Content of the material
- How to Do a Bodyweight Squat With Proper Form
- 7 Common Mistakes When Doing Squats
- How to deadlift with a hex bar correctly?
- Favorite Barbell Accessories
- Barbell Front Squat Standards
- How Do You Use a Safety Squat Bar?
- How much does a 5 foot weight bar weigh?
- Are curl bars effective?
- Trap Bar Squat VS Straight Bar Squats
- Tips For Keeping The Squat Bar Path In An Optimal Position
- 1. Think about the squat cue “claw the ground with your feet”
- 2. Envision moving your body around the barbell as you lower yourself down
- 3. Record your training from the side
- LOW BAR SQUAT FORM FAQ
How to Do a Bodyweight Squat With Proper Form
The setup for the squat exercise is incredibly simple.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
- Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about 5 to 20 degrees outward (the wider your stance, the more you’ll want to rotate your feet outward).
- Look straight ahead and pick a spot on the wall in front of you.
- Look at this spot the entire time you squat, not looking down at the floor or up at the ceiling.
I go over the setup and the full movement in this video:
1) Put your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Keep your chest up and proud, and your spine in a neutral position.
2) Your weight is on your feet – it should be on the heels and the balls of your feet, as if they were pasted to the ground. You should be able to wiggle your toes the entire movement (though that’s not a part of squatting!).
3) Keep your entire body tight the entire time, your core flexed like you’re bracing to be punched in the gut!
4) Breathe deeply into your stomach, break at your hip and push your butt back. Keep sending your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.
It’s important to start with your hips back, and not by bending your knees.
5) As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.
Many new lifters need to focus on pushing their knees out so they track with their feet.
When your knees start to come inside the toes, push them out (but not wider than your feet).
Make sure your knees aren’t moving inward toward each other through the movement – this is very common.
6) Squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees (what we call “parallel” in the squat game). Note: if you THINK you might not be squatting deep enough, you probably aren’t!
Once at the bottom, it’s time to stand back up from your squat:
7) Keeping everything tight, breathe out and drive through your heels (keep the balls of your feet on the ground as well).
8) Drive your knees outward (away from each other) the same way you did on the way down, and squeeze your butt at the top to make sure you’re using your glutes.
Here is a video from us nerds at Team Nerd Fitness (with instructions from Jim, lead trainer at our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program) that will teach you good form on a bodyweight squat, including all the mistakes NOT to make:
Once you can do multiple sets of 15+ deep bodyweight squats with proper form, it’s time to move onto barbell squats!
If you are confident in doing bodyweight squats and want to work up to a barbell squat, follow our Gym Workout Level 4 Program, which includes dumbbell goblet squats, a good stepping stone to barbell squats:
The majority of the population has some sort of mobility issue (including myself!) that they are working on fixing.
We have LOTS of 1-on-1 coaching clients who are new to squatting, and it often comes down to ankle flexibility and hip mobility.
If you spend all day, every day, sitting in a desk chair, this might be you.
If you want us to help you fix your squat depth and start getting stronger, that’s what we’re here for!
7 Common Mistakes When Doing Squats
The squat is a basic movement, but those new to lifting often fall victim to a handful of common mistakes.
Let’s take a look at some of the big problems and how to fix it!
#1) Coming up on your toes with your knees forward during your squat
It’s important to keep your heels on the ground the entire time you’re squatting.
You should be driving down through your heels, and in order to do that, they need to be on the ground!
While some of your weight will be on the balls of your feet, you never want all of your weight to be on the balls of your feet or your toes.
You should be able to lift your toes up off the ground and wiggle them at any point and it shouldn’t change anything about your squat.
#2) Not going deep enough on your squats
Your squat should hit at least parallel (middle image above) – where your hip joint goes below the knee.
Depending on what you’re training for, you can go lower, but in order to maximize the muscles worked in the squat, it needs to be done to at least parallel or lower (you can see lower in the upper right image).
If you squat above parallel (a partial squat) you’re leaving the hamstrings out of the movement. This puts more pressure on the knee – the force put on your knee is actually reduced as you drop below parallel.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about squats and knee issues.
The deeper the squat, the more glutes that are activated as well. This will result in more muscle being created from the squat, as shown by this infographic:
Now, a deeper squat is typically harder, both strength and flexibility wise.
However, depending on your goals, squatting to parallel may make more sense.
If you’re struggling hitting depth there could be many causes – you could have poor ankle mobility, tight hip flexors and/or hamstrings, weak glutes, or poor pelvic alignment (among many other things).
This is something we work closely with our coaching clients on, and often prescribe ankle and hip mobility drills to help clients reach proper depth on squats!
#3) Knee Positioning
When you squat, you want your knees to track along with your toes.
