Serious Squats: Good Form, Great Legs

Photo Credit: Nicolas Smith
The Standard Barbell Squat
This is the gold standard—a workout for the entire lower body, focusing particularly on glutes, quads, and hamstrings. To get started, place an Olympic bar on a rack set at your shoulder level. Step up to the bar and grasp it with both hands a little wider than shoulder distance apart. Duck under the bar, still holding onto it, so that your shoulders are on the front side of the bar and your hands are still on the back. Position your shoulders under the bar such that it is resting on the shelf—or dip—between your trapezius and deltoid muscles. The bar should be on the very top of your upper back, behind your shoulders, rather than across the top of your shoulders, behind your neck.

Use your hands to manage the balance of the bar as you slightly arch your back, lift your chest, stand up fully, and lift the bar off the rack. Step back until you clear the rack.

Now clear of the rack, place your feet about shoulder distance apart. Allow your toes to turn out at a natural angle—about 30 to 45 degrees. Develop a slight anterior pelvic tilt by tilting your hips a little bit forward. Keep a slight arch in your back with your chest lifted and your abs engaged. Now, inhale deeply and squat down, sitting down with your hips as though you were going to plant your butt on a low bench just behind your heels. As you do so, allow your hips to bend, bringing your shoulders forward. Remember, your chest must remain lifted; do not collapse through your upper body. Your knees should track in the same line as your toes, and your hips should slide back equally and in a straight line. Watch the bar as well—it should not wobble or be higher at one end than the other. If it is off balance, look for the imbalance in your shoulders, hips, or knees.

From the bottom of your squat, exhale as you return to standing. Remember that your hips and shoulders must rise at the same rate. As you fatigue, it will be tempting to raise your hips first and shoulders second, which is very dangerous for your back. Concentrate on monitoring the rate at which you rise to ensure it is even. Again watch the bar for signs of lateral imbalance.

Serious Squats Quick Links
Squat Tips, Form Check, Weight Goals, and Reps
Standard Barbell Squats
Front Barbell Squats