How to Squat
The Squat is both a fundamental movement pattern, and one of the most effective exercises in existence. It will take some practice to master, but it is more than worth it. Start with the Body Weight Squat and progress to the more challenging variations. Once you have good squatting technique you can load up the barbell and start getting ridiculously strong.
Body weight squat
It is important to master both the Body Weight (BW) Squat and the Box Squat before adding load. For the Body Weight Squat, your focus should be on controlling the tempo and the body throughout the movement. You should be able to pause at any point during the movement and reverse or continue with control and intention.
HOW TO PERFORM THE BW SQUAT
- Stand with your feet approximately shoulder with apart with your feet pointing forward. Some toe-out is acceptable, but try and keep it within 15 degrees of straight. Brace at the top by squeezing your glutes (your butt muscles) and tensioning your abs
- Initiate the movements with your hips, pressing back as if you were going to sit into a chair.
- Descend until your thighs reach parallel with the floor, or your back starts to round. It is common to have a limited range of motion (ROM) when first learning to squat. Practice within what your mobility allows, and your ROM will slowly increase over time. Your torso angle will be dependent on you unique biomechanics and mobility.
- Ascend back up to your starting position.
Improving your squatting mechanics with the goblet squat
The Goblet Squat is my favorite squat variation to teach the squat. Because of the weight distribution, many people who are learning to squat for the first time prefer it over the barbell back squat. The Goblet Squat is usually performed using a Kettlebell or a Dumbbell. When performing the GS the basic mechanics are the same as the body weight squat. It also give you a chance to identify any sticking points or mobility restrictions in a low risk environment, compared to the back squat.
To perform the GS follow the same instructions as the BW Squat while holding weight in front of you.
The box squat is the next step after you have mastered the BW Squat. It allows you to further solidify your technique and progressively add load before your Barbell Back Squat is perfect.
You can also perform the Box Squat with a Kettlebell, holding it in a Goblet Squat position.
- Start in the same position as the BW Squat. I like to stand on the corner of the box.
- Lead with your hips and 'search' for the box. Once you have lowered to the box, sit down, but stay active. Don't let your posture change and avoid 'resting' on the box. You still want to be supporting about 70% of your body weight.
- Drive into the ground through your hips as you stand up from the box and back to the starting position.
Barbell back Squat
I recommend starting with the Barbell Back Squat as a Box Squat. Lead with your hips and maintain a tight core. Your torso will be angled more forward than with a BW Squat or a Goblet squat, and this may take some getting used to. Other than that, the Back Squat is pretty much identical to the regressions.
- Start by placing your hand on the bar at your desired width. Step underneath the bar and organize your spine. Brace. Squat the bar up out of the holds and step away from the squat wrack. If you are new to squatting, it is helpful to have safety bars.
- Initiate the movement by loading your hips and sitting into the squat.
- Descend to the bottom of the squat, as low as you can with good form.
- Driving through your hips, stand back up to your starting position.
- Repeat for required reps and get ricidulously strong.
Before you load the Back Squat you need find your ideal bar position. The lower you have the bar on your back, the more your torso will cant forward. There is no 'right' position for everyone. I use the High Bar position, because I believe it has better transfer to sports and performance. That being said you can still get super strong with low bar and see massive improvements in athleticism.
Regardless of the position you choose it is important to commit to regular practice before you change. Get used to one style before trying the other.
You should also always set up in the same sequence, making it a habit.
High Bar: during the High Bar BS, the barbell will rest on your upper traps, above the spine of your scapula. This position allows your to stand upright, compared to the Low-Bar position. Grip the bar with both hands at about 1.5 shoulders width apart. The width of your grip will depend on your shoulder mobility. Choose what feels comfortable and allows you to have a firm grip on the barbell. Keep your elbows below the BBell, avoiding letting them come forward.
Low Bar: during the Low Bar BS, the barbell will rest below the spine of your scapula (the hard, top of your shoulder blade). Most people will find the Low Bar position less comfortable at first.
Points of performance
There are a few things that you need to be conscious of when performing Squats. It is important to only load functional patterns. In other words, we don't want to add a bunch of weight to a dysfunctional squat. Be humble and don't be afraid to regress to a body weight squat or a Goblet Squat. I work on my squat during every session, refining technique and improving mobility.
- Keep the knees over the toes, not inside
- Maintain an arch in your foot
- Keep your back flat
- Start the movement by loading your hips, not letting your knees come forward
Coaching Cues for common faults
Knees coming in
- Screw your feet into the ground
- Spread the floor
- It is often helpful to use a Mini Band around your knees
- Grip the ground with your big toe
- Screw your feet into the ground
- Pick up your big toe
Knees coming forward excessively
- Sit into a chair
- Start with your hips
Low Back Rounding
- Cue the knees
- Fix your top position, bracing at the top
- Keep your chin neutral