The Barbell Squat 3D: Form, Muscles & Benefits
The Barbell Squat is one of the most popular exercises for building full body strength and size. Not only is the squat a primary leg movement, it also significantly trains your upper body including most of your core musculature. No wonder they call it the king of all exercises.
Learning the fundamentals of how to squat will be very important for learning most other leg and lower body exercises. As with most things you do in the gym It very important to master the technique to limit the risk of injury down the line.
For this reason, I have created a simple how to guide below, and a handy infographic you can save to your phone for free as a quick reference the next time you decide to go barbell squatting in the gym!
The Barbell Back Squat Muscles Worked
The Main Muscles Worked in the barbell back squat include:
- Gluteus Maximus: The glutes are the target muscle of the exercise.
- The Quadriceps: The quads are also the target muscle of the exercise.
- The Adductors: Assist in stability at the hip joint.
- Back Erectors: Assist in keeping the spine neutral along with the core.
- The Core: Mainly the abdominal muscles and the quadratus lumborum.
- Hamstring: Serve as the antagonist to the quads.
- The Calf: Stability around the ankle.
- Trapezius Muscle: The traps help support the upper back during this exercise.
Master This Exercise in 3 Simple Steps
The Barbell Back Squat Form in 3 Simple Steps
- Step 1: The Set Up
Set the barbell on the rack around chest height. Position yourself under the bar so that it rests on your traps. Unrack the barbell from a squat rack and take 2 or 3 steps backward. Make sure you have the safety bars attached just encase you reach complete muscular failure during a rep. Make sure to use clips on the ends of the barbell to prevent the weight plates sliding off the bar. Your feet need to be positioned at about shoulder width to begin the squat.
- Step 2: The Eccentric Phase (Way Down)
You should begin the first part of the movement by slowly pushing your hips backward. While this happens you should also bend at the knee. The resulting movement will allow your hips to drop down between your legs into a full squat position while maintaining a neutral spine. Note that your knees should be also pressed out in line with your feet. (See the mistakes section below for more details)
- Step 3: Concentric Phase (Way Back Up)
Once you reach the bottom position of the squat you need to return back to the starting position. Keep your knees pressed out as you press hard into the floor with your feet. Lift the bar up into the full starting position while still maintaining a neutral spine.
Top 3 Most Common Mistakes For The Barbell Squat
Mistake 1: Knee and Foot Position
When establishing a foot position you should point both feet slightly outward. I find it helps to Imagine the ground is the face of a clock. Your left foot should point at 11 o’clock and your right foot at 1 o’clock. Your knees should be pressed out throughout the squat movement or at least pointing in the same direction as your feet.
Mistake 2: Rounding Your Back
The barbell can be placed on the Upper Traps for what’s called a “High Bar” position. Some people may prefer a “Low bar” position instead. This is when the bar is positioned on the Rear Delts instead of the upper Trap fibers. Regardless of bar position, You should make sure to keep your spine in a neutral range throughout the entire range of motion. You may feel your lower back round at the bottom of your squat. In a motion commonly referred to as “Butt Wink”. To reduce this motion you can work on hip mobility and “Psoas” muscle strength. A small amount of “Butt wink” may still occur depending on your own skeletal structure.
Mistake 3: Range of Motion
While keeping your knees pressed out you will create more space in your hip capsule for greater depth in your squat. You should aim to get your hip crease below your knee height. If you find yourself coming up off your heels when squatting you might have tight calf muscles limiting your ankle mobility. You can use a squat wedge to fix this issue in the short term. While spending some extra time performing mobility drills on those tight ankles.
Alternative Exercise To The Barbell Back Squat
If you find yourself struggling to learn this exercise I suggest you go back to basics and learn how to goblet squat first. I find the mechanics of the exercise make it far easier for a beginner to learn the right movements. Then once the goblet squat is moving nice and smooth it will be far easier to transfer your new found skills and greasy groovy movements onto a barbell!
Don’t forget Your Squat Infographic!
Don’t forget to to claim your free quick reference infographic. These are super handy for a quick reminder on the main teaching points of the exercise. You can save them to your phone and have a quick scroll just before your next set in the gym!
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, pains, funny stories or just want to have a random argument with an internet stranger please join us in the comment section below!
See you on the next exercise,