The Squat is a full body compound exercise and works the whole body. Often our patients will learn proper squat form during their physical therapy treatment.
Squat Form 101
Your build determines how proper Squat form looks like for you. The wider your shoulders are, the wider your grip should be and you should not have a bar until you’ve perfected your form (absolutely no weights until form is flawless). If you have a short torso with long thighs like me, you’ll lean more forward than people with a long torso and short thighs. Don’t try to Squat like someone else does unless you have the same build. Follow these general Squat form guidelines instead and individualize them as you gain experience.
- Stance. Squat with your heels shoulder-width apart. Put your heels under your shoulders.
- Feet. Turn your feet out 30°. Keep your whole foot flat on the floor. Don’t raise your toes or heels.
- Knees. Push your knees to the side, in the direction of your feet. Lock your knees at the top of each rep.
- Hips. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Move your hips back and down while pushing your knees out.
- Lower Back. Squat with a natural arch like when you stand. No rounding or excess arching. Keep your back neutral.
- Grip. Squeeze the bar hard. But don’t try to support heavy weight with your hands. Let your upper-back carry the bar.
- Grip Width. Use a medium grip, narrower than when you Bench Press. Your hands should be outside your shoulders.
- Bar Position. Put the bar between your traps and rear shoulders (low bar) or on your traps (high bar). Center the bar.
- Wrists. Your wrists will bend and hurt if you try to support the bar with your hands. Carry it with your upper-back.
- Elbows. Behind your torso at the top, not vertical or horizontal. Inline with your torso at the bottom of your Squat.
- Upper-back. Arch your upper-back to create support for the bar. Squeeze your shoulder-blades and raise your chest.
- Chest. Raise your chest before you unrack the bar. Keep it up and tight by taking a big breath before you Squat down.
- Head. Keep your head inline with your torso. Don’t look at the ceiling or at your feet. Don’t turn your head sideways.
- Back Angle. Not vertical or horizontal but diagonal. The exact back angle depends on your build and bar position.
- Unracking. Put the bar on your back and your feet under the bar. Unrack it by straightening your legs. Walk back.
- Way Down. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Hips back, knees out. Keep your lower back neutral.
- Depth. Squat down until your hips are lower than your knees. Thighs parallel isn’t enough. Break parallel.
- Way Up. Move you hips straight up. Keep your knees out, your chest up and your head neutral.
- Between Reps. Stand with your hips and knees locked. Breathe. Get tight for the next rep.
- Racking. Lock your hips and knees. Then step forward, hit the rack and bend your knees.
- Bar Path. Move the bar in a vertical line over your mid-foot. No horizontal movement.
- Breathing. Big breath at the top. Hold it at the bottom. Exhale at the top.
The Squat is the king of all exercises. It works more muscles, with heavier weight, than more popular exercises like the Bench Press. It’s therefore more effective to gain overall strength and muscle quickly. Here are 11 Squat benefits. 11 reasons why you should start Squatting today…
- Gain Strength. Strength is your ability to move your body against an external resistance. The bar is on your back when you Squat and gravity pulls it down. Your muscles must generate force against gravity to control the bar on the way down and Squat it back up. Increase your Squat and you increase the strength of your muscles. This strength carries over to daily life and sports because Squats work your whole body.
- Build Muscle. Squats work a ton of muscles. Your legs bend, your torso stays tight and your upper-body supports the bar. All these muscles work at the same time to balance and Squat the weight. This releases muscle building hormones like testosterone. The heavier you Squat, the stronger and bigger your muscles become. This delays the loss of lean muscle mass (sarcopenia, 2.5kg/decade over 25y on average).
- Burn Fat. You lose fat when your body burns more energy than you eat. Your muscles burn energy to lift weight. Squats burn more energy than any other exercise because they work more muscles and with heavier weights. Heavy Squats also increase your metabolism for hours post workout (EPOC). When you combine this with proper nutrition, Squats will help you burn fat and achieve six pack abs.
- Increase Fitness. Your heart is a muscle. Squat strengthen your muscles, including your heart. It makes it more efficient because any activity takes less effort. Walking up stairs or running put less demand on a stronger heart. This decreases your heart rate and blood pressure over time. This in turn increases your cardiovascular fitness. Squatting is good for your heart unlike what some doctors will tell you.
- Increase Endurance. Squats strengthen your legs. They make you run faster and longer because each step takes less effort. This doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly run a marathon. But a 5k will be easier. Squats won’t make you slow and bulky. You will gain muscle mass when you double your Squat. But you’ll never gain enough to slow you down. Squatting is more like putting a bigger engine in your car.
- Increase Explosiveness. Explosiveness is your ability to generate force fast. In physics this is power: how much work you can do in a given time (P=W/t). Stronger legs can do more work in the same amount of time. The more work you can do in the given time, the more power you have. Squats build explosiveness for sports by increasing power. They don’t make you slow for sports, they make you faster.
- Strengthen Bones. Gravity pulls the bar down when you Squat. This compresses everything under the bar. Your bones are living tissues (they heal if they break) which react to this vertical compression by getting stronger. Squats don’t stunt growth. They increase the density of your bones. They make them stronger and less likely to break. This protects you against falls and osteoporosis.
- Strengthen Joints. Squats strengthen the muscles around your knee joints, hip joints, ankle joints, spine and so on. It also strengthens your tendons and connective tissues. This creates support for your joints and spine. It protects them against injuries. And it can help you recover from lower back or knee pain. The key is to Squat with proper form so you strengthen your joints instead of stressing them.
- Increase Flexibility. Squats won’t make you inflexible and “muscle-bound”. Most people who Squat for the first time realize they’re inflexible because they haven’t Squatted below parallel for years. Squats can’t make you inflexible because you must be flexible to Squat. Squatting each week moves your legs through a full range of motion. This maintains proper hip flexibility which can prevent lower back pain.
- Improve Balance. Squats train you to balance the bar while your body moves. This improves your balance and coordination. It also increases your ability to feel your body move through space (proprioception). Squats make you better at sports and learning new skills. They make you less likely to fall when walking up stairs or in the dark. Don’t Squat with machines. Squat free weights so your balance improves.
- Build Discipline. Squats are hard. Doing hard things, even when you don’t feel like it, trains the muscle between your ears: your mind. This builds discipline and mental fortitude which is crucial to get results in the gym. It also build discipline that transfers in other areas of your life. It helps you sticking to good nutrition habits, going to bed on time, doing the work, and so on. Squats build discipline.
There’s a lot more. Lifting weights in general lowers cholesterol, improves gluclose metabolism, improves insulin response and so on. Squats are the best weight training exercise you can do because they work more muscles, over a longer range of motion and with more weight than any other exercise. It’s therefore the best exercise you can do in the gym. It’s the only one you should do if you only have time for one. If you want to squat but aren’t understanding, come in for a free assessment. Our PTs or trainers would be glad to get your squat perfected with you! HAPPY SQUATTING!