Muscles Used • Exercise Type • Form Instruction • Tips and Techniques • Recommended Reps • Common Variations • Substitutions • Equipment Needed
|Calves, Abs, Low Back|
See all the exercises at the:
Weight Training Exercises Database
– Barbell Squats –
AKA: Bodybuilding Squats, Parallel Squats
Compound Exercise, Push Movement
Standing, position barbell on traps or rear deltoids, descend until thighs are parallel to floor then raise until legs are nearly straight.
Tips and Techniques:
Feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Toes should be pointed directly or slightly out (up to about 30 degrees). As you come down the knees should move towards the toes (don’t let the knees buckle inwards as this will create knee problems).
Sit back and bring yourself down with the bar over the heels. Keep the weight firmly on your heels throughout the lift. This is important, if the weight is moving to your toes then the weight is moving to far forwards and your back is curling upwards and exposing you to injury.
The back is arched slightly inwards and is kept still throughout the lift. Keep your eyes straight ahead or slightly up to help keep the back from wanting to curl back.
The illustrations above show “squatting to parallel” – where the thighs are parallel to the floor. Squatting to where the hip joint goes below the knee joint is considered a Deep Squat. From a bodybuilding perspective, the primary benefits of the squat may be accomplished by just going to parallel. It is also sometimes recommended to stop the descent at parallel to lessen the strain on the knees. Going below parallel, however, can have athletic advantages.
See the Deep Squats page for more on the differences in the depth of your squat.
Many people experience difficulty right from the get-go with getting the bar placed comfortably on the back. There are basically two positions to try:
- High-Bar squats (also called “Olympic”) place the bar on the traps.
- Low-Bar squats (also called “Powerlifting”) will roll the bar down and rest it on the rear delts (thumb goes over the bar to allow you to move it down further comfortably).
Low-bar squats can shift more of the emphasis from the quads to the hams and glutes. Low-bar will also allow you to lift greater amounts due to the position of the bar. High-bar is considered more beneficial to the Olympic lifts and may have advantages for certain types of athletes.
With both bar placements, the objective is to find the meaty muscle places to rest the bar. The pain usually comes from trying to rest the bar on the bone of the neck or spine (as bad of an idea as it sounds). Taking a narrow grip when you get under the bar and really squeezing the back together (flexing those muscles) will help bring the meaty muscle places out.
Devices such as the Manta Rays and Squat Sponge have been developed to help with comfortable back bar placement. I’ve used both. The Manta Ray just didn’t fit well on me though it does have its fans. The Squat Sponge worked well for me but I generally only use it occasionally when doing Standing Calf Raises. The best idea is to just practice your placement. As you become more experienced at squatting, the discomfort will fade.
Squats can be a difficult exercise to master. They are, however, one of the greatest, if not the greatest muscle mass building exercise out there. If you are serious about building muscle, you will take the time to learn to squat effectively (and you will be rewarded for your efforts).
Recommended Reps For Muscle Building:
6-12 the majority of the time, trying higher or lower reps on occasion.
- Deep Squats
- Front Squats – The barbell is held in front resting on the front delts, typically with a cross-handed grip.
- Zercher Squats – Barbell held in front in the crook of your elbows
- Overhead Squat – Barbell is held overhead with arms outstretched.
- Dumbbell Squats – Dumbbells are held to the sides while squatting.
- Hack Squats
- Machine-Based Hack Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squats – With dumbbells to the sides or barbell on the back, the off-leg foot is positioned on a bench behind the lifter while working the other leg in a squat.
- One-Legged Squats – Typically done without weights (and more difficult than you would think). Squat down using only one leg typically keeping off-leg stretched straight in front.
- Machine-Based Squats – Various machines can give options for performing squats.
The most commonly used substitution is the Leg Press. However, it isn’t as valuable of an exercise in terms of overall hypertrophy and should only be used as substitute when dealing with genuine knee or back problems. If you can squat, you do squat – not doing so is forfeiting muscle. DeadLifts can make a lot of sense as an alternative simply due to its positives on overall muscle growth. Hack Squats, Dumbbell Step-Ups, and Lunges are compound exercises that can have value as substitutes.
Power Rack, Barbell, Weights
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