Squats with a barbell: How to do it right

Squats with a barbell: How to do it right

Even a person who is completely unfamiliar with “hard” sports, certainly knows the top three exercises, which are indisputably the main ones both in powerlifting and bodybuilding. Bench press, deadlift, and squat – “base”, which allows you to achieve the maximum possible results. In the entire history of sports, exercises have not yet been invented that could more effectively influence such a large number of muscle groups. Probably, there is no training program that these three exercises would not include — moreover, this applies to both “drying” and mass gain, both for “lifters” and bodybuilders.

Every athlete who practices bodybuilding knows the purpose of these exercises: bench press – works out the pectoral, standing – back, and squats with a barbell on the shoulders – load legs. Naturally, a huge number of muscles are included in the work, to some extent assisting in their implementation.

Among the exercises of the main three, squats are the most difficult (in all senses) and dangerous. They have the most complicated execution technique, the slightest deviation from which is fraught with serious consequences. Therefore, we will consider squats with a barbell in more detail.

Shoulder Squats

Working muscles

No exercise would involve more muscle groups than a squat. To one degree or another, more than half of the muscles of our body do the work – in fact, a colossal indicator.

The main burden is taken by:

  • Muscles of the anterior thigh (quadriceps).
  • Muscles of the posterior thigh (biceps, semi-membranous and semi-tendon muscles).
  • Big gluteal muscles.

In constant static load are:

  • Body extensor muscles – hold the natural bend of the spinal column.
  • Abdominal muscles – support intrauterine pressure, necessary for additional fixation of the vertebral discs.
  • The calf muscles (and their assistants).

Separately, it should be noted the enormous load that is created when doing squats with a barbell on the shoulders on the muscles-stabilizers of the body. If you use free weight, then they have to maintain and adjust the position of the body every moment – which is very difficult.

To whom, when, and why

If this is your first time trying to do squats with a barbell, the technique of this exercise will certainly surprise you with its complexity. In this regard, the squat simply has no equal — sitting correctly even with an empty bar (or even without weight) is already not easy, not to mention the use of weights. For this reason, a sufficiently large number of athletes do not perform squats at all, preferring to replace it with simplified methods of training leg muscles. They can be understood: the exercise is really very difficult, but its effectiveness is undeniable.

To whom?

For a beginner who has recently come to the gym, the main task is a high-quality and quick set of muscle mass. In this regard, it is most relevant to use the main “base”, including the squat. Despite the complexity of the technique, take the time and effort to practice it – the inclusion of squats in the program will significantly accelerate weight gain. As an option – for the preliminary strengthening of working muscles for a start, you can perform squats in the Smith simulator, which have a simplified technique.

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For the rest, squats are relevant for everyone: beginners, experienced athletes, men, women. However, there are some exceptions, which we will discuss a little further.


The squat is included in the complex on the day of training the muscles of the legs. Like any multi-joint exercise, it is performed at the very beginning of the training, after a thorough warm-up and the implementation of the “idle” approach with minimal weight or an empty bar.

As for the training periods (set or “drying”) – it all depends on each athlete, his goals, and physiological characteristics. Some do squats all year, some only with mass. If we consider it in general, then the exercise is equally relevant in both cases (of course, with certain features).

What for?

It is impossible to “build” massive and powerful legs without squats quickly. Definitely, if you want to build legs, then you need to squat. You can replace this exercise with others, but in terms of effectiveness, there is no more effective and more useful option for the hips and buttocks than squatting.

The exercise is relevant, first of all, for high-quality mass gain. When “drying” it, it is also often enough included in the program, however, if you wish, you can replace it (or better, just supplement it) with other exercises.

Limitations: who is not recommended to squat with a barbell?

ATTENTION! If you have problems from the list below – before doing squats, be sure to consult a doctor and trainer in the gym!

As mentioned above, there are some limitations: it is not safe for all athletes to perform squats. It is recommended that you abstain and replace the exercise with less complex and dangerous exercises if you have:

  • Problems with the ankle, knee, or hip.
  • Spinal problems.
  • Trauma (fractures, dislocations, sprains) of the lower extremities.
  • Recent surgery.
  • Recently transferred (or existing) serious diseases.

This does not mean that in the presence of the above problems, you should not be crouched at all – everything is individual here. However, you will almost certainly have to forget about working with maximum weights – this loads the human body to the limit.

Barbell Squatting Technique

If you do not want to get injured by doing squats with a barbell, the technique for their implementation requires careful training with an empty bar. Some athletes spend more than one week of regular training on this – and this is a completely justified step.

