Barbell Back Squat - All You Need To Workout Properly

Would you love to build a more muscular body and burn fat while giving your body complete stability?

If yes, you should include the barbell back squat in your workout routine.

Your exercise routine should be done correctly to get the best out of the barbell back squat.

This article will give you the best tips on performing the barbell back squat, the muscles, benefits and variations of this workout type.

Muscles, Joints, Anatomy of a Barbell Back Squat

Squat muscles worked

Barbell back squats work on your body's posterior chain, which includes muscles and joints of the glutes, legs, lower back, knees, hips and ankles.

Glutes: The three glute muscles, play a key role in controlling, rotating, and stabilizing your hips when you bend in a squat. In a squat the glutes are significantly stretched and when you return to a stance they contract keeping your knees in-line with your upper body giving you balance and keeping your technique solid.

Quadriceps: Quadriceps are the largest muscles in the leg and are found in the front of the thighs. They become active when you transition from the bottom squat position to a stance to help you straighten your legs.

Spinal Erectors: The spinal erector muscles run from your tailbone to the base of your neck. When you squat they help you maintain and stabilize your upper body, keeping it straight. They control the bending and rotating of your torso sideways and backward. If the spinal erectors are not strong enough, your back will round or bend forward.

Benefits of a Barbell Back Squat Exercise

Whether you are a professional bodybuilder, competitive athlete or powerlifter, the barbell back squat is a great exercise that should be in your workout plan.

Boost Bone Density

When you do the barbell back squat, it stresses your bones; this tension, in turn, strengthens your bones and stabilizes your joints, thus boosting your bone mineral density.

A good bone mineral density prevents osteoporosis, which is a bone softening.

Enhancing Strength and Energy In Other Exercises

Barbell back squat is a weight-bearing, full-body lift exercise that works on the core and legs. Still, it stimulates your upper body as the weight rests on your shoulders.

Since it works on your lower and upper body, the barbell back squat activates the entire body, giving you the stamina and strength required for other exercise forms.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

With the barbell back squat, oxygen and blood flow to your muscles and lungs increases. This boosts your heart rate, thus improving the entire cardiovascular system.

Health issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be prevented and treated with increased blood flow.

Also, the barbell back squat boosts your endurance level, so you can participate in intense workouts for a longer time without feeling tired quickly.

Increase Moods and Mental Health

During exercise, your body releases Endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that reduce anxiety and pain and improve moods and general well-being.

Did you know that endorphins are also released when you laugh, eat chocolate or even have sex?

The barbell back squat can make you as happy as when you engage in those activities.

How to Perform a Barbell Back Squat

How to do back squats

Before you begin, ensure you choose a weight you can control and allow you to maintain a good technique during sets and repetitions.

Once you have made your choice, follow these steps:

  1. According to your height, set the barbell to be slightly lower than your shoulders. Ensure you have enough steps to pace backwards after you un rack the barbell.
  2. Step underneath the barbell, and place your hands on both sides. Make sure the barbell rests on your upper back muscles.
  3. Un rack the barbell, then step backwards for a few inches away from the barbell rack.
  4. Keep an upright, tall posture, a slight bend in your knees and your feet slightly wider than your hip-width.
  5. Keep a neutral head and neck position, with your shoulders directly over your hips. Tuck in your chin throughout your movement, like you, placed an egg on it. The point is to ensure air doesn't escape your lips during exercise.
  6. Create a stable foot position by gripping the floor with your feet. Distribute your weight evenly on your feet- from toe to heel.
  7. Engage your lats and upper back by rotating your shoulders outward. 
  8. Engage your core, and pre-tension your shoulders and hips. Tuck your pelvis slightly, and keep your ribs down.
  9. Maintain your alignment, then start downward movements by bending hips, knees, and ankles.
  10. Bend until your legs are parallel or slightly below parallel to the floor. As you lower, distribute your weight evenly on your feet.
  11. In this bottom position, pause for a second.
  12. Then initiate a standing position by pushing your feet into the ground. Keep your toes engaged while you push through your midfoot and heel.
  13. As you stand up, keep your chest high, squeeze your glutes, allow your knees to straighten and allow your hips to travel forward.
  14. Squeeze your glutes and quadriceps, and maintain a neutral spine as you finish the upward movement.
  15. Your shoulders should finish directly above your hips at the end of a repetition. Finish gently by assuming your pelvis is a bucket filled with water, and you don't want to spill water out of the bucket's front, back, or sides.

