Barbell squats are probably one of the most difficult exercises to perform correctly and are often killed by most people beyond recognition. The old saying “form first” couldn’t be more true when performing this exercise. However, most people put weight before form in an effort to caress their ego and impress their viewers. Putting your ego before barbell squat form will eventually catch up, resulting in severe back and knee pain or even torn ligaments.
Follow the tips below to improve your barbell squats:
1.) Align your hands using the same barbell grip you use when you bench press your one rep max (this works for most people). Going with too wide a grip can cause the bar to roll down your back and possibly cause injury. Going with too close a grip can put a lot of strain on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
two.) Try to place the bar in the gap between your medial and posterior delts. Depending on how much muscle mass you have, this can help keep the bar stable and in place at all times.
3.) Your chest should be flat in the mirror in front of you at all times during the squat. By plane, I mean the same way you see your chest as if you were standing in front of the mirror with good posture.
4.) Squat down to where your upper thighs are parallel to the ground. It is best to use a mirror next to you to measure this because the mirror in front of you can make it appear that you are much deeper into the squat than you actually are.
5.) Your posture should be at shoulder height or slightly closer. This will help you isolate your quads and take some of the weight off your spinal erectors at the bottom of the rep.
6.) Barbell squats are one of the few exercises where you have to hold your breath at the end of the rep. Begin by taking a deep breath before slowly descending at the end of the rep. By the time you’re at the bottom of the rep, your lungs should be maxed out and hold as much air as possible. Continue to hold your breath until you are about five inches from the top of the rep, then exhale and repeat. This will help fill the cavities in your torso, which will ultimately help stabilize your spine and prevent back injury at the bottom of the rep.
7.) Make sure you have a lot of flexibility in your calves or you won’t be able to do a barbell squat properly. Not having enough flexibility in your calves will cause you to lean forward on your toes on the bottom of the rep, eventually causing a back injury. Take the time to stretch your calves every day to gain more flexibility.
8.) Always push with your heels. This will help you isolate your quads and take much of the weight off the arch of your foot. Putting this type of weight towards the front of the feet can cause sunken arches. Try to wear a shoe that offers some arch support for your feet when doing any type of heavy leg exercise.
9.) Wear a belt when doing heavy barbell squats. This will keep your abs tight throughout the set, helping to stabilize your spine. Make sure your belt is nice and snug and that you wear it low on your waist.
10.) Wrap your knees in your heaviest sets. This can prevent you from squatting too low and injuring or tearing a quadriceps muscle. It is important not to use knee wraps as springs using momentum to bounce up and down at the bottom of your rep.
If you implement all ten of these tips, you will most likely need to lighten the load on your next squat day. It can also take a long time to regain a weight you have used in the past without using these tips. Just make sure you stick to the techniques and eventually you’ll squat more than you ever dreamed of and have the legs to show for it. Just remember that bodybuilding is not about weight, it is about shape and building a well balanced and muscular physique. Patience, hard work, consistency, and perseverance will finally prevail in the sport of bodybuilding.