Squat, squat, squat and don’t stop. Perhaps you’ve heard — squatting is the key exercise you should be doing. Known for it’s ability to sculpt the difficult-to-target spots of the butt and upper thighs, squats are essential to master. And don’t worry, you won’t get bored. There’s an assortment of squat variations: air squats, barbell squats, dumbbell squats, pistol squats, goblet squats, front squats, jump squats and more. But you have to know what you’re doing, especially when squatting with heavy weights. Injury is common in the back, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow our guide and you’ll be squatting like a pro.

Performing Back Squats

Bar Height: The bar should be set in the squat rack so that it’s between your breasts/pecs and your collarbone.

Bar Placement: The bar can be placed higher or lower on the upper back depending on how much weight you want to lift. Lower placement allows you to lift more as the weights are closer to your center of gravity. Higher placement is safer on the shoulders. Place to your needs between the shoulder blades and the traps.

High Bar Position

High Bar Position

Low Bar Position

Low Bar Position

Grip: To avoid tiring out your hands when your lower body has more to give, try the hook grip for locking the bar into your hand. It will feel uncomfortable, possibly even painful, at first, but eventually you’ll be able to lift heavier weights for longer.

Unracking: When the bar is positioned on your back, stand with both feet shoulder-width a part, directly under the bar. Keep your core tight and lift the bar off the rack. Step back a foot to begin squatting.

Body Position: Keep the neck neutral with the eyes looking forward. Maintain good back form by pulling the chest up.

Squat: Break at the hips and stick the butt way out. Lower the hips below the knees for a full squat. (Stopping when the thighs are parallel to the floor isn’t a full squat.)

Return: Drive your weight down through the heels and keep your knees turned out. Don’t let them sag in, which forces the weight into the knees and causes injury.

Tempo: Slow on the way down; fast on the way up.

Watch John Alvino show you how to perform proper squats.

Front Squats

Bar Height: The bar should be set in the squat rack so that it’s just inches below your clavicle. As the Tabata Times explains, “This ensures both an aggressive primer for the kinetic chain when unracking the barbell as well as an easy and safe reracking of the barbell once the set is finished.”

Bar Placement: The bar should be stabilized across the clavicles and the anterior deltoids in a clean grip.

www.robertsontrainingsystems.com

www.robertsontrainingsystems.com

Grip: Hook the fingers over the bar, but do not grip.

Placement: Press your clavicle against the bar with hands in position. Lift your elbows upward to create the must-needed shelf where the bar rests, lightly pressing against your neck. Now remember, lifting the elbows through the whole movement is critical for keeping the bar in place.

Unracking: Unracking the bar is often overlooked as the active primer for the squat. Keep your core tight and power out of the rack from the heels through the thighs. Step one foot back from the rack.

Stance: Keep the neck neutral with the eyes looking forward. Maintain good back form by pulling the chest up. The feet should be shoulder-width apart with the toes slightly turned out. Weight should be primarily in the heels.

Squat: Break at the hips and stick the butt way out. Lower the hips below the knees for a full squat. Keep the chest up with gaze looking forward.

Return: Drive your weight down through the heels and keep your knees turned out. Don’t let them sag in, which forces the weight into the knees and causes injury. Return to the starting position.

Watch Scott Herman explain the front squat.

Additional Resources:
Bodybuilding’s Guide to Front Squats
Lean It Up’s Squat Gauntlet
Breaking Muscle’s Primer on Front & Back Squats
Spot Me Bro’s 20 Benefits of Squats
S
trong Lifts’s 7 Essential Tips for Squatting Heavy Weights