Form, Tips, and Best Practices When Doing a Barbell Back Squat

  1. See a physician if necessary: Ensure you consult a physician before beginning a Barbell back squat if you have a previous health condition.
  2. Have a good "walkout" routine: Avoid spending too much time on the "walkout". The walkout is the time between unracking a barbell and starting a set.
               - After you unrack the barbell, take three steps to get into position. 
               - Take a step back with your lead leg (either the left or right). 
               - Then match it with a second leg, and then take one final step to ensure your stance is in alignment.
               - Make this a routine and approach every set in the same pattern.
    1. Squat depth: Always squat as low as possible and comfortable for you. A good rule of thumb for depth is to squat slightly below parallel to your hip or your knees. 
    1. Determine your range of motion: Start your workout session with a warm-up exercise to determine your range of motion. Knowing your range of motion will help you train effectively. It will also help you understand your limit, so you stay within it and avoid rounding in your lower back. 
    1. Drive the chest up first: While ascending to a standing position, focus on driving your chest up first in an upward movement. Keep the distance between your hips and shoulders equal.
    1. Eye placement during movement: Look downwards and slightly forward at your floor space of about 5-10ft. Don't keep your gaze fixed on a wall or mirror. Looking down will keep your head aligned and prevent you from straining your neck.

    Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing a Barbell Back Squat

    With the proper technique, you can achieve your workout goals, avoid the following mistakes and keep your routine on point. 

    1. Rounding your lower back: Always keep your back straight while squatting. Keep your shoulder blades back, chest proud, back arched, and core muscles tensioned.
    2. Avoid leaning forward: Avoid moving your hips faster than your shoulders. Control your rep time and keep it slow. As you go downwards, stick your buttocks outwards.
    3. Avoid shallow squats: A good squatting depth is essential. Ensure you squat properly.
    4. No forward knees: As you descend in a squat, your knees shouldn't come forward; instead, keep them straight down. Your knees shouldn't track over your toes.
    5. Forgetting to breathe: Inhale as you descend into a squat and exhale as you ascend into a stance.

    Alternative Exercises to a Barbell Back Squat

    To substitute for a barbell back squat, you can use other exercises to hit the same muscle group.

    Step Ups

    bodyweight step up exercise

    Step ups are simple unilateral exercises that work the leg and buttocks muscles. Step ups target the quadriceps and hamstrings in the legs; and the gluteal muscles in the buttocks.

    For a step up, you need a step stool, or you can use the stairs. With your lead foot, lift your body upwards to the step. Then step backwards to the original position. 

    Muscles Involved In Step Ups

    Step ups, like the barbell back squat, work on the muscles of the glute, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

    Benefits of Step Ups

    1. A great way to improve the strength of your legs.
    2. It brings even balance to both legs since it works on a single leg at a time. 
    3. Step ups are versatile exercises, so you can easily adjust weights or heights in your routine.

    Lunges

    bodyweight lunge exercise

    A lunge is a single-leg bodyweight exercise where you step and bend your front and back legs. If done properly, lunges target the lower body muscles without added strain on your joints.

    Muscles Involved a Lunges

    Lunges works on the muscles of the: 

    • Quadriceps
    • Glutes 
    • Hamstrings
    • Core and hard to reach muscles of the inner thighs

    Benefits of Lunges

    1. Lunges like other exercise strengthen your lower body 
    2. It helps build muscle tissue and if done properly reduced injury risk.
    3. Lunges build your flexibility, stability and endurance.
    4. Lunges are a plus if your goal is to lose belly fat.

    Leg Press

    leg press exercise

    The leg press is the best “no squat” alternative for a barbell back squat. It is a compound, isolation exercise that involves mainly the lower body. You push a weight away from you with your legs while your upper body remains on the support seat.

    Muscles Involved In a Leg Press

    The leg press works all the leg muscles such as:

    • Gluteal muscles
    • Abdominals
    • Quadriceps muscles
    • VMO
    • Hamstrings
    • Hip adductors
    • Calves

    Benefits of The Leg Press

    1. It helps build stronger calf muscles and boosts overall leg power.
    2. It isolates the legs and doesn’t require balance.
    3. It’s perfect for builders with shoulder, elbow, or lower back problems.
    4. It counters age-related muscle loss and reduces the risk of injuries.

    FAQs

    Can a beginner do the barbell back squat?

    Yes, beginners can. However, we recommend getting a coach to help critique your form and position for adequate movement.

    How often should I squat?

    The frequency of your squat depends on your workout routine, intensity and aim for working. Remember, though, that your muscles need to recover after rigorous training. Be sure to allow time to heal.

    Why should I do squats?

    The squat is referred to as the "king" of all workouts, and rightly so, as it works about 256muscles. Aside from working on the lower body, it also activates the upper body's muscles.

    Do squats build muscular endurance or muscular strength?

    Squats can build muscular endurance and/ or strength. It depends largely on the reps you do and the weight you use. You build strength with heavier weights for sets of 1-6 reps. While lighter weights with sets of 12 to 20+ reps build endurance.

    Can I build muscle if I squat without weights? 

    If you are a beginner, you can build muscle without weights. But most people find this less challenging. You can use squats without weights to finish off your routine after a heavier workout.

    The barbell back squat is a great exercise to build strength and muscles. Ensure you use the proper techniques for effective results. 


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