Ryocos Squat post!
The squat is considered one of the kings of exercises due to its importance in not only building leg muscles, but overall body strength. It’s also a hard exercise to master, and one of the scariest exercises for any newbie in the gym.
So lets start breaking it down!
There are 3 main form of squats, 2 of which I’ll cover in this post:
- Low bar.
- High bar.
- & Front squats.
The low bar rests on the middle of the back of your shoulders, on a ‘platform’ made by your shoulders by squeezing them towards your spine, shown above. Here, my elbows are tucked to help my shoulder blades stay in position.
This version allows for more weight to be pushed and mainly targets the hamstrings. There is a slight forward lean in this variation.
High bar places the bar just under the back of your neck, resting on top of your shoulder muscles. In the above picture, you can see the slight elbow variation as the high bar placement doesn’t need tucked elbows to hold the bar in place.
This version allows for greater depth and mainly targets the quads. There is no need for a lean in this variation. Further gifs are all shown in high bar placement.
Placing the Bar:
The bar shouldn’t hurt you, or be placed in such a way that it causes you pain during/after the exercise. For the high bar placement, the bar shouldn’t be sitting on your neck’s vertebrae. For the low bar placement, your shouldn’t feel straining in your shoulders from trying to catch a bar that has slid too far down! When setting up, slide your shoulders under the bar to find the right spot for you. Your thumbs should be with the rest of your fingers, not gripped around the bar. Your shoulders are holding the bar in place, not your hands!
Your foot placement is entirely up to you and what feels right for your body, but make sure your feet are equal to each other no matter your placement. Generally you can find your foot placement by pretending you’re going to ‘pop a squat’ in the woods. Toes can be pointed forward or at a slight angle.
Doing the Squat:
At the top of the squat is when you can breathe NEVER at the bottom!). Suck in a deep breath and tighten your core (as if someone is about to punch you in the gut) - this will help your lower back during the lift!
DO: Start with your hips, keeping your back in a neutral position.
DON’T: Start with your butt and round your back. Arching your back will lead to a lot of pain! If might look ‘good’, but it’s very back for your back.
DO: Lower yourself down until your hips are at/below your knees (called parallel). Sit back on a bench to help you get used to how low you must go! Below, my parallel is just under the metal bar that has been set at my knees for reference.
DON’T: Stop before your hips are at your knees.
DO: Use your legs to PUSH your lower back/hips back up to the top position.
DON’T: Use your back to straighten yourself back up!
Your knees can go forward over your toes, but they should NOT cave inwards! Be mindful of pushing your knees out when moving back up to the top position. Here is another reminder that the bar is not being help up by your hands, as seen above. Gripping the bar can lead to elbow and/or hand pain, so let your shoulders take care of the bar!
If you are having problems reaching your parallel, work on ankle flexibility by sitting in a squat position at least once a day for 30 seconds to a minute or two. You can also foam roll your ankles before exercising. Placing the 5 lb weight under your heels while squatting can help, but you should not rely on that!
- Adjust your shoulders to the bar.
- Place your feet.
- Breathe at the top of the squat and squeeze your core!
- Start with your hips, then bend your knees.
- From the bottom, PUSH your lower back/hips back up.
Belts can help more experience lifters advance, but newer lifts should start squatting without the help of a weightlifting belt. Get a belt AFTER you can squat more weight than your body weight with the bar.
Shoes should either be flat (like a converse), or specifically made weightlifting shoes. Your feet need a solid surface to push against, so if you have tennis/running shoes, you’re better off squatting barefoot!