The Barbell Squat

Brief Overview

The barbell squat is a staple in the routine of any serious weightlifter, including both bodybuilder and power-lifters. The barbell squat is one of the best exercises at developing lower body strength, power, and size. However, the barbell squat also offers the opportunity to develop stabilizer and synergistic muscles, making it an ideal exercise for athletes looking to improve their sport performance. 

Barbell Squat

Muscles Worked

The barbell squat can be broadly classified as a legs exercise, and should be incorporated into your full-body workouts or your leg day. Specifically, squats worked the groups of muscles known as, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves. 

The Quadriceps

The quads are a muscle group found in the front of your thigh. Your quads are the muscles that extend your knee, that is, the are the muscles used to straighten your leg. The barbell squats need the use of the quads to slowly lower your body at the beginning of the repetition, as well as needing them to forcefully straighten the legs to return your body to a standing position. 

The Hamstrings

The hamstring muscle groups is relied on heavily during the barbell squats. The hamstrings are the muscles used to flex the knee, and to extend the hip. Hamstring are engaged during the lowering part of the repetition, as well as used to forceful extend the hip to return the body to a standing position. 

The Glutes

The glutes are strong, powerful muscles on the back of the legs. The glutes muscles are classified as hip extenders, and are used extensively during the force production part of the squat. 

Doing the Squat

Getting Set Up

Now that you have some idea of what the barbell squat is, and what muscles the squat works, it's time to get an idea of how the exercise is performed. 

The first step is to find the squat rack at your gym and make sure that the rack is adjusted to your height. If you prefer working out at home, check out this great guidebook for working out without leaving your house. 

The Next step is to add a proper amount of weight. If it is your first time performing the exercise, it is generally a good idea to do the exercise using only the barbell to get a feel for the movement. You can add weight to the bar in the future when you are comfortable with the movement. 

The Squat Rack

Squat Rack

Getting Into Position

Position yourself underneath the bar so that the bar rests along your shoulders, behind your neck. Most gyms have neck pads that you put on the bar to make the exercise more comfortable.

The next step is to lift the bar off of the safety catchers and take a step backwards. 

Foot Placement

Once you have the bar on your shoulder, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart with your feet pointing slightly out. This will alow you to comfortably bend down deep enough to effectively work the leg muscles.

The Lift

When you are set up, the exercise can begin. Slowly lower your body, keeping your back as upright as possible, to a position where your knees are bent at 90 degrees. When you reach the bottom of the repetition, forcefully extend your knees and hips to return your body to the upright standing position. This is one repetition.

Perform the desired number of repetitions and step forward to return the bar to the safety catchers. 

Variations of the Squat

If you are uncomfortable using a barbell to do the squats, there are a few different variations of the exercise that you can do using balance boards, or even bands