This means if you are looking down at your knees and feet, your knees should be aligned at the same angle as your feet throughout the movement.
This infographic shows you the correct knee position for a squat:
Everyone’s exact positioning is going to be slightly different, but they should not be on the outside or the inside of the foot.
#4) Back Positioning
Your chest should be up and your shoulders should be back, like you’re King Kong about to pound your chest proudly.
Your body should stay in this position the entire time.
You don’t want your shoulders to round forward, but you also don’t want to hyperextend your back either.
Keeping your spine in a neutral position will help your spine safe and build a strong foundation throughout the heavy squat movement.
#5) Head Positioning
Many coaches will tell their lifters to look up, as that is the direction in which you want to be moving, but this is actually the last thing you want to do.
Take a second quick and look at the ceiling (I’ll wait! 🙂 ).
Now, see that position your neck vertebrae are in? That is a very unsafe position for your spine to be in, especially when more weight starts getting included in the equation.
You also don’t want to be looking directly at the floor.
Look straight out in front of you the entire time, with your head in a “neutral” position. Your chin should be in a position where you could hold a tennis ball between your chest and your chin.
#6) Attempting to keep your shins vertical.
Unless there is a current underlying knee issue that would cause additional pain – the shin can and should go past vertical in the squat. This will often allow a deeper squat which will build more strength and stability in the knee.
A forward lean in the shins is also present when we engage in any number of daily activities such as walking up steps or standing up from a chair. Squat as deep as you are able, but do not focus on holding a vertical shin.”
#7) Too much weight on the heels/on the outside or inside of feet during your squat
When trying to fix coming up on your toes, or your knee positioning, it is common for people to focus so much on keeping their weight on their heels that they forget to keep the balls of their feet on the ground!
Some of your weight will still be on the ball of your foot – if you are truly only having weight on your heels, it’s pretty hard to balance.
To the same effect, if the inside of your foot or the outside of your foot comes up off the floor, this is also not a good thing!
How do you know if you’re making these mistakes? Simple!
Record yourself doing squats.
And so does anybody else who is serious about improving their squats.
Often we look VERY different than we think we look when doing an exercise, so having a video of the movement is often the only way we can improve.
If you can’t self-diagnose your squat challenges, let us help!
How to deadlift with a hex bar correctly?
After knowing about the benefits and advantages of using the hex bar, you might wish to know how to use it correctly without hitting yourself.
Here are the steps to be followed to lift the hex bar.
Initially, you need to load the hex bar with the weights which you can lift very easily (in case you are a beginner).
Then step into the middle of the hex bar with your feet slightly apart. About Shoulder width or a little less.
Grab the Handles with both hands, grip tightly, and start to pull, while keeping your back straight
In this step, you need to keep your back straight and then bend your knees slightly with hips lowered and look straight ahead. Keep up your torso.
While back straight, head straights, and eyes straight, lift the bar straight up with your lower back muscles, quads, and hamstrings.
After the trap bar reaches your hips, you can lower the bar back down to the floor.
Repeat these steps, get comfortable, then add weight.
Favorite Barbell Accessories
Your barbell workouts will be made better by these accessories:
- Barbell collars: Keep the plates securely in place with these barbell collars (Amazon link)
- Micro plates: This set of micro plates (Amazon link) allows you to add small amounts of weight to the bar so you can keep making progress.
- Squat pad: Need a little padding between your back and the barbell? This Profitness squat pad (Amazon) is both high quality and affordable.
- Deadlift pads: Dramatically reduce the noise and impact on the floor when deadlifting with these Yes4All pads (Amazon).
Find my favorite barbell and weight plates by clicking here.
Barbell Front Squat Standards
Your barbell front squat performance will generally be about 80-85% of your back squat performance. So, to determine your personalized standards for the barbell front squat exercise, multiply the numbers you came up with from the charts above by .8 or .85 (i.e. 80% or 85%).
- If you can back squat 100 lbs, you should be able to front squat about 80-85 lbs.
- If you can back squat 200 lbs, you should be able to front squat about 160-170 lbs.
- If you can back squat 300 lbs, you should be able to front squat about 240-255 lbs.
How Do You Use a Safety Squat Bar?
Set up with the barbell at the top of the shoulders/traps and your hands on the handles. This will be less “secure” than a regular barbell squat since the shoulder blades are not supporting the barbell.
From this position, step the barbell out and take your regular squatting stance (somewhere between hip-width and shoulder-width). Keeping the entire back tight, perform a regular squat with weight in the rear half of the foot.
Use the quads to stand up, pushing the floor down and keeping the hips under the bar (rather than backwards). Keep the upper back engaged and hinge from the hips (not the shoulders) while standing up.
