Squats are the king of compound lifts. They’re an excellent exercise that works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, back, and core muscles. If you haven’t implemented squats into your fitness routine yet, you should right away. Squats can be intimidating, but after learning correct form, you’ll be more comfortable with them. Below you’ll learn about squats, and you’ll learn how to properly perform them.
You can perform bodyweight squats, but they’re inferior to weighted squats. It is a good idea to practice your form before using weights though. You can practice with a broom handle in front of a mirror to ensure proper form. Once you’re comfortable, you can move on to weighted squats.
A wide stance barbell squat is the most common and most effective squat. Squats work many different muscle groups at the same time including your whole posterior chain which includes your spinal erectors (muscles along your spine), glutes, and hamstrings. They also work your core, quads, and the rest of your legs. When you get under a weighted bar and squat, your body is going to get a good workout. Some people use a Smith machine to do squats, but doing them in a power rack or squat rack is a better option. The Smith machine doesn’t work your stabilizer muscles in your back and core like squatting a free weight barbell does.
To perform a wide stance barbell squat, you will need to use a barbell with weights on the end. It’s a good idea to start out with lighter weights until you’re comfortable with the movement of a squat. Once you go up in weight, you’ll still need to warm up with lighter weights. You will need to adjust your starting point for your barbell till it’s about chest level. Once you have your barbell in the right spot, grab the barbell where your hands are about shoulder width apart. Ensure your placement is even on the bar so it will be easier to balance. Squat down and duck your head under the bar and position it slightly below your shoulders on your back. Your traps should be tight in this position and help you hold the bar in the correct place. Once you’re ready, lift the bar off of the rack using your legs to push the bar upward, then take a step back. You will need to spread your legs out about shoulder width and have your toes pointed slightly outward from the center. Your knees won’t track right if you have your toes pointed forward. Your upper body will be leaning slightly forward, but not too much. This is your starting position. If you’re in a power rack or squat rack you will have a guard in case you have to bail on the lift.
Look forward as you squat down. This is important so that you keep your balance. As you squat your knees will only go to right above your toes and your bottom will go as close to the floor as you can go. A deep squat is easier on your knees because you won’t have to use your knees to stop the weight mid-range of motion. Squatting deep ensures you activate all of the muscles you should be working without straining the ligaments in your knees. Once you have squatted all the way down, your upper body will be leaning slightly forward. The bar should go straight down and then straight up as you squat down and then up again. Use your leg muscles to push the weight back to the starting position, and then repeat for a number of reps you choose for that set. Once you’ve finished your set, step forward and re-rack your weights.
There are several variations of squats including goblet squats and front squats, but wide stance barbell squats are the best squat to perform for overall body strengthening. Squats can help you build the body that you want and will help you increase your power.