“Down the highway, in a health club distant, a younger man was heard to say, ‘No matter what I do, my legs won’t develop!’ He tried leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, too. Trying to cheat, these exercises he’d do!

From the nook of the health club the place the massive guys prepare, via a cloud of chalk and the midst of ache, the place the massive iron rides excessive, and threatens lives, the place the noise is made with huge forty-fives, a deep voice bellowed as he wrapped his knees.

A really huge man with legs like timber, laughing as he snatched one other plate from the stack, chalked his palms and monstrous again, stated, ‘Boy, stop lyin’ and don’t say you’ve forgotten! Trouble with you is, you ain’t been squattin’!’”

Credit: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

This poem would possibly sound like one thing written by a meathead Dr. Seuss, nevertheless it’s been well-liked amongst lifters since its first publication in Iron Man journal within the early-Nineteen Eighties. It highlights how important the train might be for constructing measurement and energy.

The again squat is such a foundational raise; it’s the default reference level when individuals speak about “the squat” — sorry, entrance squat, it’s simply not your day. It’s time to get higher acquainted with what some name the king of all workout routines. Here’s a whole information to the barbell again squat.

Back Squat Technique Demo

Coach Traver Boehm demonstrates methods to carry out the traditional again squat. See it in motion after which proceed studying to be taught all the small print it is advisable get probably the most profit from this important motion.

How to Do the Back Squat

The again squat is commonly the primary barbell train lifters be taught within the health club. It’s a basic motion for growing decrease physique energy, muscle measurement, and total-body stability.

Competitive powerlifters spend years refining their squat approach for optimum energy output, nevertheless it doesn’t should be fairly that sophisticated.

Step 1 — Get Under the Bar

person holding barbell across back and shouldersCredit: Paul Biryukov / Shutterstock

Set a barbell in a rack at mid-chest peak. Grab the bar wider than your shoulders with a palms-down grip. Set your ft in entrance of the bar, bend your knees, and duck down to position the bar throughout the highest of your shoulder blades or the backs of your shoulders. Squeeze the bar along with your palms and pinch your shoulder blades collectively. Make certain your elbows are angled down, not straight again.

Form Tip: You may have to regulate the bar peak barely to your consolation, however you shouldn’t be in a position to stand absolutely upright with the bar remaining within the rack.

Step 2 — Unrack the Bar and Set Your Stance

Person in gym standing with bar across shouldersCredit: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Flex your abs and straighten your legs to raise the bar out of the rack. Keep your shoulder blades retracted and your again straight. Pause briefly to let the burden “settle” onto your muscle tissues. Take one or two small steps backward, and one or two small steps to widen your stance greater than shoulder-width aside. Your toes must be pointed at a slight angle outwards. Take a breath and pause to regain total-body tightness.

Form Tip: Your ft ought to stay flat on the ground when unracking the bar. If you rise onto your toes, the bar is ready too excessive within the rack, lowering stability and growing the possibility of an ankle or knee harm.

Step 3 — Squat Down

person in gym doing barbell squatsCredit: David Herraez Calzada / Shutterstock

Pull the bar into your higher again and tense your abs to encourage higher physique tightness. Maintain a impartial backbone and look straight forward. Keep your ft flat whereas pushing your hips again. Squat down till your thighs are roughly parallel to the bottom. This depth is an efficient steadiness for constructing energy and energy, and stimulating muscle development. (1)

Form Tip: Descend at a managed pace. Dropping rapidly into the squat or attempting to bounce out of the underside can enhance joint pressure and reduce muscle recruitment.

Step 4 — Stand Up to Lockout

muscular person performing barbell squat in gymCredit: Nestor Rizhniak / Shutterstock

Squeeze the bar tight as you drive your ft into the bottom to rise from the underside. Your hips and shoulders ought to transfer up on the similar time. This ensures balanced muscle recruitment out of your legs, decrease again, abs, and higher again; and a safer, stronger raise. In the highest place, flex your abs, glutes, and quads to make sure a whole lockout.

Form Tip: If your hips rise earlier than your higher again, you’re not retaining your core tight. Focus on constructing energy in your abs and decrease again, and cut back the burden used for squatting till you’ll be able to keep a correct place.

Back Squat Mistakes to Avoid

As well-liked and widespread as squats are, a number of widespread errors can restrict muscle development, lower energy good points, and enhance the chance of harm.

