The Squat is absolutely killer movement for a few reasons:
It’s a compound movement – it uses many muscles in the body at once.
It’s common in daily life – every time you sit or stand up from a chair, bed, toilet seat or car, you are squatting.
A strong squat builds functional strength from the ground through to your shoulders.
Getting good at the squat will help you becoming better at other movements in the gym.
You’ve probably heard that squats are the best exercise you can do. You’ve also probably heard that squats are horribly painful, and that they’ll wreck your knees and back. Well, those rumors aren’t true—if you know what you’re doing. Here are some tips for squatting correctly:
How to Nail the Squat
1. Setup squat rack correctly
Set the barbell racked position up so that the barbell sits just below the shoulder. You should be able to stand up and walk back with a couple of inches between the bar and the hooks.
Do a full bodyweight squat and set the horizontal safety bars just below where your shoulders are in this position. Essentially, you should be able to do a full squat with the barbell, and only have a few inches before you hit the safeties. This is so that if you fail, there is not a long distance until you no longer have to hold the weight.
2. Foot position & stance
To find a comfortable stance width, simply jump and land. You will tend to land in a comfortable position, usually around shoulder width apart.
Think of your foot like a tripod, with a point on the big toe, last toe and heel. Ensure that each of these points get even weight distribution. During the movement, each foot should feel a 50/50 distribution both side-to-side and toe-to-heel.
3. Place bar on traps, stand up and find starting position
Pull your shoulder blades together, which will create a ledge of your upper back muscles (upper traps) that you can place the bar on.
Stand up with the weight. Your feet should be underneath you. Ensure you do this with stability - do not rush the racking and unracking of the weight. Walk backwards with control and find your comfortable stance established above. It is crucial that you are stable and balanced when performing any movement.
4. Elbows forward and down
Drive your elbows forward and down towards your waist. This will create stability in your shoulders, and prevent the back from rounding forward (which can cause issues with the neck, shoulders and lower back).
5. Take a deep breath and tense abs
Crunch abs like someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Strong ab engagement prevents lower back arching, which is why lower back pain is often caused by under-engaging abs while performing movements.
6. Start movement by driving hips back
Start the squat by pushing your hips straight back. Your torso will tilt forward to compensate for the weight shift, and your weight should remain balanced over the centre of the foot (even between toe and heel).
7. Ensure your knees track over the middle of the foot
Your feet should have a slight external rotation (pointing outwards) and the knees should track over the middle of the foot as you squat (over the second or third toes). If your knees tend to cave inwards, you may need to practice driving your knees outwards during the movement.
Level up your squat with Luke
Descent into the squat with a three to five second negative - allows you to feel the balance in foot front to back. You won't be able to go as heavy - this will allow you to make the movement safer while still making the exercise tough.
Remember that the bar path always stay vertical over the middle of the foot. Toe and heel. You should feel 50% of the weight in the toes and 50% in the heels. If you feel the weight more in the toes, ensure you bring your weight back. The opposite is true if you feel too much weight in your heels.
Be patient. It takes some time to master the movement. Even when you understand the form perfectly, getting your body to move in the correct way can prove challenging.
Now that you’ve read our tips for improving your squat, it’s time to get out there and try them! Remember that sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is by watching someone else. Try doing it with friends or family, better yet, you can book a session with Luke so he can personally give you expert advice in perfecting your squat.