Barbell squats are often presented as the most important exercise for building the quads, and in this article I’d like to look at how the traditional squat is performed, who should perform it in the traditional way, and who should look to a squat variation for better results.
The squat is an exercise designed to hit the quads, but because of its complex compound nature, it also involves other muscles in the lift to varying degrees, so it provides more than a mere quad workout.
The execution of a traditional barbell squats can be summed up (albeit roughly) by the following instruction:
- Inside a rack, position a loaded barbell at upper chest height. Now, get underneath it and place the bar along the back of the upper shoulders, and hold securely in place with the hands and un-rack.
- With feet at shoulder width or wider, (depending upon your body proportions), feet pointing slightly outwards and keeping the torso as straight as possible throughout, descend at the knees in a controlled manner, until the joint fold created by your hip and uppermost thigh is slightly below parallel with the knee, and then, ascend.
It’s worth pointing out that, squats performed in this manner also develop the butt muscles – particularly in the longer legged trainer. But if your priority is strength, developing these muscles is important anyway… you could even say it’d be an ‘ass-et’. (I’m sorry, that was terrible!)
Now, people with long legs will find this exercise difficult, even with a wider stance. Some may even find it nearly impossible. For these people – the squat in this way is ineffective, and I highly recommend a variation such as the smith machine squat (with feet placed slightly forward of the hips) or the hack squat machine.
Squats though, may have a deeper importance than mere quad development. Many – including Mark Rippetoe – believe the evidence is there to suggest that working the quads provides an increased release in testosterone and HGH, which in turn benefits the other muscles of the body.