If you’re serious about your weight training, then you’ll know full-well that leg training is just as important as training your upper body, in fact, some would even argue that it’s even more important as your legs are what carry the brunt of your weight. Now, as far as leg training exercises go, there’s one exercise that rules them all, that stands metaphorically head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the barbell squat. Despite being so popular and beneficial, many people actually don’t know how to squat correctly, so with that being said, here’s a step by step guide.
Before you start, you should ALWAYS, squat in a squat rack, or a power rack or cage, to make the exercise that little bit safer. You should also ensure that the bar is racked up low enough so that you need to duck down slightly to get it into position.
Positioning the bar
Up next you’ll need to get the bar into position before you go any further. To get the bar into position, manoeuvre your body so that the bar is set up at the base of your neck, across the top of your trap muscles. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together so that they create a cushion so that the bar feels more comfortable. You’ll need to grip the bar around 4 – 6 inches than shoulder width apart with your hands, ensuring that you maintain a firm grip.
The position of your feet is also very important for this exercise, so it’s worth getting it right. stand with your feet a couple of inches wider than shoulder width apart, and bend them ever so slightly. Imagine a clock face, and that the toes on your right foot are pointing at 2oclock and your left foot is pointing to 10oclock.
Unracking the bar
Unracking the bar is arguably the most important aspect of squatting, as if you make a mistake, it can throw off your balance, putting the entire lift, and your safety at risk. Begin by keeping your hands and feet in the same position on and under the bar, as what we instructed previously. Ensure you keep your posture tight and the bar firmly positioned across your upper back as instructed. Next, take a deep breath and hold it, before unracking the weight from the hooks. Take a few moments to ensure the weight is stable and secure and that it is manageable and not too heavy. If it feels uncomfortable or too heavy, re-rack the weight and go lighter. If you’re happy with the weight, slowly take a few steps back away from the rack or cage, and then release your breath.
Up next, you’re ready to perform the exercise. Slowly sit back and squat down, whilst moving your knees outwards ever so slightly to prevent them from buckling. A lot of people tend to try to squat down straight away, which places stress on the knees. Sitting back helps to prevent this and distribute the weight evenly. Squat down as instructed above, and try to go as deep as you can. At the very least, your knees should be parallel with the floor, creating a 90 degree angle, although a little extra depth is also fine. Once you’re as low as you can go, you next want to power back up with your legs, again pressing your knees outwards. You want to generate enough power from your legs to enable you to stand back up. Once you’re back up to the starting position, you’ve just completed 1 rep, so you can then continue with as many more reps in exactly the same way as you wish. Once you’ve finished, slowly walk the barbell back into the rack, and re-rack the weight.