It never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how to squat. Its pretty much the most feared exercise in the gym and everyone either likes it or not. Most people don't do squats because of their knees or their spine.
I used to be one of those people long ago. There are several ways to mess up the squat, but their are also several ways to improve it as well. Doing squats safely will not only show on your physique, but will make you a whole lot safer.
Let's start with the wrong ways....First and foremost, you should squat with your "knees". This meaning that as you descend your knees bend causing them to come over the feet excessively. When you squat like this, it puts way too much pressure on your knees. You won't last too long in the gym when you do this.
I've done this myself and I was worried about having to quit powerlifting because of it. Second, I've seen guys have the bar too high on their backs. Now, I understand that some may try to perform a "high-bar" squat, but its pretty much the same as the regular squat, so I would say if you do like your spine, don't risk it.
I also used to do this as well and it ended up getting me headaches after squats. Those weren't pleasant. Plus, when the bar is that high up, you can't completely focus on squatting, your attention is divided between squatting and making sure that the bar does roll over your head.
I've seen then happen before and its almost scary when I do see it. Third, would be what most people do...excessive bending of the lower back. This is automatically caused by having the bar too high on your back in the first place. Some guys will try to bend over just so they can get the big weight....NO WAY!!!
RELATED VIDEO: PROPER SQUAT TECHNIQUE
Check out this video to learn the proper stance, decent and rise of the barbell squat.
Click The Play Button To Start The Video. Or Download Here: Windows Media (3.3 MB)
More Damage Than You Think
This does more damage than you think, especially if your lower back isn't up to par. The last, but not least, I've seen guys that squat when they get tired, they tend to lock out their knees to hold the weight. This again is putting undo pressure on your knees and like I said you won't last long. Now we will discuss ways of improving the squat.
First off, everyone knows that you cannot squat without a belt. That's a must and if you don't know that, now you know. Squats is one of those exercises that I can't see no one doing with out a belt because of the protection it provides.
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Second, you should be squatting like your sitting down in a chair. This way, your knees are kept from coming over your feet and you'll be squatting the right way...with your quadriceps. Plus you'll be getting assistance from your hamstrings.
Now, this necessarily doesn't mean that you have to squat deep, but you can when you "sit back into it". Second, the bar placement should be across your shoulders and traps. This is where the bar can stay still and secure. Also when you do this, don't have your hand looped around the bar like you normally do on the bench press.
Using the false-grip on the squat helps to secure the bar much better and its also less pressure on the wrist. With that hand position, the bar can sit on your shoulders and traps easily. That way your focus is only on one thing....squatting.
To maximize this, have your chest out and during the squat keep your head up. If you look forward, without control, you tend to go foward.
RELATED VIDEO: UNIVERSAL LEG TRAINING
Universal Nutrition Training Videos Squats!
This no-nonsense training skips the chat and focuses on proper form and training hard. Watch these short clips as The House trains his legs in the gym.
Also with your chest out, your chances of going forward won't happen and you won't bend your back as well. Lastly, when you squat, do not lock out the knees, keep a bend in them during a set. This way, the weight stays on the quads and not on the knees.
If your doing squats on a power rack, adjust the pins so that when you do your squat, you should be "squatting" out of the rack. I've seen lifters do a "calf raise" out of the squat and they always have trouble putting the bar back, especially if its too much weight.
Only a few critiques IMO in general this article is good. But:
The first video is the worst squat form ive seen, its a half squat. With regards to information head and bar position it is useful however.
2nd vid was great and is good form.
And the advise about "you must ALWAYS wear a belt" is garbage, I Squat deep 4 - 6 times a week belt-less and atg. My back is fine the only issues I get is very occasional hip pain. Many thousands of people squat without a belt. Ironically including the guy in the 2nd video.
Poor form = bad back. Nothing to do with belts, in fact It seems now when I try to use my old powerlifting belt for a squat It hinders the movement.
It would be better to simply advise the option of a belt rather than claim "everyone knows that you cannot squat without a belt. That's a must and if you don't know that, now you know" which is complete myth.
"The Right Way" section advocates a good sounding squat.