The squat is an exercise which is used to target the largest and most powerful muscles in the entire body – the quadriceps (thighs). In terms of effectiveness at muscle building and strength development, the squat is to the lower body what the bench press is to the upper body. In fact, in terms of overall strength and mass development, squats, bench presses and also dead lifts are the ultimate compound exercises.
Yet, many people dislike doing squats. Some find them awkward, difficult, or just freak out at the idea of balancing a high amount of weight upon their backs.
My motto when it comes to squats is: do them if you can, and if you can’t, do something else.
It’s as simple as that.
Although nearly entire books have been written about squats, I’ll give you a rough starting idea of how the exercise is performed…
Standing underneath a barbell rack, with feet approximately shoulder width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards, get under the barbell allowing it to run along the back of your shoulders, supporting it by gripping overhand with your hands just outside of shoulder width.
Keeping your back locked out (not rounded), bend at the knees, heels planted firmly on the floor, lift up to release the bar. Now, stepping forward from the rack, set your feet about shoulder width apart or slightly wider, toes pointing slightly outwards. Facing forward, with your back locked out still – and keeping your shins perpendicular with the floor at all times – lower yourself down by bending at the knee, until the crease in your groin is slightly lower than your knee. Then, raise up.
It’s very important that you keep your back locked out and don’t round it during this movement. For longer-legged trainees this may be difficult because of the amount of forward lean required to maintain the centre of balance.
Practice will help a little, but you can’t change your body dimensions. For some (the long legged, short-torso trainees) doing squats isn’t too effective for the quads because of the amount of forward lean required placing extra emphasis on the lower back and buttocks. Instead, you may want to try leg presses, hack squats, or feet-forward smith-machine squats.