Executing a Back Squat

Let's talk about the proper execution of the back squat but first I have to briefly share some of my thoughts and observations on this exercise.

Some observations: 1. The surprisingly weak high school athlete.

This applies to both male and female. I have trained and consulted a few a high school varsity athletes in strength and conditioning and by far teaching them how to perform a back squat was the most challenging. From not placing the bar properly behind the neck, to shifting all their weight to their knees and not heels, to rounding their backs and not pushing their butts back and down, to not coming close to squatting to parallel or below and last but not least just dropping and not squatting so that they are "stuck" on the ground.

Yes, I have seen all of those.

In case you're wondering, weak core musculature,weak hip musculature and poor flexibility all contribute to the above scenarios.

2. The macho athlete

This is the male athlete who loads up the bar with tons of weight and then proceeds to "squat" maybe 5 inches.

Some thoughts: 1. When you do squat properly, you need to squat to a box or bench. Why? Because, it reinforces you that you need to squat to below parallel to reap the benefits.

2. When you squat to the bench/box you have to sit for at least 2 seconds and then ascend. If you merely just touch the box with your butt and get up, you are just activating your quads. To develop speed you have to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. So you need to sit and hold and then ascend.

3. If done properly, the back squat should not hurt your lower back. I know a few strength coaches that prefer front squats over back squats because they feel it is too much of a load on the lower back and there athletes were getting sore. Yes, I have experienced that with some of my inexperienced lifters but I remedied that by:

1. lowering the load,

2. re correcting their technique and,

3. if necessary adding more isolated hip,hamstring and ankle mobility exercises.

4. I have also encountered athletes who's "strength coach or trainer" had them perform only partial squats. Partial squats can be implemented in a quick tempo/high rep fashion as a change of pace but they should not be the only way in which you squat!

I actually had a high school football player be taught only partial squats because his schools' Athletic Trainer, who was the acting strength coach, told him that because he is a lineman he only needs to partially squat. Well, needless to say the poor kid was a mess strength-wise and mobility-wise.

Ok I'll do my best to explain to best position the bar and execute the back squat.

1. Get right under bar on rack so that you are able to stand directly up straight and not leaning forward.

2. Hands should be about shoulder width apart. You should be able to shrug your shoulders easily without your head tipping forward. Every thing should be straight.

3. Once you feel comfortable, push your butt back first like you are about to sit in a chair (use a bench instead). Chest and chin are up always.

4. Sit 2 seconds on bench and then rise up and perform a few more perfect squats.

5. When you are done, walk forward so that the bar hits the both columns and place bar back on rack. Do not bend forward and put weight back on rack. You could easily get hurt and you will end up on my knucklehead list (you don't want that).

* make sure you set rack for your height. I find it best to set it a bit lower than higher. Too high makes it difficult to get weight off rack and usually makes you place the bar to high on your neck. This not only will make your neck uncomfortable but also your lower back.

Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments.


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