Often described by fitness coaches and athletes as “king of all exercise”, mastering back squat is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Back squat not only gives strength to your legs and hips; it also adds mobility and stability to your whole body. Doing back squats guarantees you of increase muscle mass, enhanced strength, and reduced body fat. Once in a week of back squatting will definitely do.
Setting up Barbell Back Squats
- Taking on the bar
One thing you have to ensure before starting your back squats is that the bars are very low so as to make taking of the pegs easy. You are better off keeping the bar low than always having to stand on your toes to get the bar unhooked. The best approach here will be mid chest.
Once you get this done, you will then have to place your hands appropriately before getting under the bar. If you are below average in height, or the mobility of your spine and shoulder is high, then the best thing to do is to put your hands as close as possible. For tall lifters with low mobility, the best approach will be a wide grip.
- Position of bar
There is no general consensus yet as to the best option between high and low bar position. All that really matters here is your goal for exercising. Newbies to squatting often prefer high bar position but as they advance in their training, they turn towards to low bar position. You will get to understand how each of the bar position works, but it is best you first get to know how to set your bar.
For high positioning, place the bar at the neck region across your traps. You will have to create a pillow for the bar to rest on, and you need to get your shoulder blades squeezed to achieve this. It is important you do this before attempting to place your bar across your back while keeping it tight.
For low bar positioning, the bar will have to be placed on your lower back right below the spine of your scapula (shoulder blade). Getting your shoulder blades tightly squeezed together will definitely be of help here. The mechanics for squatting is different for each positioning, but I will like us to first discuss un-racking of the bar and setup.
Note: Never fall for the trap of using bar pads as they are ineffective. You will find it hard to connect with the bar; making it difficult to get a tight grip. And there is no way you can achieve good squat on poor grip.
- Un-racking the bar
The success of your squats depends heavily on this die to the fact that you can easily lose bar position or tight grip if you are on a sloppy position while taking the bar off the rack.
To start, place your feet below the bar with your hands in position. It is up to you to determine which grip distance will be best for you, but a tight grip is always the best.
Position yourself under the bar and then opt for high or low bar position. You can get your grip adjusted, but ensure it stays tight.
Ensure stay chest up with elbows down.
Get your shoulder blades squeezed. Squatting while keeping your upper-back loose can make the bar hurt your spine. To create a muscle shelf on which the bar can rest on, get your upper back tightened. Ensure your shoulder blades are squeezed when making ready for the squat. They have to be squeezed before un-racking the weight and not the reverse. If your neck gets hurt all the time, then you will need a squat bar to relieve the pain.
Take a deep breath and then hold steady. Un-rack the bar by squatting up. Ensure there is no form of discomfort when holding your breathe.
Walk backwards with one step at a time. While still holding up tightly, release your breath. You can then get your legs into the right position.
Note: You might experience some discomfort when loading up but if the discomfort persists, rerack and start again.
- Foot position
Foot position is very crucial when squatting as getting it right will give you more stability, keeping you properly balanced from your back right down to your hips. To get your squat right, start from ground up.
Squat position will always differ for each person, and so it is recommended you start by first placing your heels below your shoulders and then toeing out your feet a little if you desire to get good mobility. I recommend you do some test by first doing squat in this position, with your butt being as close as possible to the ground to aid more comfort. As earlier said, we all have different squat stance, and so you have to play around until you find what fits you best.
- Neck and Eye Position
You might be wondering why I paired this two together. Well your neck will always follow the direction of your eyes. Have it in mind that your neck is connected to your spine, and so you need to exercise caution.
Start by fixing your stare on a horizontal plane and not on the ceiling. I know some coaches who would recommend you fix your gaze up during squats. Doing so may appear beneficial, but it will ruin your hip drive and mechanics for squats. There is a 90% probability that your cervical spine will get over extended, leading to lose of tightness.
The best thing to do is to fix your gaze at a point 5 to 10 feet away from the ground. You can stare for as much as you please. This approach ensures your neck is packed while maintaining cervical alignment. One easy way of doing this it to stand tall and send your head backwards in an attempt to create ‘no neck face’ or ‘double chin’. It may not be cool but it works.
Starting your Barbell squats
Once you are done un-racking the bar after establishing a good position, next is to squat down using weights. Bear in mind that your heels have to be firm on the ground before starting your squat.
- Knees out and Sit Back
One common mistake I see beginners make is squatting straight down, as this leads to stress on the knees and poor mechanics. The right thing to do is to sit back while squatting down, as doing so sends the weight down to your heels when squatting.
It is also important to position your knees outwardly so as to enhance mechanics and avoid the buckling of your knees. It also creates some form of stability around your hips as you lift the weights.
Note: The angle created by your torso is different when in high-bar or low-bar position during squats. On low-bar position, your torso will take a near 45 degree angle, increasing your hip during squats. On high-bar position, your torso will take up an upward position, giving you increased quad dominant squat.
- Depth for squats
This largely depends on your body make. However, I strongly recommend going very low when squatting so as to create more comfort. You may not be able to get you butt on the ground, but you will have to increase your range of motion so as to keep things safe.
As a rule, do your squat just below the parallel line where you will place our hips or below your feet. This is more effective in reaching to your gluteal muscle. It also keeps away shearing force often cause by half or quarter squats.
If your depth isn’t good enough, then you will have to work on your mobility during your training sessions.
- Back to the top
The moment you hit the bottom, you will then have to take advantage of your pre-stretched hip to get back up. You have to squeeze your butt when you start pressing so as to activate your glute muscle and hamstring. This technique helps keep your muscle safe and also permit you take on more weights during squatting.
For enhanced stability, it is needful for you to press your knees outwardly while keeping then tight during the course of your entire movement. It is very important you do this.
Once you are back to the top, you will have to squeeze your glute a little more so as to increase the strength in your hips. Giving your glute some extra work offers you several benefits.
You can only become perfect when you do lots of barbell back squat practice
Back squats give you more hip drive, stability, strength and protection for your knees provided you do what is right, and stretch yourself when squatting. Just like every other forms of fitness exercise, you will have to practice as often times as possible if you want to become perfect. No shortcuts.