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How to Squat… The Right Way

I cringe from the mere thought of it. Guys with a bar on their back, using a weight that’s about 200lbs too heavy for them, squatting about ¼ of the way down and struggling to get back up.

Screaming and yelling like they’ve just accomplished something impressive.

Squatting with shit technique turns the king of all exercises into a red headed step child that smells like cat piss.

In fact, the exercise (if you want to call it that) has now become counterproductive. Leaving you even more susceptible to injury.

I’m here today to take you guys through the back squat, step by step to ensure that you will squat the right way and receive all the benefits from this incredible exercise.

Step 1: Set the bar at the right height

Make sure the bar is set at about shoulder height so you can place the bar comfortably on your back.

Step 2: Set your grip

I prefer setting the tips of my thumbs on the line between the smooth and rough part of the bar, then extending my thumbs all the way while keeping the tips on the line. Then, wrap your thumbs around the bar and squeeze it tight. If your shoulder flexibility doesn’t allow you to get in that close, feel free to cheat your hands out a bit. Just make sure that your grip is even. If that’s the case, you can try using the power ring on the bar for a reference.

Step 3: Get under the bar and place it across your traps

The bar should not be place too high up to the point where it’s on your neck. Place the bar across your traps below your neck. Then squeeze the bar tight, and place both feet underneath the bar as if you were going to actually perform a squat. Stand up and take only one step back away from the rack.

Step 4: Set your feet and brace your abs

Now set your feet just outside of shoulder width, with your toes pointed out about 5 degrees or so. At this point you should be bracing your abs, meaning, flex them as if you were going to take a punch to the stomach. It’s important to keep your abs tight throughout the entire set.

Step 5: Engage your hips and take a deep breath in

Before the knees bend think of reaching your hips back as if you were reaching for a chair and someone was pulling the chair away from you. Maintain a neutral spine by keeping the chest up. While you are driving the hips back take in a big deep breath and hold it. The air you take in will help support your spine so do not release it until you are on your way up.

Step 6: Squat down

Once the hips are fully engaged you can now begin to bend the knees and squat down to parallel. That’s right, parallel. That means there should be a straight line from your knee to your hip. Just be sure that your chest is still upright and your spine remains neutral, meaning that there should be no round in the back.

Step 7: Drive the knees out, push through your heels, drive the hands upward and exhale

It’s common for the knees of many beginners to collapse in. Especially women. You want to avoid this from happening so once you begin to come back up, push your knees out as if you were trying to rip the floor in half. You’re not moving your feet from where they are, you are simply applying outward force so your knees are not coming in. Keep in mind that you should be flat-footed and pushing through the heels of your feet, not your toes. If it’s difficult for you to keep your heels on the floor ankle stability, mobility and flexibility of the calves could be an issue. If that’s the case, add stretching the calves into your warm-up routine. Once you begin driving up through your heels apply upward force with your hands on the bar. Keep in mind that you should be squeezing the bar as tight as possible.  Once you get about ¼ of the way up, exhale forcefully.

Then you simply repeat.

I really hope that you guys enjoyed this post. Remember that if you have flexibility/mobility issues or existing injuries, barbell squatting may not be in your best interest. There are other variations like goblet squats, safety bar squats, belt squats and tons of unilateral work that you can do instead. Remember that if your hurt, you can’t train so be smart about your approach.

If you are healthy enough, then check your ego at the door, lower the weight and move properly. Any exercise with piss poor technique is going to get you nowhere, besides on the sideline.

Plus, adding a ton of weight to the bar without moving properly isn’t even going to benefit you. You won’t get stronger and you want get bigger, just more susceptible to injuries.

So don’t be that guy. Back the weight down, learn the proper technique, and then make your proper progressions.

That is how you get strong.

Catch you guys next time!

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