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.
Full Body Strength
Squats 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.
The 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.
Provided 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.
Proper 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.
For 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.
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.
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.
Hereīs one of the few Youtube videos showing a very good squat technique. Just perfect.
Place the barbell on the muscles of the upper back and rear shoulders.
Position your feet about shoulder-wide apart while you turn your toes slightly outward, pointing toward the knees.
The grip distance may vary. The closer the distance, the better the tightening of the upper back.
Keep your wrists as straight as possible. The back carries the weight while hands just stabilize the position.
Let the elbows point down behind to keep up a tight upper back.
Head & Neck
While squatting you have to permanently look ahead or slightly up to keep your back straight.
Keep all upper back muscles tight to provided a solid and safe base for the barbell.
When tightening your upper back, your chest move up. Keep it up to avoid any rounding of the back.
Tense all muscles to maintain a lower straight back.
During squats move your body weight on your heels. You should be able to (in theory) permanently curl your toes off the floor.
There is a variety of squat variations to intensify or to simplify this exercise, or to demand certain muscles in a different way.
Keep 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.
That leads to a rounding and instability in the back. Always look straight forward or slightly upward keep your back remains.
The 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 tips
Imagine 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.
Never 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.
Bench press is one of the most popular weight training exercises. It is a basic upper body exercise for the chest muscles.
Due to its compound mechanics, bench press enables you to lift relatively large weights and to develop great upper body strength.
A widespread prejudice is that bench press is a "dangerous" exercise, which is not true at all. Bench press, in all its variations, is as safe as any other free weight lifting exercise.
Occurring difficulties or even injuries in the shoulder joints can usually be traced back to a wrong training technique, inadequate preparation or the use of too much weight.
Development of Strength
Bench Presses let you lift relatively large weights, which makes it one of the most effective upper body exercises to build strength.
Bench Presses can help building an impressive torso. It is a great exercise for developing chest, front deltoids and triceps.
Doing Bench Press and few Bench Press variations basically provides an adequate training for the muscles involved. Thereīs no urgent need to experiment with a lot of other exercises. Improve your Bench Press performance, and so will your physique.
Bench Press Instructions
Lie supine on the bench of a bench press rack.
Grasp the bar with the desired fashion, dismount it from the rack and, with arms extended, hold it above your chest.
Lower the weight in a straight line down to your chest while forearms travel perpendicular to torso, looking from the side.
Then press the weight up until arms are extended. , that is a Bench Press.
Bench Press Variations
There are several grip options and bench angles available to add versatility to your bench press training:
Gripping too close shifts workload to the triceps and weakens the pushing force. Gripping too wide compromises the range of motion. A good estimation is vertical forearms as bar touches chest.
Place the bar in the palm of your hands and secure it with your thumbs.
Always keep your chest up. Tense your back, bring your shoulder blades together and pull your shoulders back to create a safe and solid foundation to lie on and to press the bar up from. Donīt let your shoulders roll forward.
Place your feet wide apart and put them flat on the floor. Keep your knees bent about right-angled and shift the weight on heels.
Keep your head in neutral position on bench. Donīt press it into the pad to prevent the neck from being overstressed.
Range of Motion (ROM)
The Bench Press range of motion is a controversial issue. Science has proved that a limited range of motion for the negative as well as for the positive part of the movement are the safer choice for the shoulder and elbow articulations and offer the same training effect as full range of motion. This insight leads to the following consequence for your Bench Press training: Avoid any extreme joint positions. Donīt lock your arms at top of motion and donīt let your elbows travel far below height of shoulders at bottom of motion.
Full Range of Motion
Limited Range of Motion
Bench Press Safety
Before doing Bench Presses with high resistance, have an initial overall warm up followed by a short local warm up of 15-20 repetitions with about 40-50% of the estimated maximum weight you Bench Press.
Learn the correct technique first and begin with light weight. Progressively add weight, always under the prerequisite of a proper training technique.
Keep your buttocks on the bench and prevent them from lifting off, because that will increase the risk of overextending your lower back.
Use your thumbs to hold the bar, otherwise it may slip out of your hand.
It is recommended to Bench Press with a training partner or any other spotter. They will offer support if youīre unable to lift the bar off the chest.
Bench Press Injuries and Pains
Posture: If you have slouching shoulders caused by long-term seated or other one-sided positions, you should stretch your chest as well as your front shoulders. Also train your middle back and rear deltoids on a regular basis.
Imbalances: Bench Press, besides almost any other chest exercise, also trains your front shoulders, which may lead to an imbalance between the strong front and weaker rear shoulders. Consequently and permanently your upper arm bone is slightly being pulled out of its natural position within the shoulder joint, causing pains and making it less resilient. Again, stretch the muscles of the anterior torso be stretched while the muscles of the rear torso have to be strengthened
Lower Back Problems
Posture: Keep your Gluteus on the bench to dis-burden your lower back. To relieve the lower back from any pressure, raise your thighs up perpendicular to the floor and bend your knees. Consider that this position costs some stability.[/bold]
Inefficient Dismounting: Dismount the barbell from the rack with straight arms, because that letīs you carry most weight. Lock your elbows and move barbell above your chest.
Pressing to Shoulders: Move the barbell up and down above your chest, not towards or above your shoulders.
Upper Arm Position: Keep your upper arms perpendicular to your torso or, when doing close grip bench press, close to your torso. Raising the upper arms above perpendicular to your torso forces your shoulder joints into a weak and vulnerable position.
Bent wrists: Keep your wrists as straight as possible and hold the bar close to your wrists.
Overextended back: Lifting your Gluteus will limit the range of motion. Worst of all, it moves your lumbar spine into an overextended position causing unusual high pressure that may lead to back pain.