Squats are a fantastic compound exercise, but to get the maximum benefit, you have to do them right. Find out how to optimize your form and increase the muscle-building benefits.
Perform Squats Correctly
Squats are the king of bodybuilding exercises. Never has one exercise done so much for so many. With this one exercise, you work your hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and calves. Squats also work your back and your abdominal muscles. You know that this is an exercise that you should add to your workout routine, but do you know how to perform this exercise correctly? Read on to find out how to squat correctly with good form.
Although the squat is a great exercise, it has been implicated in causing injury to bodybuilders. The main cause of these injuries stems from incorrect form. If you perform this exercise with the correct stance, bar placement, proper head and spinal alignment, breathing techniques, and proper depth, you will avoid injury and achieve impressive muscle growth.
Get Your Stance Right
When doing squats, your stance is very important. You have to approach the bar and then place your feet at shoulder width apart with your toes turned outward at about a 30-degree angle.
There are many variations in foot placement. These variations in stances work different parts of the legs. A narrower stance targets the quadriceps muscles to a higher degree and a wider stance is popular among power lifters and uses more muscles overall. Different variations require you to adjust the amount of weight you are using, so remember to start off with a weight you can control until you become proficient in the exercise.
After you have approached the bar and adopted your chosen stance, you need to adopt a medium hand grip. Your hands should be just inside the rings on the bar. With a firm grip on the bar, you dip your head underneath the bar and place it on your traps. This is called the high-bar position and the bar should rest comfortably at the bottom of your neck.
You can also adopt a low-bar position where you rest the bar at the top of your shoulder blades. The high-bar position puts less pressure on your wrists, elbows and shoulders while the low-bar position allows you to lift from 10 – 20% more weight. The choice in bar placement depends on your weight lifting goals and what feels most comfortable to you.
Proper Spinal Alignment
Incorrect alignment of the head and spine is one of the things that causes injuries. When squatting, don’t look at the ground or bend your neck downward. Your head must remain in a neutral position. A good trick is to find a spot opposite you that you can focus your eyes on. As you descend and ascend during the squat, keep your eyes on that spot. This will automatically keep your head in the correct position.
Another aspect of good spinal alignment is keeping your chest out and your shoulders back. With the bar on your traps, push out your chest and try to squeeze the shoulder blades together.
The last aspect of good spinal alignment involves the lower back. The lower part of your spine (lumbar spine) naturally has a slight arch. As you perform this exercise this natural arch has to be maintained by keeping your back flat or slightly arching your lower back. A big arch or a rounded back will lead to injury, so these positions must be avoided at all times.
Perfect Your Breathing Technique
The squat is a very taxing exercise and breathing incorrectly has caused problems such as nausea, dizziness and fainting. When squatting, take a deep breath and exhale as you descend and inhale on the way up.
Aim for Proper Depth
In order to get the most out of this exercise, you need to get to the proper depth. In order to get to the proper depth, you will need good hip flexibility. On the downward part of the squat, your butt should move backwards, your heels should be flat on the floor and your knees should not go over your toes. If you’ve performed this step correctly, your hamstrings will be parallel to the floor.
Some people greatly ascribe to the squat technique of going ass to grass (squatting below parallel). This is great if you can do it safely, but always pay attention to how your knees and lower back feel. If you feel any pain while going below parallel, just decrease the depth of your squat.
Good Form Equals Great Results
The squat isn’t called the king of exercises for nothing. This exercise will give you stronger legs, a stronger core and stronger back muscles. If you are mindful of your stance, the bar placement, spinal alignment and depth, you will be able to perform the squat without injuring yourself. Now that you know how to squat correctly, you will be able to increase muscle mass substantially without risking serious injury.