5 steps to back squat perfection
For military professionals, lower body strength is a must. For many humans, loss of lower body strength is the cause of the fall in old age that starts the domino effect of poor health ending in death...#Grim.
If you are human, a military professional, both, or soon to be both, having a strong squat will only make your life easier and longer. This is why we squat.
Leg strength is a prerequisite for the job. We hike everywhere.
The purpose of the low-bar back squat is to recruit the most amount of muscle possible in a lift. On average most people need general overall lower body training. The low bar position on the back gets the most muscles involved and is, therefore, a staple exercise in many complete training programs.
1. Take your grip and bar position on your back
First, grip the bar wider than shoulder-width apart.
The narrower your grip, the "tighter" your upper back will be.
Many professional lifters take a grip just outside of their shoulders, yet others grab the bar all the way at the very edge of the bar by the weight plate.
Lower your head under the bar and find the bar position on your back.
The bar should be resting on the natural shelf that develops just above your rear delts. (the muscle on the back of your shoulders)
Keep the bar off of your neck, that is a high bar squat.
You should be applying equal pressure with your hands and your back while trying to "bend the bar over your back."
By "lifting" your chest (while still keeping your nipples pointed at the floor) and pressing your hands forward, you will achieve this position.
2. Squat the bar up in the rack and step back
The correct way to unrack the bar is to lift straight up, as you do in the very final portion of a repetition.
- Your feet should not be staggered.
- Your back should not be in flexion.
- You should not be bent at the hips and performing a good morning to get it out of the rack.
Once you have moved the bar vertically and are standing in the rack, move the barbell horizontal by taking 2-3 deliberate steps backwards.
The bar should never move diagonally in the back squat. It moves vertically or horizontally. That's it.
3. Take your stance
Your feet position is unique to you. Generally, heels are below or just wider than hip width, and toes are pointed out at about a 45-degree angle.
Start with this positioning and adjust based on the depth and comfort.
Everyone's hips are different and therefore have a different ideal stance.
No one is incapable of squatting to depth, however. The trick is to find the foot and hip setup that works for you. Seriously.
4. Breathe and squat vertically
Take a deep inhale and brace your abs. The combined muscular flexion from your core and air pressure from your lungs filling will keep your spine stable and strong for the entirety of the movement.
Depth in the squat is when the top of your thigh just below your hips goes below the top of your knee.
In the squat, we are using the stretch reflex of the hamstrings to help "spring" us up from the bottom of the movement, known as the hole. That stretch reflex response is completely negated if you go to a depth where your hamstrings become passive in the movement. They should always be engaged and never lax.
A common mistake for people that take pride in their squat depth is that they get stuck in the hole because they are trying to re-engage their disengaged hamstrings. Under a heavy load, your hamstring cannot contract again without serious risk of pulling or tearing.
Waste no time in the hole. Hit your depth and explode back up.
You should never have enough time in the hole to smile for the camera... This makes me cringe.
(Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash)
Your knees should be tracking over your toes for this entire movement. Don't let them cave in. Think "twist the ground apart with your feet and knees." This will engage all of your glutes and prevent the dreaded valgus knee collapse that is all too common.
The bar should be centered over the middle of your foot, just like the deadlift, for this entire movement.
Think about your tailbone moving straight up as if it's being pulled by a rope from the ceiling directly above it. This is where all of you power comes from.
- DON'T think about moving your butt forward. Think vertical- forward motion will push you forward and off-balance. Move directly against gravity.
- DON'T think about straightening your knees- this will push you off-balance as well.
- DON'T think about your feet. If they are balanced in 3 points, you should pay them no more mind. Those three points are heel, big toe, and little toe- like a balanced triangle.
5. Finish with your glutes and exhale
Finish the rep by squeezing your glutes and extending the hips into what feels like a posterior pelvic tilt
This will make you stand up straight and completely finish the reps.
Inhale and repeat.
When to train
Scheduling at least 72 hours between squat sessions, in the beginning, is important to ensure adequate recovery so that you can get the most weight on the bar and make the most gains. Over time, depending on your goals and recovery, you can safely squat three or even four times a week at sub-maximal intensities.