Squats are one of the greatest compound movements for strength, size and general movement in life. We love squats.
Squats can be hard, and they can be scary but they are a very good exercise to get good at – be that in movement patterns, strength, or both. Learn how to do it properly and safely and then benefit from improved posture, being stronger and less frail in general. Heck you may even look better.
When it comes to the weight lifting exercise of squatting there are a number of things to consider, including;
Exploring which bar position (i.e high bar or low bar) you need can actually answer most of these issues. The difference in bar position is literally just a matter of inches of where the bar could go on your back. It doesn’t sound like it is that important does it?
However, the bar position will then affect the angle of your hip at the start and during the squat, meaning that it completely changes the leverage of the movement.
So, which bar position is best?
Most people will learn high bar first. This is where the bar is placed across the trapezius muscle near the neck. This position works best for people who squat with their back in a more upright position.
It is trickier to find the correct position when going for the low bar method. The best way to find the correct position is to set the bar up in a high bar position against the rack and to slide the bar down your back until you find a second racking position, you’ll feel where it sits nicely.
Genetics play a large role in which bar position you choose –
High bars also respond best to an elevated heel, which is where weightlifting shoes come in. Low bars respond better to no heel elevation. Meaning flat shoes are preferable.
The squat movement entails moving from an upright, standing position and then bend your knees and hips until your hips are below (or level with) the tops of your thighs.
Your average gym goer can happily squat down until the hips are at the same height as the tops of their thighs, but competition powerlifters would need to squat until the hip crease is below the top of the thighs in order to have their lift passed.
With your bar position and stance correct, and you in the starting position, now imagine that you’re pulling your hips to the floor whilst pushing the chest up. This will ensure that you stay in a more upright position and don’t let the bar drag you forward. When you are on the upward phase of the squat you will want to imagine that you are pushing the bar to the ceiling.
These cues will help to keep the bar path in the correct place, which in turn keeps the squat in the best position biomechanically.
If you were to watch a squat from the side, whether high bar or low bar, the bar and the shoulders should stay in a position where they are in line with the middle of the lifters foot.
This ensures that the majority of the body and its musculature is underneath the bar in order to really push it back up in a straight line. If this bar path falters and goes forward the lifter will find that they are compensating too much with their lower back to drag the bar back to this line – and this is if they haven’t been dragged forward and down to a failed position.
Aside from getting your legs and lower body really strong they also ensure that you stimulate muscle growth in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and lower back so that this area looks better and bigger (depending on what you are going for).
Extra muscle and strength in this area is excellent for general health as the majority of lower back injuries in later life are due to not lifting correctly and relying on the lower back to do so. Stronger legs and better movement patterns will ensure that you are not tempted to try and just ‘back’ a lift up – you will be far more likely to use your legs efficiently. They’re massive muscles too, so take advantage.
Confidence in this movement is an under rated thing to have.
The benefits of squats are;
As written above, squats can be hard and they can be scary to get good at but the advantages far outweigh any fear you may have of them. If you’re unsure, get someone qualified to show you – it is definitely worth it.
Perfecting the movement of a squat will cross over into your daily needs as well. Imagine being in a position where getting up out of a chair or off of a toilet is difficult, this might sound ridiculous but just wait until you’re old and frail, keeping strength in this movement throughout your life will definitely pay off in the future.
Beyond this, it’s a great exercise for your legs, butt and even lower back – it will encourage muscle growth and develop strength.