Rounding Your Back

Maintaining a impartial backbone place is crucial for energy and stability in virtually any train. A rounded again reduces activation of the spinal erectors (the decrease again muscle tissues) and will increase pressure on the vertebral discs.

person with white shoes doing squatsCredit: Guryanov Andrey / Shutterstock

In specific, rounding your again might be extraordinarily harmful with the squat as a result of your again muscle tissues help the load. The shearing stress of the barbell can enhance dramatically if the motion is carried out with a rounded again.

Avoid It: Driving your elbows below the bar to maintain your higher again engaged. Keep your abs tense as you descend and stand.

Using a Short Range of Motion

You can manipulate the vary of movement of your squat as a coaching approach, however performing squats with a brief vary of movement is extra usually achieved unintentionally, below the guise of “proper form.”

person in gym doing partial rep squatsCredit: Bojan656 / Shutterstock

Squatting till your thighs are parallel to the bottom has been proven to construct extra leg muscle than squatting to greater depths. (2) For most coaching effectivity, use parallel-depth at least goal.

If you’re a aggressive powerlifter, squatting to parallel is required. Otherwise, your raise doesn’t depend.

Avoid it: Maintain physique consciousness and monitor your approach all through every rep. If obligatory, cut back the burden on the bar to make sure constant depth on every set.

Caving in Your Knees

Allowing your knees to wobble in or out throughout a squat will increase pressure on the knee joint. If your knees cave inwards as you squat, it’s usually an indication of muscular imbalances or weak glutes attributable to how varied muscle tissues work together with the thigh and pull throughout the knee joint.

Person in dark gym wearing tank top squattingCredit: Aleksandr Lupin / Shutterstock

Avoid it: Experiment with adjusting your stance since squatting too broad or slender could have an effect on your knee place. Focus on driving your knees outward when rising from the underside place of a squat. Incorporate glute-strengthening workout routines like Romanian deadlifts and hip thrusts.

Benefits of the Back Squat

You don’t construct a fame as “the king of all exercises” in the event you don’t carry some severe good points to the desk.

person in gym doing barbell squatsCredit: antoniondiaz / Shutterstock

The again squat builds measurement and energy in a number of physique components, predominantly your legs, whereas your core and higher again are closely recruited to stabilize the burden. And that’s to not point out the psychological toughness and grit developed from persistently squatting heavy.

Lower Body Strength

The again squat is likely one of the Big Three powerlifts; it’s a check of energy for all the decrease physique. The train recruits all of the muscle tissues of the legs for some severe energy output and the flexibility to maneuver very heavy weights.

Leg Size

Some lifters consider the again squat is the one train it is advisable construct a muscular set of legs. While that kind of strategy is debatable, it has some credible roots. The again squat considerably recruits the quadriceps and glutes, whereas the hamstrings are recruited comparatively much less. (3)

Muscles Worked by the Back Squat

The again squat is likely one of the most full decrease physique workout routines you’ll be able to carry out with a barbell. It absolutely engages the legs, prompts the core, and includes the higher physique for stability.

person in dark gym performing barbell squatsCredit: Mongkolchon Akesin / Shutterstock

Here’s a more in-depth have a look at the muscle tissues concerned.


The quads, discovered on the entrance of your thighs, are primarily liable for straightening the leg. During the again squat, the quads are closely activated when transitioning out of the underside place in addition to nearer to lockout.

The quad muscle tissues are additionally the biggest on the leg and contribute to most leg measurement. While the quadriceps muscle consists of 4 completely different heads, there’s no important option to emphasize one head over the opposite to lead to visibly completely different muscle development.


The glutes are a collection of three gluteus muscle tissues that work collectively to govern the leg on the hip joint. Primarily, the glutes are liable for hip extension — bringing the legs right into a straight line with the higher physique.

During squats, the glutes are put below a big stretch within the backside place and are maximally contracted at lockout within the high place.


The hamstrings, on the again of your thighs, are liable for bending your legs and lengthening your hips (just like the glutes). They additionally play a task in knee well being.

The squat works your hamstrings through the descent and transition out of the underside place. The hamstrings are activated through the squat however not considerably in comparison with the deadlift. This is why squats are usually thought of a “quad exercise” whereas deadlifts are thought of a “hamstring exercise.”

Upper Back

The whole higher again, composed of a number of muscle tissues just like the trapezius, rhomboids, teres, and rear deltoids (shoulders), works to regulate your shoulder blades. The higher again is closely recruited to keep up the barbell place throughout squats.

Even although the higher again doesn’t transfer via any important vary of movement through the squat as a result of your shoulder blades must be stored pinched collectively all through the set, intense isometric contractions have been proven to construct measurement and energy. (4)

Spinal Erectors

The spinal erectors are an extended pair of muscle tissues working the size of your backbone, out of your tailbone to the bottom of your neck. The decrease part of the spinal erectors are the “lower back muscles.”

