The barbell squat, also known as barbell full squat, is a compound pushing exercise that boosts the strength of the quadriceps, along with other supporting muscles, such as the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. With the bench press and deadlift considered as the lead workout for the upper body, the barbell squat is viewed as the top workout for the lower body.
But how can one perform the barbell squats safely? The following are the steps and key points for the proper execution of the workout.
According to Body Building, the person begins with the barbell placed and supported above the trapezius or traps while the chest is up and the head is facing forward. This means that the head should not be facing down. Then, the person also positions himself in a hip-width stance while the foot are turned out as needed. After that, the person goes down by flexing the knees. At this point, the hips should not be moved back as much as possible. Also, the knees should travel forward and the person should make sure that they maintain their alignment with the feet. The torso should also be kept as upright as possible. Then, the person continues all the way down while keeping the weighed bar in front of the heel. When the upper legs touch with the lower legs, the motion is reversed, driving the weight upward.
Just like in other exercises, safety is the priority and it is achieved through executing the routine with proper form and with the appropriate weights. According to Strong Lifts, the back squat is successfully executed if there is knee and lower back safety.
For the knees, the person turns his feet at a 30-degree angle and points his knees in the similar direction by pushing them to the sides. Then, he descents into a squat by moving his knees and hips simultaneously. After that, the person moves his hips back and down while pushing his knees out. Doing the procedure properly allows the knees to move the first part of the squat while the knees will do the second half of the squat, carrying the majority of the weight.
Safety for the lower back prevents spinal injury. As per the publication, the lower back should stay neutral while maintaining a natural arch like when standing. Also, the person keeps the bar over his mid-foot, not allowing it to move over the forefoot; otherwise, it will pull the person forward, remove the balance, and fall over. The person should squat with the bar over the mid-foot and with the lower back neutral.
While the back squat is considered as the best exercise for the lower body, its compound nature also allows it to stimulate the muscles of the upper body. A variation of the back squat is the front squat. According to Men’s Fitness, the exercise places a degree of challenge to the body, as the weighed barbell is places in front resting on the shoulders, as opposed to back squats, which positions the barbell at rest on the upper back. The exercise also adds focus on the quadriceps instead of the glutes, since the person goes down into a squat by pulling the body forward while increasing the flexion of the knees. In this squat variation, the lower back is also maintained in an upright position; thus, it prevents the torso from falling forward. In general, front squats lead lifters deeper into a squat, along with engaging the core as focus.
Overall, the back squat activates the major muscles of the lower body and serves as the counterpart to the bench press and the deadlift, which stimulate the muscle groups of the upper body. As a compound exercise that makes use of various muscle groups, the exercise should be executed with the correct form, just like the other exercises, to maximize its benefits. Also, optimum gains are achieved through the combined forces of regular training, proper nutrition, and adequate rest.