Squatting is one of the most productive if not the best exercises out there (it is called the King of Exercises by lots of). It is one of the most difficult to learn as well. In the event you are new to this exercise, take several training sessions practicing with an empty bar or broomstick (you can do some additional work on the leg press if needed). It is important to get your method down chilled while the weights are still light. Your tiny errors with tiny weights will turn in to BIG errors with massive weights. Much of the bad press the squat has received in the media is a result of improper method & not the exercise itself. Red flags you may encounter will be pointed out & hopefully how to keep away from them.
First Things First
The first thing to discuss is not foot position or width of stance, but proper trunk position. Pretend you are a soldier & the meanest, ugliest sergeant ever told you “TEN-HUT!” You would automatically straighten up & pull your head & shoulders back. This is the proper position of the backbone for the squat. IOW, your head is pulled back; your chest is raised; & you have a slight arch in your lower back. At no time in the work of the squat ought to you bend over at the low back or look down. Of work you need to bend over at the hip (more on that later). You ought to not look up either. OK, so you got that down?
Now, the best way to do squats is in a power rack or cage (a immense rectangular rack with cross-drilled holes) so you can change the pins where in the event you need to bale, you can set the bar down without any harm. Set the pins to below the depth you are going. They also serve as a visual cue for depth & in the event you go down/up crooked. Place the J hooks or posts that hold the bar for you to get under at the level of your nipple or so. Try to unrack it two times to see if it is at the right height. The bar ought to have a knurled area in the middle (if it doesn’t, find another bar or another gym) so it won’t slide down your back.
Lots of people use towels or padding under the bar. Others (including me) feel this leads to some instability because the weight is “teeter tottering” on a tiny area on your back. If the bar is hurting you either need to add some trapezius mass, place the bar a tiny further down your back (it ought to be above or below the sharp ridge on your scapula (shoulder blade), buy a Manta Ray, or tolerate it because it is part of the game. The Ray helps to spread the load across the shoulder, but it doesn’t fit everyone well.
Now step up to the bar. Place your hands about the same width as a bench press (unless you are doing the shoulder breaker wide-grip variety) & make sure you are even on the bar before unracking. Take a deep breath, step under the bar & unrack it. Most squat injuries (according to Fred Hatfield) occur in the work of the back up. Only take steps that you can clear the j-hooks or posts on the descent. Keep in mind the “soldier position” even in the unracking & back up. Place your feet shoulder width or slightly farther apart. Think in the event you suspended a line from the ceiling it would brush against your medial delt & hit you in the ankle.
Use the “practice” sessions to get a width that fits you. You might say lots of powerlifters squat with a wide-stance & they are strong as a group. I’ll agree wholeheartedly, but I’ll also point out that the conventional squat is probably more productive because you are working through a bigger ROM. Learn this way & then learn the variations in the event you like. After you have the width right, turn your feet out at roughly a 45 degree angle. Change the width if need be. Now you are prepared to squat.
Take a deep breath, contract your abs & descend. It ought to feel like you are sitting back on a stool behind you; not going straight down. Keep your knees in line together with your feet. DO NOT LET YOUR KNEES BOW IN anytime in the work of the lift! I have a Grade 1 knee sprain (MCL) from doing this. Keep the load light so you won’t do this & gradually build up. Lots of people say to try to keep your shin at a 90 degree angle to the ground. This is impossible with the regular stance squat & is only feasible by a few using the wide-stance variety. Try to keep your knees from going out past your toes. Fine-tune the width if need be. Most people can & ought to descend till their thighs are parallel to the ground. This is actually low. A tiny majority of people cannot & may be better stopping above parallel.
Don’t give up on reaching parallel fast. Also, to go even close to parallel, you need to bend over at the hip (not the backbone, of work). However, you ought to always be more upright than crooked over. Two methods of determining your shin/back position & depth is to either have an attentive & skilful person monitor you from the side and/or use a video camera placed to the side & close to select all angles. After you have descended to the bottom position, reverse your direction immediately (don’t bounce at the bottom) & drive upwards. Try & pull your back up (hip extension) as hard as feasible in the work of the ascent.
Brooks Kubik describes this “as if a immense gorilla had a hold of your ass & your shoulder & was trying to straighten you out.” Come back to a standing position, take a breath or two (or lots of 8^) & descend again. Keep in mind the soldier position between reps as well. Make each rep it is own tiny lift. IOW, make each one count even on your warm-ups. In the event you maintain lovely form in your warm-ups, you’ll likely retain it for the work sets.
Belts or Knee Wraps
Ought to you wear a belt or knee wraps? The former helps to stabilize the backbone by increasing intra-abdominal pressure & the latter is a way of elevating more weight. in the event you are getting started with the squat, go without either. Use your abdomen as the brace in lieu of outside help. The knee wraps serve no use except to the powerlifter who wishes a bigger max. They may obstruct the growth of structures around the knee or even cause some harm if used chronically.
The main reason the power rack gathers dust while there is a line for the angled leg press is because squats HURT! It doesn’t matter whether it is the narrow beginner using the “big wheels” on each side for the first time or the bonafide 600+ squatter stepping under an already bending bar. They both feel some pain when doing this exercise. Learn to live with it!
The most productive exercises are the most painful. It is a fact of life. In the event you squat with proper method & heavy (for you) poundage, you might grunt, scream, cry, hurl and/or pass out, but you certainly won’t be injured & you’ll make terrific progress towards your goals. Learn to be aggressive & focus your complete attention on the task at hand. Lovely luck & happy training!
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