At this point I can hear an endless barrage of complaining from individuals saying squatting just doesn't suit their body type, well just because I said you should be squatting doesn't just mean performing the standard back squat. There are so many variations of the squat that every body type can thrive on squatting.
Both differing versions of squats and slight alterations of each version can completely alter loading patterns to the legs, hips or lower back, so without further ado let's delve into the glorious world of squatting.
The Daddy Of Lower Body Exercises
The back squat is probably the most complete lower body exercise of all. When performed correctly it adequately works the quads, hamstrings glutes, lower back, calves, in fact you name it the back squat works it.
How To Perform The Back Squat
- High bar position - above the posterior deltoids at the base of the neck, hands just outside shoulder width.
- Low bar position - across the posterior deltoids at the middle of the trapezius and hands slightly wider than above.
- Quarter squat - thigh will be at a forty five degree angle to the ground.
- Parallel (half) squat - top of the upper thigh will be parallel to the ground. Groove at hips should be in line with the top of your knees.
- Full squat (deep knee bends) - squat as deep as you can before you lose the neutral spine position because of posterior rotation of the pelvis.
Step under the bar and position feet parallel to each other hold the bar with it positioned either in a low bar or high bar position.
Step out of the squat rack, take several steps and position feet outside hip width (close stance) or wider (wide stance) and ensure feet are slightly turned out (up to 30 degrees).
Make sure that your trunk stays in a neutral spine position or lightly arched by lifting elbows up, scapula (shoulder blades) retracted, chest up and head is looking slightly up.
Maintaining the torso position (above) and allow the hips to sit back as you bend your knees - don't drop forward, ensure your 'sitting' into the squat. Squat down until you are at the required depth.
Extend hip and knees simultaneously or extend hips then knees - always ensure you don't straighten the knees first and lean forward.
Throughout ensure your knees never deviate laterally (in or out) as they should track over the second toes throughout, also your knees will naturally move forward toward your knees, just ensure it's not excessive.
Variations & Ramifications
Both bar positioning and depth alter the loading of the back squat. The reason these two factors alter loading is they shift the mechanical loading either towards more quad dominance or more hip extension.
The load actually placed upon any working muscle during a free weight movement is a combination of the weight used and distance horizontally from the weight and from the point of rotation (increased leverage).
For the back squat the load is usually fairly evenly distributed between the hips and the quads. The more upright the individual remains the further the weight will be from the knee, like wise the further forward they lean the further the distance from hips and therefore the greater the loading on each musculature respectively.
As you descend deeper into a squat you have to lean forward to keep the center of gravity over your base. Therefore descending deeper into a squat will usually mean more hip involvement as the leverage increases for the hip musculature.
How Deep Is Too Deep?
If you have no knee problems you should be squatting as deep as your flexibility allows.
Don't go lower than the point at which your hips will start to posterior rotate and cause you to lose the natural arch in your back. This is determined by the flexibility of your hamstrings, if you can't reach parallel some serious flexibility work is needed.
The forward lean seen when going deeper can be overcome by raising the heel with a small weight or block which forces the body upright and increases the distance from the knee to the load and keeps the workload squarely on the quads.
However this also increases the pressure upon the knee joint so careful and prudent use of this technique should be employed.
Having the bar higher upon the shoulders will mean the body must remain upright to keep the center of gravity over your base, where as having the bar lower on the upperback (low bar position) causes greater forward lean and consequently more hip involvement.
|Full Squat Video:|
|Half Squat Video:|
As can be seen, the back squat is the basic squatting format and can be varied enough to allow most body types to thrive and allow the individual to build substantial strength within the lower body.
- Long Torso - high bar squat position, shallow depth
- Short Torso - high or low bar position, shallow or deep
- Short Legs - narrow to wide stance, deep or shallow squats,
- Long Legs - wide stance position, shallow depth
Depending upon your body shape certain variations will suit you more than another. As such you can use this guide as to what positioning and depth would suit your body.
As can be seen stubby guys thrive on any type of squat where as those who have either long legs or long torsos will be more limited in their squats and the kind of back squats which they will thrive upon.
Even if back squats haven't paid dividends for you in training, it doesn't mean that squatting isn't a route to improve strength and size within your lower body.
In the following installments I will elucidate the other variety of squats available from front squats, hack squat, split squats, wave squats and a few others. So until the next instalment - squat till you drop.