Western Campus Recreation

Back Squats

WHAT IT TRAINS

PRIMARY MOVERS

- Glutes, quads, hamstrings

SECONDARY MOVERS

- Core, gluteus (minimus and medius), calves

WHAT IT REPLACES

- Leg press

WHAT IT SUPPLEMENTS/COMPLEMENTS

- Deadlifts

- Hamstring exercises

RECOMMENDED SETS AND REPS

- Good for all rep ranges

- For strength: 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps

- For power: 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps, performed explosively

- For hypertrophy: 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps

 

SIGNS YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG

- Lower back pain

    - Can be caused by a myriad of factors

    - If the core is not activated throughout the lift, it won't help support the lower back, leaving the lower back to handle more stress than it's capable of handling

    - If it feels more serious than general muscle pain, it's recommended you stop immediately and consult a trained professional

- Knee pain

    - Deep ache within the knee; feeling of instability

              - Potential ligament damage, likely caused by going too deep into the squat while lacking proper form and balance

    - Sub-patellar pain (below the kneecap)

             - Likely caused by caving in the knees (knock knees) while squatting; this can be caused by poor form or glute weakness

    - Suprapatellar pain (above the kneecap)

             - Likely caused by neglecting the full range of motion while squatting; stopping above parallel puts a large stress on the quads, which is transferred to the patella

- Hip pain

    - Lack of range of motion; forcing yourself into a position that you can't fit into can cause pain

    - You may be anatomically predisposed to hip pain; your hip point can be formed in a manner that it pinches when the hip is fully flexed or extended; nothing can be done about this (unless you want to try major, non-essential surgery that isn't guaranteed to work)

VARIATIONS

- Front squats

- Overhead squats

- Split squats

- Jump squats

- Pistol squats         

FUNCTIONALITY

- Squats are a great functional exercise. People frequently bend down and stand back up in their everyday lives. Squats are a great way to increase your ability to climb stairs, jump, or fire up off the toilet. Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls.

HOW TO PERFORM

- Set up a squat rack to optimal height (you want the bar to start a few inches below shoulder level, so that you have to lift it out to start; the point of this is that at the end of your set, when you're tired, you only have to drop it in)

- Unrack the bar

- Assume an athletic stance with feet a comfortable width apart, relative to your shoulder width, with your toes slightly pointed out

- While keeping the neutral curvature of your spine intact (chest up, head up, natural lumbar curve), squeeze your glutes, gently push out of your knees (imagine as if someone were trying to push them together and you were resisting that movement)

- Begin the movement at the hips, reaching back as if you were going to sit back on a chair

- Lower the hips in a controlled fashion until the butt is somewhere below the knees (this is known as "breaking parallel;" breaking parallel is important, but is different for everyone based on their flexibility, though it's still important to break parallel and not to a half squat)

- The knees should remain over the heels or the midfoot through the movement;

- At the bottom of the movement, push up with the hips and glutes, driving through the heels back to a standing position

- Repeat

 

IMPORTANT KEYS TO REMEMBER

- Feet a comfortable distance apart, toes slightly pointed out

- Chest up, head up

- Neutral spine

- Squeeze the glutes

- Push knees out

- Begin movement at hips

- Sit back, not down

- Knees over heels/midfoot

- Break parallel

- Drive up and through the heels

COMMON ERRORS

- Elevating the heels

    - The heels should stay on the ground throughout the entire movement

- Rounded back

    - Remember to keep the natural curves of your back throughout the movement; excessive and unnatural curving of the back can put undue stress on the spine and lead to injury

- Knees caving in

    - Don't let the knees buckle through the movement; it's important to remember to push out on the knees

- Knees out too far

    - On the flip side, don't splay the knees out too far either

- Knees over the toes

    - Having the knees track too far over the feet puts unnatural stress on the knee joint and the quadriceps, along with creating an inefficient joint angle

- Bouncing

    - Don't bounce at the bottom; lower in a controlled fashion

- Too much forward lean

    - If you find that your chest is out farther than your toes, you may have issues with your flexibility; you want to keep the chest up, open, and vertical through the movement

- Too much weight

    - Doing too much too soon can destroy your form as well as your body

- Not going deep enough

    - Neglecting to break parallel puts the brunt of the force of the movement on the quadriceps, which can potentially lead to knee problems