Some people say the squat is the king of all lifts. And for good reason as the squat is one of the best exercises to build size, strength and even create a more powerful athlete.
The key to success not just in squatting but it’s also about how you squat. Here are some tips to ensure take your squats from suck to superb!
1. Stand Tall
Once you unrack the weight and get it out of the rack under control a big mistake it not standing tall. Be standing tall you allow yourself to get in the most mechanically efficient position. You won’t be wasting back or leg strength in this position.
Many people start with their weight too far backward and allow their upper body to come forward with their knees unlocked. Remember a better start often yields a better finish. In this position, your spine will be neutral our lats and glutes will be fully engaged and ready to work! Standing tall will ensure you are setting yourself up for success.
2. Screw Your Feet into the Ground
The feet are your connection with the ground. By twisting your feet in the floor (thinking about if your feet were on plates they would rotate outward) you create a stable platform to squat from. This is going to activate the muscles in your hips and glutes and put your lower body on tension.
More tension creates more stability allowing for more control as you start your squat. Rooting your foot in the ground will ensure you don’t stumble and you are in full control of the lift.
3. Lat Pull Down With the Bar
Many people struggle to keep their chest up while squatting. Most people focus on arching but this is not the most efficient way to keep the spinal position. Rather than cranking on your joints a better way is to engage the powerful muscles of the upper back and lats.
By pulling the bar down into the body you create a better connection with you and the weight allowing for better force transfer. Keeping the upper back on tension will allow more stability from the upper body preventing the chest from collapsing in the bottom. This will prevent the back from being the limiting factor in the lift and will allow the legs to truly express their strength and unlock your true squatting potential.
4. Sit Between Your Legs
Another common problem with squatting is knees caving in. This is especially common with female and newer trainees. Sometimes this could just be a strength issue and can be correct over time. In other cases, it is just something the athlete needs to focus on. As you descend into the hole it is good to imagine your groin spreading apart as you sit between your legs.
By “shoving your knees out” you will create space for your body to drop into a proper squat. This will allow you to squat deeper while keeping your hips and knees in proper alignment during the lift.
5. Drive Back into the Bar
As you hit the bottom of the squat it is time to reverse the motion. You don’t want to let your hips shoot out from underneath you. You want a balance of pressure between your back and your legs. In order to accomplish this, a good cue is to drive back into the bar out of the hole.
When you imagine driving back into the bar the weight of the barbell will keep you balanced and allow for a straight bar path as you come up. This will help prevent the back from doing to much work and the chest collapsing.
To watch these tips in a real coaching scenario, check out my YouTube Video here.
John Gaglione is the owner and founder of Gaglione Strength. A private Long Island strength training and powerlifting gym located in Farmingdale, NY. Specializing in group training for athletes and adults of all levels looking to improve performance, build lean muscle and drop body fat. To email John, visit his website GaglioneStrength.com or follow him on Instagram @gaglionestrength!