Alex you can view his full personal trainer profile here. To book a session with Alex email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 362 311. Alex runs many of our Pure Strength classes which can be accessed with one of our Group Personal Training memberships.
For some more advice on mobilisation and stretching techniques to improve your squatting and overall performance you can grab a copy of Revolution’s Activation and Mobilisation eBook or our Stretching and Felxibility eBook.
They are both available for digital download on the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks stores by following the links below.
Activation and Mobilisation eBook (great for warm up and preparing yourself pre-training):
Amazon Kindle Store – revo.pt/activationebook
Apple iBooks Store – revo/pt/activationibook
Stretching and Flexibility eBook (great for cool down and flexibility work post training)
Amazon Kindle Store – revo.pt/stretchingebook