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How to Squat in a Correct Way
Jan 22nd, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training



Of all compound strength training exercises squats are probably most the effective way to strengthen legs as well as almost the entire body. Therefore everyone following an ambitious strength training routine should include squats regularly.

Squats are also one of the hardest-to-learn exercises. A proper technique is important to exercise safely and effectively and to protect the body from injury.

Besides the classic barbell squat, which I will explain more in detail below, there are several other squat variations that rely on the basic training technique.

Squat Benefits

Full Body StrengthSquats require the use of the entire body, especially when using relatively heavy weights. Leg and hip muscles experience a high dynamic impact while almost all other muscles serve as stabilizers.
Muscle BuildingThe simultaneous workout of many muscle groups leads to increased testosterone level in the body, which ultimately leads to increased muscle mass, not only in the legs.
StabilizationProvided a correct training technique, squats are very well suited to stabilize the knee joints, because the high level of muscular activity and co-ordination is strengthening all surrounding muscles and passive structures. Also squats are one of the most effective exercises for strengthening and stabilizing the trunk.

Squat Basics

FlexibilityProper squats require a high degree of mobility of the ankle and hip articulations. If the lowering of the hips in a correct fashion is not possible, I recommend have a regular stretching to improve the joints mobility beforehand.
SafetyFor heavy squats you have to use squat rack, a.k.a. power rack, which enables the positioning of the barbell at a proper height. In addition, most racks provide a lower dumbbell stack to catch the barbell in case of failure in the lowest point.

Squat Technique

Squatting Down
  • Grasp the barbell with your hands slightly more than shoulder-wide apart and place it on the upper back and rear Deltoids. When using heavy weights you have to stay inside a squat rack.
  • Then lift the barbell from the rack, place your feet about shoulder-wide apart and turn them slightly outside. Keep your body upright. Also keep knees slightly bent and tense the body.
  • Now bend your knees and lower your hips back as if you were sitting down until your thighs are about parallel to the ground. Your knees have to stay above your toes, pointing slightly out.
Squatting Up
  • Now press your hips back up. Firmly tighten your buttocks. Beware to move your hips up and not to front, otherwise your knees will be pushed beyond your toe tips.
  • Keep your body weight shifted to your heels, they are the basis for a powerful squatting up..
  • In the top position stand upright again. Your knees have to stay slightly bent.

    Here´s one of the few Youtube videos showing a very good squat technique. Just perfect.

    Squat Setup

    BarbellPlace the barbell on the muscles of the upper back and rear shoulders.
    StancePosition your feet about shoulder-wide apart while you turn your toes slightly outward, pointing toward the knees.
    Grip DistanceThe grip distance may vary. The closer the distance, the better the tightening of the upper back.
    WristsKeep your wrists as straight as possible. The back carries the weight while hands just stabilize the position.
    ElbowsLet the elbows point down behind to keep up a tight upper back.
    Head & NeckWhile squatting you have to permanently look ahead or slightly up to keep your back straight.
    Upper BackKeep all upper back muscles tight to provided a solid and safe base for the barbell.
    ChestWhen tightening your upper back, your chest move up. Keep it up to avoid any rounding of the back.
    TrunkTense all muscles to maintain a lower straight back.
    BalanceDuring squats move your body weight on your heels. You should be able to (in theory) permanently curl your toes off the floor.

    Squat Variations

    There is a variety of squat variations to intensify or to simplify this exercise, or to demand certain muscles in a different way.

    NameImageExercise Link
    Barbell Squat

    Barbell Squat, Full ROM

    Full Squat
    Barbell Front Squat

    Squat, Front
    Barbell Front Squat, Full ROM

    Full Squat, Front
    Barbell Squat, wide Stance

    Squat, Wide Stance
    Squat, Smith Press

    Smith Squat
    Dumbbell Squat

    One Leg Squat

    Squat, One Leg
    Overhead Squat

    Squat, Overhead
    Goblet Squat

    Goblet Squat

    Common Mistakes

    Bending the TorsoKeep your torso as upright as possible. It is important to push your hips up in a calm and focused way to avoid a delayed raising of the upper body.
    Looking DownThat leads to a rounding and instability in the back. Always look straight forward or slightly upward keep your back remains.
    Raising HeelsThe weight is shifted to the heels. Prevent them from lifting off. Shortened calf and thigh muscles can make it difficult to do the desired range of motion.
    Knees beyond toe tipsImagine sitting down on a chair. While lowering the hips move backwards. When squatting up, move your hips straight into upright position. Avoid any forward motion.
    Extended KneesNever lock the knees in the upper position. Locked knees shift much of the workload from the muscles right into the knees, causing an intermittent muscular tension and high pressure inside the knee articulations, which can lead to knee pain.

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    tags:   squat  |   technique  |   leg  |   training  |   injury  |   pain  |   knee  |

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