The squat is often called the “king of exercises” because of how much strength and muscle it can build. However, while not overly technical, ideal squat form can still take a while to perfect. There are a number of good squat tips out there, but they can be quite varied since there are multiple different ways to squat. Below are 7 squat tips you can use to get stronger, improve muscular development, and minimize the risk of injury.
Draw a Center Line through Your Body
One of the biggest problems many squatters have is poor leverage. If you stand up straight and draw a vertical line from the middle of the arches in your feet all the way up your body, this would be your center line.
Many squatters use form that let the bar travel too far in front of or behind this line. When it does, leverage radically decreases. This means you can’t squat with as much weight. It also means you’re in a weaker position and more susceptible to injury. Keeping the bar nearer your center line ensures you can squat heavier and maximize leverage.
Drive Your Butt Back
Though this is one of those squat tips usually reserved for powerlifters using a low bar, wide stance squat, it’s still applicable to bodybuilders, too. Many trainees’ first instinct is to come down with their butt as they start to descend into a squat. This will often keep the back vertical, cause the knees to come forward over the toes, and lead to very poor balance.
Instead, drive the butt backward. It won’t go as far back as a powerlifter would, as you’re doing a narrower stance squat and your ankles won’t be flexible enough to stay flat-footed. However, it will keep your legs in a more solid position, allowing you to focus on the quadriceps.
Elevate Your Heels
Because of the lack of ankle flexibility just mentioned, one of the old school squat tips you see is to elevate your heels. Natural squat mechanics will often have your heels coming off the ground anyway, so putting your heels on a 2.5lbs or 5lbs weight plate can actually make your stance more solid. It’s also why Olympic lifting shoes have a solid, elevated heel built into them.
Use Wrist Straps for Front Squats
Many lifters like to do front squats as a variation. However, crossing the arms doesn’t always feel overly stable, and most people don’t have adequate shoulder and wrist flexibility to hold the bar in the “racked” position like an Olympic lifter. One way to get around this is with wrist straps.
Cinch your straps around the bar the same way you would your wrists, putting them at about shoulder width. Get into front squat position with the bar across your front delts and arms in front of you. However, because you likely lack the flexibility to hold the bar in said racked position, instead you can just grab the ends of your straps. This gives you “racked” stability when you’re not actually able to “rack” the bar.
Don’t Do Good Mornings
This is perhaps one of the most important squat tips you can utilize to reduce the risk of getting injured. Many newbie squatters make the mistake of un-racking the bar, squatting down only a few inches, then bending forward at the waist. They feel like they’re doing a full range of motion squat because their quads and torso are coming in close proximity. However, what they’re really doing is a version of a good morning instead of a squat.
One of the easiest ways to fix this is to stick a bench or box behind you. You don’t have to do “box squats”, but ensure that your butt touches the bench or box on every rep. This will help you make sure you’re getting proper depth.
Develop a Strong Core
While it might seem odd to talk about core work in a list of squat tips, the fact is that if your core isn’t strong enough to support much weight on your back, you’ll never squat heavy. While squatting heavy can help you build a stronger core over time, doing core work in the beginning can definitely help improve your squat.
Point Your Head Forward
There are differing opinions on this, depending on whose squat tips you listen to. Some say you should look up while squatting, while others say you should pick one point on the wall in front of you and concentrate on it the entire time. However, if you keep your head pointed forward throughout your entire range of motion, you’ll ensure that you’re keeping the same arch in your back. This will then lead to a more stable core as you squat.
To make sure you’re doing this correctly, imagine there being a vertical line on the wall in front of you. When you unrack the bar, you should be looking straight ahead at that line. However, as you squat down, your eyes will travel down that line. Your eyes will then take the reverse path back up the line as you squat back up to the starting position.
The squat is definitely one of the most result producing exercises you can do. Perform it correctly, and you’ll soon be seeing all new levels of size and strength. Employ the squat tips in this article and you’ll not only be getting bigger and stronger, but staying healthy and keeping yourself from getting hurt, too.
For visual ques on how to perform squats correctly, watch our barbell squat video here.