If you like doing squats then learning how to squat properly is very important, as they are one of the best leg exercises, there are a lot of benefits of doing squats regularly. Squatting 2-3 times a week is generally recommended.
But if your squatting technique is poor or when you squat you feel it all in your lower back ( spinal erectors ), then keep reading this article to learn how to squat properly.
Squat meaning (squatting meaning)
Squats simply mean sitting on your legs and standing up, but it is not as simple as it looks, so today you’re gonna learn about the proper technique of squatting which will allow you to lift heavier weights.
Although squats train your entire body, it primarily trains your quads (front thigh muscles), glutes (butt muscles), and spinal erectors (lower back muscles). Squats are also considered one of the best quad exercises and are always programmed in quad workouts.
There are a lot of different ways to perform this exercise like high bar squat, low bar squat, wide stance squat, close stance squat, quad-dominant squats, glute dominant squat, etc. but in this article, you will learn about the basic way of squatting which is also called conventional squats with a bar, and what is the proper squat form.
So now you know the muscles squats primarily train and types of squat, now it’s time to learn how to properly squat with a bar (how to squat properly with a bar).
There are 4 key points to keep in mind while squatting (squat position)
- bar position on your back
- squatting stance
- squatting depth and ;
- equal distribution of weight on your heals and toes.
Let’s start with the first key point which is,
How to Squat Properly: Bar position on your back
There are 2 major types of bar positioning:
- High bar position and
- Low bar position
High bar vs low bar squat
High bar squats (high bar position)
While squatting in a high bar position, we place the bar on our upper traps or just below our neck (don’t place the bar on your neck).
High bar squats will help you to keep your torso (upper body or spine) relatively upright which will allow you to squat deeper while keeping your lower back straight (avoiding butt wink), high bar squats do not require a lot of hip mobility, therefore it is a great tool for someone with limited hip mobility.
High bar squats also tend to train your quads (front thigh muscles) more as compared to your lower back (spinal erectors) and glutes (butt muscles).
If your aim is to train your quads (front thigh muscles) more, then choosing a high bar position is best for you.
Low bar squats (low bar position)
While squatting in a low bar position, we place the bar on our rear deltoids (back\posterior part of our shoulders), which is a little bit lower than the high bar position.
Low bar squats are generally good for powerlifters as they also engage your glutes (butt muscles) to a very high degree allowing you to lift even heavier weights, low bar squats require relatively more hip mobility to squat deep as it increases the range of motion on your hip joint.
Low bar squats tend to train your glutes (butt muscles) and spinal erectors (low back muscles) relatively more.
If your aim is to train your glutes (butt muscles) and spinal erectors (lower back) more, then choosing a low bar position is best for you.
NOTE: If you are confused between high bar squats and low bar squats then choosing a bar position that feels comfortable on your back is best for you.
Now, as the bar positioning is clear, let’s talk about the 2nd key point which is,
Squatting stance (Narrow squatting Stance vs Wide squatting stance)
Taking a shoulder-width stance will work for most individuals but finding the right stance according to your anatomy is very important, as everyone is built differently so everyone’s squatting stance is going to look different.
Some people will feel comfortable while squatting with a wider stance and some will feel better while squatting with a closer stance.
Squatting stance according to your anatomy
what should be your squatting stance depends on your hip mobility, so here is a quick test as access your hip mobility:
- Any individual who has more hip internal rotation as compared to the hip external rotation should be squatting with a relatively narrow stance.
- Individuals with more hip external rotation as compared to their hip internal rotation should squat with a relatively wider stance.
- Individuals who have a lot of hip internal rotation, as well as a lot of hip external rotation, should squat with a stance that feels more comfortable (shoulder-width stance is a good starting position for them).
- Individuals who have less hip internal rotation, as well as less hip external rotation, are generally not built for squatting very deep, therefore they should be choosing a stance that feels very comfortable and these folks should not try to squat very deep as they might risk their lower back.
NOTE: People who have less hip mobility generally have a tiny waist which might be bad for powerlifting but is great for bodybuilding.
Now, as the squatting stance is clear, let’s talk about the 3rd key point which is,
Squatting depth (how deep you should squat)
Now there are 2 very common myths about squatting depth that most of you guys must have heard:
- myth no.1: if you want a good lower body then you have to squat deep.
- myth no.2: squatting very deep is bad for your knees.
Now squatting depth also depends on your hip mobility, so if you have less hip mobility (less hip internal and external rotation) then if you try to squat very deep your lower back has to compensate for the range of motion by rounding itself also known as butt wink, which if done repetitively can cause disc bulge or disc herniation overtime.
But if someone has good hip mobility (more hip internal and external rotation) then they can squat much deeper without compensating their lower back (lumbar spine) so for them, they should probably squat deep.
ALSO, READ: 5 Best Fat Burners For Men To Get Shredded
Squatting depth according to your anatomy (how deep you should squat)
After choosing the right squatting stance for you when you start squatting make sure while squatting your lower back is not rounding at the bottom and if it does then cut short the range of motion a little bit so that your lower back can remain straight or neutral when you squat otherwise with time you will injure your lower back.
what to do if you can’t squat deep? (How to squat deep)
- Choosing a high bar squat will allow you to squat deeper as it does not require a lot of hip mobility.
- You can also try doing a front squat as it moves your center of mass more forward which requires even less hip mobility and will allow you to squat deeper.
- If you are unable to do front squats then you should try doing heel elevated high bar squats (elevate your heels using squatting shoe or squatting wedge or just using a plate beneath your heels)
- And the last option is doing heel elevated front squat, people with very poor hip mobility should do this if they can front squat.
NOTE: Hip mobility is determined by your genetics, so don’t stress about it.
Now, as the squatting depth is clear, let’s talk about the 4th key point which is,
How to Squat Properly: Equal distribution of weight on your heals and toes.
This is probably the most underrated but extremely important key to squat, everyone will have some degree of knee pain when they squat heavy, and it is not because of squats but because of poorly executing it(push with toes more).
In general when you squat you should be focused on pushing the weight equally with your heels and toes, and this will ensure that the bar is straight over your midfoot and is moving straight up and down, doing this allows you to squat more safely and will also allow you to lift more weight.
Squatting with your toes
Squatting with your toes is not entirely bad especially if you choose to squat your bodyweight (if you are not overweight) and you warmup correctly but in general when you perform a conventional squat with weight on your back and then you push the weight with your toes (without using your heels) then it places a lot of tension (torque) on your knee joint which will definitely give you knee pain if done repeatedly.
Squatting with your heels
On the other hand, if you choose to squat entirely with your heals then your center of mass will shift backward and you will start utilizing your lower back (spinal erectors) and your glutes (butt muscles) more, doing this will also make you less stable and you might fall backward.
NOTE: In order to squat safely and move the most amount of weight you should be focused on keeping the weight equally distributed on your heels and toes throughout the range of motion.
What to do if you are experiencing knee pain while squatting (knee pain after squats)
If you are having some knee pain after squatting or while doing your warmup sets then-
- You might be pushing the weight with your toes more in this case you should learn to push the weight through your heels, for this box squats are a great tool.
- your knees might be caving in while squatting heavy, in this case, make sure that your knees are going forward in the direction of your small toe regardless of your toe angle.
- you might not be warming up correctly, in this case take more time to warm up.
- If you have already fixed the above points then you might be just squatting a lot frequently for a lot of weeks, in this case, take a rest for a week and you’ll be back on track.
NOTE: if you’re having severe knee pain then go and see a doctor