Proper Form: Barbell Squat

The Barbell Squat is one of my favorite exercises for numerous reasons.  It is an exercise that you can use to improve your athleticism and appearance.  After all, most sports require you to be on your feet so having strong legs are a must.  Strength is the foundation for athleticism since all movements require a muscle contraction.  If your muscles get stronger they will be able to contract harder as well.  If you have a strong squat coupled with plyometric training you will be very fast and explosive.  The barbell squat will increase the size of your butt and make your legs look more defined.  Since the placement of the bar is on your traps and upper back area, your core strength improves as your squat strength increases.  When I analyze my clients who were able to get a six pack, those who had a stronger squat almost always achieved getting a six pack sooner.

Below are the keys to a proper barbell squat.

  • Full range of motion – You must be sure to go the full range of motion. If you are unable to go the full range of motion it means that you either have to improve your flexibility or the weight is too heavy for you to lift.  If the issue you have is mobility then you should not squat with the barbell until it improves.  Barbell squats through a shorten range of motion is very hazardous to your knees by causing shear force on the patella and the tendons around it.  If you load more weight than you can handle then you also risk injuring your lower back.  This also doesn’t stimulate the posterior chain of your body and work the glutes and hamstrings which are the muscles responsible for speed and jumping ability.

Full range of motion barbell squat  Full range of motion means that the crease of the hips has to go below the tip of your    knee.  In the above picture you can see that point A (hips) is below point B (knees).

  • Balance and Leverage – When it comes to weightlifting, balance and leverage are both extremely important. When you have the proper mechanics you will be able to lift more weight.  You will also be able to prevent injuries and prolong your lifting career.

Barbell Squat knees vs. toes

From the lateral view, the knees should be either in line with or behind the toes.  This places the weight on the heels of your feet and recruit more of your glutes and hamstrings into the lift.  Initially it feels very unnatural to do this and new exercisers often fear falling backward from being off balance.  Over time as your core strength and lower body posterior chain improves, it will become very comfortable.  If you squat incorrectly by allowing your knees to go far pass your toes then the weight will distribute to the balls of your feet.  Imagine trying to lift a heavy amount of weight on your toes.  Not only is that impossible to do but it is also terrible for your knees.  In the above picture if you draw a vertical line from Point A to the toes you can see that they are almost in a straight line.

Barbell Squat Bar Path

Through the entire movement the bar path should go over the middle of your feet.  This is where you will have the most balance and strength.  In the above picture you can see that the bar is over the middle of the feet shown by the vertical broken line.

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