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Most often, the squat is performed in a power frame – this reduces the risk of injury due to the use of limiters. Doing the exercise by removing the barbell from ordinary racks is possible only for experienced athletes who know their abilities, or when working with a minimum working weight (when warming up or “drying”).

  1. We set the stops of the power frame to such a height that it is convenient for you to sit under the bar (about 5-10 centimeters below the shoulders). We put an empty bar on them and hang pancakes.
  2. We sit down under the bar, comfortably rest against it with the upper part of the trapezius muscles. We put our hands on top, at a convenient distance from each other for you – their task is to hold the bar.
  3. We fully straighten, remove the bar from the stops, and step back (so that the stops do not interfere with the squat). Starting position: the legs are set across the width (or wider) of the shoulders, the socks are turned outward, the body is completely straight, the shoulders are straight, the head is looking forward.
  4. Holding our breath in inspiration, we begin to squat smoothly. It’s very convenient to imagine that you are sitting on a chair – the movement is almost the same. There is a simultaneous bending in the knee and hip joints: the knees extend forward, and the body bends (as a result, its angle relative to the surface should be at least 45 degrees).
  5. At the bottom of the thigh, they are parallel to the surface. Having reached this position, without delay, we start to get out of the squat, straightening our knees and at the same time – the body. Having passed the main part of the trajectory, exhale.
  6. Perform the required number of repetitions.

Important nuances and tips

  1. Working weight. A key factor in fast muscle growth is the maximum weight. It is selected based on the number of repetitions – hang so many pancakes so that you can sit on your own and correctly at least 5 times.
  2. The number of repetitions. It is selected depending on the period of classes: when typing – from 5 to 8, with “drying” – from 8 to 15.
  3. Movement speed. Running too fast is one of the most common causes of injury. It should be emphasized smoothly, squatting – slowly, getting up – can be a little faster.
  4. Breath-holding. A mandatory factor when performing a squat is holding your breath – it allows you to further protect the spine and simplify the retention of the natural bend.
  5. Delay at the bottom. No matter how heavy the squat is, lingering at the lowest point is inefficient. And when working with maximum weight – it’s also dangerous.
  6. Body. Another reason for injury or back problems is a rounded spine. The body must be straight and slightly curved in the lumbar throughout the entire performance – make sure that this position is maintained until you lower the bar back to the stops.
  7. Head. The same applies to the position of the head: from the very beginning of the execution, it should be still looking forward. The easiest way to control this is to ensure that the lower jaw is parallel to the surface.
  8. Legs. The classic version of squats is the hips at the bottom point parallel to the surface. To increase the load on the buttocks, you can drop a little lower. In this case, it is better to slightly reduce the operating weight. Also, make sure that the knees do not diverge to the sides – ideally, during movement, they should “look” to the same place as the socks.
  9. Feet. The correct position of the feet (the rotation of the socks and the width between them) is selected individually for each athlete. This is influenced by growth, physiological data, the flexibility of the joints, and back. Do not spare time, and even spend a few workouts to find the most convenient and comfortable position of the feet – an equally true option for all athletes does not exist here. The only rule: the wider the distance between the feet – the more load goes to the inner surface of the thighs. Accordingly, the narrower the more the front part is loaded.
  10. Heels Obligatory nuance: at the bottom point the heels should stand firmly on the floor. If they come off anyway – either experiment with the position of the legs or put small pancakes under the heels (the height should be about 1-2 centimeters).
  11. Insurance. When performing exercises with an average (or, even more so, maximum) weight, be sure to use the help of an insurer.
  12. If there is the slightest pain in the joints or muscles, stop the exercise immediately and seek help from a trainer or doctor.
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Possible harm from exercise

Among athletes, there is an opinion that a squat with a large weight negatively affects the knee joint. A similar statement was refuted at the end of the 20th century by American researchers who studied in practice the consequences of regular squats. According to their results, it was revealed that with the right technique and high-quality warm-up, the knee joint does not receive a dangerous load.

The exercise is much more dangerous for the spine: its slightest curvature (even when working with average weight) can cause displacement, rupture, or even fracture – that is why so much importance is assigned to the development of technology.

Athletic Belt Use

When working with maximum weight, many athletes use an athletic belt. Its purpose is to artificially increase intrauterine pressure, which further protects the spine. However, this method also has a negative side – regular use of the belt weakens the natural muscle corset (which should support the spinal column) – for this reason, the belt should not be used constantly.


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