One of the major leg exercises out there, is squatting. There are so many variants to the squat; hack squat, front squat, etc. But just for this article, I am going to focus on the regular squat where you have the barbell resting on your shoulder, behind your neck.
Now, most people think when you squat, you just bend your knees and get your quads parallel to the floor. Even I, for a long time, thought squatting was like that, but it isn’t. There’s more to squatting, at least with the barbell behind your neck, than just that simple movement. There’s a method to it, and there’s actually form. The reason you have to get to learn how to get the right form on squats, is so that when you start pushing some heavy weights you are stabilizing the weights with the right muscles. We don’t want anyone hurting their lower back, or fucking up their spine because of squatting.
So let’s just get to it. To begin a squat, I’ll suggest using the barbell alone, until you can get your form down. Spread your legs shoulder width. Not wider than your shoulders, and not too close together. Make sure that your toes are pointed outward, slightly. Not too much, and not too little. You want to make sure your feet are securely placed on the ground. As I am assuming you’re going to be using a squat rack, get your body under the barbell, lift it securely, move back slowly even if you know you can move back quickly with just the barbell. This movement is to get you accustom to going through the motions of removing a barbell with some decent weight on it, and getting back as far as possible. Secure yourself, make sure everything’s ready and then push back your hips and bend your knees. The movement should be felt with your butt being pushed back. Don’t exaggerate it, but just push back on your hips and move down. Remember, the motion comes from the hips, and not the legs. So feel the movement coming from your hips, and feel your body being moved downwards. Do it slowly, so you can get the feel of what muscles are being used to push you downward. Then when you reach parallel to the ground, slowly push back up.
While you’re moving down, you will feel your upper body move slightly forward, that’s a normal range of motion when doing a squat. You don’t want to be too forward, or too back or else you will topple. Get used to this range of motion, doing about 20 reps with just the barbell for the first set. Move up with 25 lb plates on each side, and do 4 sets of 15 reps. This will get your muscles burning and get you accustom to the motion with weights that aren’t too much for the moment.
One good note to focus on, while you’re learning to squat with just the barbell, is to make sure that the knee does not extend beyond the toes. They should be also parallel to each other.
Good tip also is, squatting is something we do all the time when we go to sit down. Check out you basically push your butt out a bit, and then sit your butt down onto the surface of the chair. You don’t just bend your knees and call it a day. This is the same motion of squatting. Some people place a bench in the squat rack area, and have it at a range that’s suitable so that when they move back with the barbell, they have some security on how low to go. This helps with the parallel form of your quads to the floor.
One more thing, if you aren’t comfortable using the barbell as your starting point when practicing your form with squatting, then I suggest you cross your arms and place them at shoulder area. Basically place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. You can use this method to help with your form. Get the feeling for the motion before placing a barbell on your shoulders.
If you want to view some videos of squatting, then continue reading.
I actually recommend you view them, so that you can look for all the pointers that I mentioned above so you can practice it on your own, in the confines of your own room if you want to. You don’t need to be in a gym to practice squatting with proper form!