They are liable for bending your torso sideways and backward, rotating, and resisting ahead bending. During squats, your spinal erectors ought to act as stabilizers to maintain your higher physique straight. If they’re not sturdy sufficient, your again will spherical ahead.


The rectus abdominis is the first ab muscle throughout the entrance of your physique — the coveted six-pack. The abs management torso flexion, or bending ahead. They additionally work to offer static help and stability all through all the higher physique.

The abs are below important muscular stress to keep up a steady higher physique whereas squatting. Like the decrease again, in case your abs are weak, you’ll end up rounding ahead.

Who Should Do the Back Squat

The again squat can serve a goal in almost each lifter’s coaching program. Its big selection of advantages might be utilized to a number of targets and lifters with varied expertise ranges.

Strength Athletes

Competitive powerlifters ought to carry out the again squat as a result of it’s one of many powerlifts. CrossFit athletes, strongmen and strongwomen, Olympic weightlifters, and different strength-based rivals may even profit from constructing full lower-body energy with squats.

General Sports Athletes

Any sport that requires an athlete to run or soar can profit from squats. From baseball to volleyball and all the pieces in between, squats assist to develop energy and energy that transfers to efficiency on the sector.

Physique-Focused Lifters

Squats are invaluable for constructing muscle within the legs. Whether you’re getting on stage in a physique competitors otherwise you’ve simply determined so as to add an inch or two to your legs for enjoyable, squatting might be the distinction between reaching your aim or lacking out.

How to Program the Back Squat

The again squat is commonly the cornerstone of decrease physique exercises. It’s virtually at all times the primary train achieved on leg day, and it tends to be an train lifters strategy with trepidation due to the extraordinary pressure and total-body problem.

Heavy Weight, Low Repetition

Squatting heavy weight for low reps is a traditional option to construct severe leg energy. A scheme of Three to 5 units of three to 5 reps is difficult to beat for energy and energy. Be certain to maintain your depth constant. Don’t fall into the lure of squatting greater and better because the weights get heavier and heavier. Make certain to raise barely extra weight than you probably did the week prior.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition

To pack on leg measurement, prepare squats with a time-tested bodybuilding strategy — 4 to 5 units of eight to 12 reps. The greater quantity is related to triggering extra important muscle development. (5)

Breathing Squats

Some lifters think about this old fashioned strategy to coaching a ceremony of passage. It might be traced again almost a century to lifters within the early-1900s who educated with high-rep squats utilizing a singular respiration sample all through the set.

Perform one set of 20 reps. The key, nonetheless, is to take two or three deep breaths between every repetition. On the one hand, the breaths permit you a really temporary relaxation to deal with one excellent repetition after the subsequent, moderately than performing a continuous collection of reps. On the opposite hand, it’s not unusual for one set to take a number of minutes to finish. This is why it’s thought of by many to be one of the difficult squat exercises of all time.

Back Squat Variations

The again squat with a low-bar place is a flexible motion for constructing measurement and energy whereas studying the essential squat sample. However, not each lifter is prepared or in a position to carry out a low-bar squat with good approach, whether or not it’s attributable to mobility points, limb leverages, or different components. Here’s methods to get comparable advantages with a bar in your again.

High-Bar Squat

The high-bar squat is extremely just like the low-bar squat. Expectedly, the crucial distinction is the barbell’s place in your again. The excessive bar locations the burden barely greater in your traps, which begins a cascade of delicate however important approach modifications as a result of barely completely different leverage.

Your higher physique will likely be extra vertical, your stance can usually be nearer, and the general muscle recruitment will likely be barely completely different. Most considerably, high-bar squats can cut back decrease again pressure in comparison with low-bar squats as a result of your decrease again is much less concerned within the raise as a result of upright torso place.

Anderson Squat

Sometimes known as a pin squat or a bottoms-up squat, the Anderson squat was popularized by legendary weightlifter and powerlifter Paul Anderson. This motion begins the raise from a dead-stop place, with the bar resting absolutely on the rack helps, which requires elevated muscle recruitment, mobility, and excellent approach to get the burden transferring.

Anderson squats are sometimes achieved with a intentionally shortened vary of movement to focus on key zones the place a lifter’s energy could stall. This is likely one of the exceptions to the “always use a full range of motion” rule as a result of it’s achieved with intention, not by accident.

Safety Bar Squat

The security bar is a singular and specialised bar discovered in lots of gyms’ corners. The thick pad raises the bar barely above your traps and higher again, which shifts the burden’s heart of gravity and considerably will increase higher again recruitment.

