The Barbell squat is one of our favourite exercises! It is a big compound movement that comes with a range of benefits, but to ensure you are getting the most out of this exercise you want to make sure you are performing it correctly.
Benefits of the squat
The benefits are virtually endless. The squat is one of the primary compound exercises meaning that you use more than one joint (hip, knee and ankle) to perform the exercise. It places significant strain on the quads, hamstrings and glutes, making it one of the greatest “bang for your buck” exercises known to man. It also strengthens the joints, ligaments and tendons around the knee and hips.
The major benefits of this movement include:
Strengthening the legs (primarily quads, glutes and hamstrings)
Increase core strength
Reduced risk of injury
High calorie burn exercise due to the amount of muscles worked
What muscles are targeted?
Being a compound exercise, the BB squat targets a number of major muscles in the body! The primary muscles used include the quads, glutes and hamstrings. However, the squat also works our calves, lower back and our core!
How to best perform this exercise?
When performing the BB back squat proper technique is crucial to ensure you get the most out of the exercise and you complete it safely.
You wan’t the bar to be sitting on the upper trap muscles, with your elbows back and muscles of your upper back engaged (creating a ‘shelf’ for the bar to sit on). Un-rack the bar, take three steps back with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out and brace through your core & midsection. You will begin the movement by ‘sitting’ back and down as if you were to sit on a chair. Descend until your hips become parallel with your knees (if mobility allows it). As you drive back up you want to think of pushing the floor away, keeping the knees out inline with the toes and squeezing the glutes.
Our favourite cues to focus on?
BREATHE & BRACE: Before starting the squat we want to take in a deep breath and brace. Holing this for the entire rep.
KNEES OUT: We want to aim for keeping our knees over the toes and avoid our knees/legs caving inwards.
SPREAD THE FLOOR: Imaging you are trying to rip the floor apart with your legs and feet without them moving. Sounds weird - but the idea here is to create tension through your lower body musculature and create a stronger base to help you lift.
How to progress this exercise?
There are a number of ways to make progress in the squat! The most simple yet often most overlooked is by actually stripping back the weight (leave the ego at the door) and focusing on nailing proper technique.
The best way to get a stronger squat is to do so with proper technique, once you have the technique down pat you can start to look at other progression methods such as:
Slowly adding more weight
Do more reps or sets with the same weight
Add in pauses and slower eccentrics (slower lowering phase)
These are all suitable methods of progressive overload - which is important for getting better at any exercise or movement!
There are a great number of variations to the BB back squat. Some of our favourites include: DB Goblet squats, BB front squats, Box squats, Pause squats, Pistol squats and even just a good old body weight squat!
Including variations into a common movement is a great way to mix up the exercise but also target and improve weak points.
If you want to increase lower body strength, build muscle in your legs, lose body fat or improve overall performance, then you definitely want to include BB squats into your exercise routine!