The Barbell Back Squat

What is the back squat?

The barbell Back Squat is a key compound exercise that should be included in everyone’s training program. If it’s not, then I highly recommend you do so. In its simplest form, a back squat is where you safely load a barbell onto your upper traps, remain braced throughout the movement and sit down as low as you can, and then return to the standing position. 

Back squatting, will help develop full body strength. Alongside, building muscle mass in the quads, glutes and hamstrings. It will also help you to establish a stronger core (musculature surrounding your spine).

Athletes ranging from, Crossfit, powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, bodybuilding, athletics, team sports, running, cyclists, combat sports such as MMA, boxing, kickboxing, BJJ, will utilise the back squat to develop strength and athleticism. 

The back squat is not only for athletes. It will have a great carry over to support every day life. No matter who you are, back squatting will help you, unless of course you suffer from a serious injury preventing you to perform the movement correctly.

Why is the back squat king?

If you’re not sold by now here are a number of benefits the barbell back squat has to offer:

  • Increased mobility 
  • Better stability throughout the joints in your body
  • Physical and mental strength
  • Improved digestion
  • Burns a lot of calories
  • Helps improve your hormonal profile (increased testosterone and growth hormone)
  • Develops running speed
  • Improves bone density
  • Stronger connective tissue
  • Increases athleticism 
  • Better body shape

How to perform the back squat effectively?

It seems so simple, stick a bar on my back, throw some weight on there, sit as low as I can and stand up. However, it’s a tad more complex than that. I will give you a step-by-step guide to help you get the best out of your squats. 


Set the barbell around shoulder height on the squat rack. With a full overhand grip of the barbell just slightly wider than shoulder-width, Slide yourself under the barbell, and then pull the bar onto your upper traps. Squeeze your traps together whilst allowing the barbell to rest on your shoulders. In this position point your elbows down towards the floor, creating tension in your lats. 


Pick the barbell up and step backwards out of the squat rack. Maintain tightness throughout your whole body. Set your feet shoulder-width, or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (depending on your mechanics and mobility). Stand upright and focus.


Deeply inhale, brace core musculature, and hold your breath before the descend. 


Push your butt back so the hips take the load, then, simultaneously drive your knees out. Descend slowly with a controlled tempo. The weight should be distributed over your mid-foot whilst allowing your knees to track over your toes. Maintain an upright torso with a tight back.


Once you have reached the bottom of the deep squat position, remain fully braced and press your feet through the ground to allow your legs to straighten. Exhale as you reach the top position of the squat. Once you’ve returned to the starting position, take 1-2 seconds to rest at the top, and repeat for the prescribed repetitions. 


Back squats are an excellent way to reach whatever training or health goal you may want to achieve. The training goal will determine the amount of volume, intensity and frequency in your training program. For example, If you are training for a powerlifting meet, then the training intensity will be a lot higher compared to someone who is training for bodybuilding. I’m not suggesting that the person training for aesthetics shouldn’t squat to their one rep maximum, it’s just a better option to focus on slightly higher volume for that particular goal. All in all back squats are greatly time efficient and you will get an excellent return on investment. If you can do them, you should be doing them.

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