The squat is one of the most efficient exercises for increasing mass, strength and power in the lower body. It is a compound movement that involves many stabiliser muscles to complete the lift.
Starting Position of Barbell Squat - Position the bar across the upper part of your back so it is resting on your trapezius muscles (not your neck).
Firmly grip the bar, with your hands almost double shoulder-width apart. As you lift the bar off the rack, keep your shoulderblades together and chest up, and ensure there is a normal (stable) curve in your lower back.
Position your feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider), toes angled out at 30°.
Begin lowering by bending at the hips, then knees. Keeping your head up and your trunk erect, slowly lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground; it is not wise to go any further than this. Keep your knees aligned over your feet, pointing in the direction of your toes. Hold for a count of one. From here, press the weight up, pushing hard through your feet and keeping your body erect as you return to the starting position.
You should maintain the natural curve in your back throughout the movement. If you lack ankle flexibility, it’s better to work on your ankle flexibility to improve your range of movement rather than to use a board under your heels. This is potentially dangerous for the knees because it moves the knees forward over the feet and can actually reduce your flexibility. Breathe in as you lower the weight, allow ing your chest to expand and pulling your tummy button in towards the spine. Exhale as you push upwards.
Keep your eyes fixed on a point in front of you at about eye level.
Make sure you do not bend forwards excessively or curve your back as this will stress your lower back and reduce the emphasis on your legs.
Keep your hips under the bar as much as possible and your knees tracking over your toes as you rise.
Do not rely on a weight belt unless you are using maximal weight or it could result in a weakening of the abdominal muscles. The abdominal wall should be drawn in towards the spine rather than pushing out against a belt when lifting.
Placing your feet just over shoulder-width apart (but not too far or you may lose stability) and taking the squat slightly deeper than parallel places more emphasis on the glutes on the upward part of the movement. Make sure you practise perfect form and control the squat - you will have to reduce the weight on the bar, since going deeper can put greater strain on the knees. You’ll find this technique will not only increase your overall strength but also better shape your glutes!
Squats performed using a Smith machine; are less effective than barbell squats andj may increase injury risk when you are
not using a machine as it does not develop the stabiliser muscles. Since the bar travels in a straight line, this alters your natural movement, taking much of the emphasis away from your all-important stabilising muscles. If you must use a Smith machine, position your feet so that your heels are’ directly under the bar.