The barbell squat is an extremely effective lower body workout. Your quads will work the hardest, but your hamstrings, glutes and back will all be playing a very active role. It’s certainly one of the best ways to get a bigger butt. One that is firm and muscular, not overweight!!!
Check out the video for our barbell squat guide, and then we’ll go through the details of incorporating this exercise into your fitness regime…
If you do want to perform them without the aid of a rack (or a couple of helpful spotters), please do so with caution. And, position the bar on your clavicles as a front squat, rather than on the shoulders as you would when using a rack.
As with all strength exercises, form is all. Never attempt too much weight. Build up slowly and steadily so your form is impecible. It won’t be long before you’re lifting far more than you imagined was possible at the beginning, so don’t be in a rush. It is best to start light so you can make progress safely.
How to Perform the Barbell Squat
Either back into the rack and place the bar on your shoulders, or pick up the bar (bent knees, and straight back as always) and rest it on your chest. This is your starting position.
- Your feet should be around shoulder width apart, pointing forward and your hands should grip the bar wherever is most comfortable.
- Pull your shoulders back and down; you don’t want to hunch over at all.
- Keeping your back very straight, lower yourself by bending the knees and hips (yes your butt will stick out).
- Once your thighs are parallel to the floor (or a little closer to it even) it’s time to raise yourself back up.
- Push through your feet to return to a standing position.
Your weight should be evenly distributed on the whole foot. The torso should be fully engaged, so your abs are helping to stabilize everything, and your back remains perfectly straight throughout.
When you’re in the lowest position your knees should be perpendicular to your toes. If your knees are further forward you’re putting unnecessary stress on the knee joints.
Barbell Squats; Worth Doing?
Frankly everyone needs a good lower body exercise to perform regularly. The squat is probably the one most are familiar with, but it might not be the best for all of us.
If you can use a rack (or even better enlist the help of two spotters) all the better as you are much safer. If you need to drop the weight a rack, or helpful hands will reduce the chance of injury to yourself. But even then, squats will carry some risk of compression, as all that weight is being loaded on top of your spine.
So do build up the weights you use slowly. Even just using the unloaded bar initially will work your legs and back more than you’d think. Anyone using really heavy weights for squats should always have two spotters present.
If you haven’t got access to a rack, never perform squats with the bar on your shoulders. Place it on the front of you, across your upper chest. That way should you struggle with the weight you can always push the bar away from yourself.
However, if you would like a safer “rack-free” version, try dumbbell squats (less compression of the spine and safer if you overload the weight). Or try our favorite: the trap bar deadlift.