We all remember doing squats in middle school gym class, right? With our arms pointing out straight in front of us, feet firmly planted at shoulders-width, we squatted down, feeling the pull in our leg muscles while we worked to keep balanced. The barbell squat, shall we say, takes it up a notch or two. In that you are adding weight to the equation.
This free weight exercise can yield significant results but must be done with great care; adding weight to a squat leaves you open to injury if you do not move as you must. Let’s look at which muscles get worked and how this weighty squat should be done.
Work those muscles…um, which ones?
The barbell squat is sometimes described as a full body exercise; this is because so many muscles get into the act. Athletes who want to have bigger and stronger legs and buttocks go to the barbell squat. But there is a long list of muscles that are worked during this squat: abdominals, lower and upper back muscles, trunk muscles, and the muscles in our arms and shoulders. A full body workout.
How to do a proper barbell squat:
1. You should stand with your feet firmly grounded on the floor, about shoulder-width apart.
2. Place the barbell on your back, just above your shoulders. (It should be directly on your trapezius muscles.)
3. Barbell in place, it is time to slowly bend into a squat. When do you stop? When your knees pass the 90 degree mark. That’s right, full squats when your hams almost touch the calves are the way to go.
4. You should then contract your legs and buttocks while stabilizing your body.
5. At this point, you should stand back up. Slowly.
6. Continue until you have done enough repetitions to complete the set as you’ve planned. Remember, at no time should you feel like you are not in control of the weight that rests on your back: if you feel unsteady, cut your set short.
7. Also remember to keep your knees in line with your toes; this will help you to achieve the proper posture for this exercise.
As with all exercises done with free weights, do not try to — proverbially — run before you can walk. Start with light weights that you are confident you can manage. When you have become comfortable with your technique and achieved the necessary posture, you are ready to gradually add more weight. The barbell squat, when done with safety at the forefront of your mind, is an excellent exercise for cross-training for any sport that relies on leg strength. And if you want to try something extreme – try the 20 Rep Squat Routine.