We taught you how to become a deadlift master, today we conquer the squat. What’s the deal with squats? Which is better, high bar or low bar? How do you even do a squat? Woosah, we gotchoo. 

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE SQUAT?

  1. Why do we love them? They are compound movements, and that means you work multiple muscle groups at once. 
    • Squats activate your: glutes, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and calves… they also work your core because you need to not fall over.
  2. Why is the squat so damn important? You do them ALL THE TIME. Literally… think about it… how many times a day do you squat down to pick something up? 
    • It’s also a foundational movement of olympic weightlifting and crossfit, so if you’re looking into either of those things; you gotta know how to squat.
  3. When it comes to squatting, you’ll hear people talk about depth a lot. A lot a lot. So how low is too low?
    • There are a few things that dictate your squat depth… and guess what! Everyone is different, so squats are definitely going to look and feel different for each individual person with a few key pieces in mind.
      • Your hips, knees, and ankles are worked during a squat; so if you have any mobility issues in any of those departments – you will have some extra warmups to do before you squat. 
    • Should you be squatting ass to grass? It depends. Are you looking to compete in a sport that requires such squat depth? If not, then you may not have to worry about going below parallel… that’s going to piss off a few people on the internet, but spoiler alert: not everyone is an aspiring CrossFit Games athlete. If you train to feel good, squatting to parallel is completely acceptable behavior.
      • If you have longer than average femurs, squatting below parallel will be a voyage… your movement pattern needs to change due to the different lever length in your legs… things to mention to your trainer during your “get to know you” session.

EXECUTING A SQUAT

Air squat or back squat, the mechanics are the same. Drill your air squat before you move on to barbell squats. 

  1. Start position: Put your feet hip to shoulder width apart, your toes should be SLIGHTLY turned outward at like 5-15 degrees… (screw your feet in explanation)
  2. Brace your core (you can wear a belt if needed), keep your spine neutral, shoulders back, and chest open. Keep your heels down and keep them there through the entire movement, never should you lift your heels during a squat… you want to avoid putting the weight on your toes at all costs.
  3. Down you go: send your hips back like you’re going to sit on an invisible chair (if you have issues with this movement, box squats will help program your brain and body how to do this part correctly). Bend knees to lower down as far as you can while keeping your chest up, DO NOT DROP YOUR CHEST because it will take your shoulders and back with it, and you’ll lose the barbell. Keep your lower back braced but don’t strain.
    • Try to get your thighs parallel to the floor, to do this, squat down so your thighs are even with your knees. If that feels okay and your mobility allows you to go deeper into the squat, keep going.
    • YOUR KNEES WILL GO OUT OVER YOUR TOES, THAT’S OKAY. Don’t listen to the people who say you’re fucked if your knees go out over your toes while squatting… everybody’s do that, they’re supposed to… it’s called biomechanics lol just make sure you’re keeping your hips back, and that will keep the weight on your heels, and off your toes and knees. 
  4. Stand up: as you come back out of the hole, make sure your hips are under your ribcage, because you don’t want your hips to pull too far back. As you stand the squat up, try to keep your knees from drifting inward. 
    • If you are standing up the squat looking like Bambi, you have too much weight on the bar. A great way to help fight this is by doing air squats with a hip circle around your thighs… it helps train your brain and body to know the proper feeling of “pushing your knees out” while standing up.
  5. REMEMBER THESE SQUAT NO-NOS:
    • Never ever put the weight on your toes. You always want the weight on your heels.
    • Don’t drop your chest. It will be tempting to watch the floor in front of you, don’t do it. If you drop your chest, your entire upper body can fail and you’ll end up ditching that barbell. Keep your chin up, Nose slightly in the air but not too dramatic… that will help you keep your chest open and help your form a ton.

HIGH BAR VS LOW BAR

There are many different types of squats: pistols, sumos, jump squats, overhead squats, front squats, just to name a few… but today we are only covering the back squat… because none of those movements should be in play until your back squat is soliddddddd. 

There are two schools of thought when you talk to people about squatting: high bar and low bar. Which is best? That’s going to depend on your goals and your physiology. Before you ever get under a barbell, your bodyweight squat should be perfection. Learn and perfect the basics before you start to add the barbell, ego lifting is for chumps.

  1. High bar – this is generally the first style of squatting under a barbell you’ll learn.
    • Your feet will be about shoulder width apart with your hips directly under your chest, with your torso upright. Your hands will be pretty tight to your body.
    • If you are new or going to check out bodybuilding, CrossFit, or Olympic lifting at some point; high bar squats will be your jam.
  1. Low bar – we don’t recommend low bar squatting for beginners as it is a more technical movement.
    • Your feet will be wider than your shoulders, your hips will be pushed slightly back, and with that your torso will lean forward. Your hands will be wider apart than with a high bar squat.
    • These are better suited for more advanced lifters, you’ll see lots of powerlifters and bodybuilders rockin’ low bar squats, because you need a pretty solid strength base to do them.
      • They’re found to elicit greater muscle activity in tested groups than high bar squats… but this specific study was done with experienced lifting dudes… so your mileage may vary.
  2. If you are an experienced lifter and aren’t married to any specific training mantra, and you want to mix it up… using both high bar and low bar in your routine is never a bad idea… as always, if you have questions about form, ask your trainer or someone that works at the gym, it’s what they’re there for.

    Go forth and squat my friend. Don’t listen to the people who say squatting is dangerous, if your doctor cleared you completely for working out, you can and should squat. If you have a history of injury that limits your ROM, especially if you have a bad back or leg joints… squatting may not be for you. As always, please consult your doctor before starting a training regimen for the first time, they know best. 

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