When you return to the start position, the rep is complete.
How much does a 5 foot weight bar weigh?
CAP Barbell 5-Foot Solid Olympic Bar, Chrome (2-Inch)
|Item Weight||25 Pounds|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||61.02 x 3.35 x 3.35 inches|
|Grip Size||28 millimeters|
Are curl bars effective?
When performing the straight bar bicep curl you perform both functions of the biceps. Scott suggests to perform straight bar bicep curls to maximize bicep muscle growth if you don’t experience pain, and EZ bar curls if you do. However, there is no need to utilize both in your workout routine.
Trap Bar Squat VS Straight Bar Squats
A Trap bar squat is different than regular squats mainly because of the form the hex bar makes you hold while squatting.
When squatting with a normal bar your feet are out a bit past shoulder width. When using a trap bar your feet are held closer together.
With your feet closer together, the trap bar forces you to work the middle and the outside heads of the quad more and rather than the inside.
The hex bar also forces you to do the entire rep range rather than half ass squatting like most people do
Squatting with the straight bar allows you to widen your feet which makes it easier and doesn’t force you to go down all the way which allows people to half squat.
Hex bar squats are harder and will build more muscle when performed correctly.
Tips For Keeping The Squat Bar Path In An Optimal Position
Here are 3 tips for helping you maintain a vertical bar path while squatting:
1. Think about the squat cue “claw the ground with your feet”
The goal here is to find your balance before executing the movement. It’s very difficult to regain your balance once you’re already squatting, especially as the load gets heavier (a common squat mistake).
To initiate this cue, you want to draw your attention to your big toe, pinky toe, and the heel. Once you feel the load evenly distributed over these three points, claw the ground with your toes. This should feel like actively curling your toes into the floor.
You’ll want to use this cue before you squat down. Be consistent with it until it begins to feel more natural.
For more cues like this, check out our complete guide on Squat Cues.
2. Envision moving your body around the barbell as you lower yourself down
Think about the barbell being fixed on a vertical pole as you squat down. The best example I can give is squatting on a smith machine where the barbell is limited in moving forward and back.
If the barbell didn’t have any possibility to shift forward or back, you would be required to move your body around the barbell. In other words, you would have to bend your hips back and knees simultaneously to accommodate the barbell’s fixed position. There is no room for compensating.
- If you break from the knees first to start the squat (without breaking the hips), you’ll place all of the weight on the front of the foot and the barbell will sway forward.
- If you break from the hips first to start the squat (without breaking from the knees), you’ll place all of the weight on the back of the foot and the barbell will sway back.
Therefore, make sure you’re cracking at both your hips and knees at the same time to start the squat and “move your body around the barbell”.
If you struggle with holding onto the barbell when low bar squatting, check out my 7 tips.
3. Record your training from the side
Sometimes you don’t even know that you have any inefficiency in your bar path unless you have visual feedback.
This is why I always advocate for lifters to record their squats directly from the side angle to gauge how their lifts look under different rep ranges, loads, and fatigue states.
The goal of recording your lifts is to ensure you’re being consistent throughout your training. It can offer feedback on when you might be forgetting your squat cues, or whether there are some other underlying issues you may need to address (discussed in the next section).
There are several apps available that can help trace your bar path. One that I’ve used previously is a free app called Iron Path. All you do is open the app, open an existing video, set the marker, and have the app analyze your bar path.
LOW BAR SQUAT FORM FAQ
Where do you put the bar for low bar squats? In the low-bar squat, the bar rests on the rear deltoids rather than the traps. Grab the bar, retract your shoulder blades, and pull the elbows up and back. The back muscles will be pushed out when you do this and it will create a good platform to stabilize the bar on. Here’s how the bar placements compare: How low do you need to squat? As a general rule, you should aim to squat as deep as possible, without pain or discomfort, while your back remains straight. For most people, a good target is where the thighs are parallel to the floor or deeper. Your ankle, hip, and hamstring flexibility will determine your ideal squat depth. Don’t let anyone tell you how deep you have to squat. Experiment with what feels best for you. What happens if you don’t squat low enough? If you don’t squat low enough, you grow less muscle and the athletic benefits are lower. It’s better to use a lighter load with a lower depth than to use a heavier load with a shallower depth. In general, the fuller the range of motion when performing the squat (and strength training exercises in general), the better. That said, you shouldn’t force yourself to squat deeper than your body will allow you to. As this guide shows, the ‘right’ depth depends on the person. Should I high bar or low bar squat? The overall difference in the whole-body training effect between the two is small. I recommend you choose the version that feels the most comfortable for you so that you can train hard and consistently.
Thank you for reading. If you found this Squat tutorial useful, please share it with a friend who might also. 🙏🏻
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