The key advantages are improved higher again energy because the weight will attempt to “push” your higher again down, which you have to resist all through the motion. The security bar additionally drastically reduces shoulder pressure and shoulder mobility necessities as a result of the handles permit a extra pure grip.

Back Squat Alternatives

Some lifters could also be unable to carry out the low-bar squat attributable to pre-existing decrease again points, shoulder mobility issues, or different components that require particular person consideration. Here are the very best alternate options that construct comparable leg measurement and energy.

Front Squat

The entrance squat is likely one of the commonest alternate options to the again squat. By supporting the bar on the fronts of the shoulders as an alternative of throughout the higher again, you considerably cut back stress on the decrease again as a result of you’ll be able to keep a extra upright torso (much more so than with high-bar squats).

Front squats are additionally proven to scale back pressure on the knee joints in comparison with again squats, making it a probably higher possibility for lifters with any kind of joint challenge. (6)

Trap Bar Squat

The phrases “trap bar squat” and “trap bar deadlift” are generally used interchangeably as a result of the workout routines seem almost equivalent. However, just like the low-bar and high-bar squat are subtly however considerably completely different, so are the lure bar actions.

Focus on retaining your shoulders pulled again and your higher physique vertical. Resist the urge to hinge ahead on the hips, which recruit extra glutes and hamstrings and switch the train right into a deadlift.

Leg Press

Sometimes the very best various to a squat is to not squat. The leg press delivers comparable muscle-building advantages. The supported seat almost eliminates higher physique involvement, making it preferrred for lifters with shoulder, elbow, or decrease again points.

Two keys are to keep up contact between your hips and low again with the seat always. Don’t decrease the burden to date that your hips curl up — this is able to put the decrease again below quick harmful pressure. Secondly, like squats, by no means commerce vary of movement for added weight. Overloading the burden sled and lowering the vary of movement is usually counterproductive.


My stance doesn’t really feel proper through the motion. I really feel stress in my joints, not my muscle tissues. How do I repair it?

One’s squat stance is one thing that must be fine-tuned to the person. Begin along with your ft barely wider than shoulder-width and angled barely outward. If that’s uncomfortable in your hips, knees, or ankles, experiment till you discover a stance that makes the motion feels clean and pure.

One “hack” to discovering the appropriate stance is to leap excessive into the air two or thrice. On the ultimate soar, stick the touchdown and rapidly have a look at your ft. That’s roughly the place your physique “wants” to carry out from as a result of it’s the place you naturally landed to soak up and re-apply drive. Memorize that foot place and attempt to replicate it within the health club.

I’ve learn that each “serious” lifter ought to embody again squats of their program. Is that true?

No, it’s not true. Every aggressive powerlifter ought to embody again squats as a result of it’s one of many three lifts they carry out in a meet. For everybody else within the health club, there isn’t a such factor as a compulsory train.

Sure, loads of causes to carry out again squats have been defined all through this text. But a handful of equally efficient squat variations might be achieved as an alternative. Focus on selecting the best workout routines in your particular targets and your particular person wants (primarily based on issues like your limb size, earlier accidents, present mobility, and many others.).

And Now, You Know Squat

“If you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life, what’d it be?” That’s a preferred considering train many lifters think about. Considering its versatility and effectiveness, “I’d just squat” is at all times going to be a protected reply. It’s a perfect motion for rookies establishing a base of energy and muscle, and it’s a time-tested traditional for anybody seeking to reconnect with one of many oldest and most revered workout routines within the coaching world.


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  2. Kubo, Ok., Ikebukuro, T., & Yata, H. (2019). Effects of squat coaching with completely different depths on decrease limb muscle volumes. European journal of utilized physiology, 119(9), 1933–1942. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-019-04181-y
  3. Ribeiro, Alex & Santos, Erick & Nunes, João Pedro & Amarante do Nascimento, Matheus & Graça, Ágatha & Bezerra, Ewertton & Mayhew, Jerry. (2022). A Brief Review on the Effects of the Squat Exercise on Lower-Limb Muscle Hypertrophy. Strength and Conditioning Journal. Publish Ahead of Print. 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000709.
  4. Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric coaching and long-term diversifications: Effects of muscle size, depth, and intent: A scientific evaluation. Scandinavian journal of drugs & science in sports activities, 29(4), 484–503. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13375
  5. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, Ok., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports activities and train, 51(1), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764
  6. Gullett, Jonathan C; Tillman, Mark D; Gutierrez, Gregory M; Chow, John W A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2009 – Volume 23 – Issue 1 – p 284-292 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818546bb

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