Do you know how to squat properly? The squat is seen as both one of the most challenging strength training exercises as well as one of the most effective. You get big gains from squatting; however, proper technique is crucial. Here are eight squat tips for the best lower body workout possible:
- Use proper bar placement
One common mistake that trainers make when it comes to squats is placing the bar a little too high. You should begin your squats with the bar placed between your traps and rear shoulder muscles. This will engage your posterior chain to its’ fullest potential so that you can handle more weight.
- Don’t arch your lower back
A slight arch in the lower back is fine; however, keeping it as straight as possible throughout the entire movement is ideal. This will reinforce your back, preventing injuries and taking pressure off of your wrists. You should squeeze your shoulder blades together during the movement and lock the bar in position so that it doesn’t move while you squat.
- Widen your stance
More often than not inexperienced trainers will perform squats with too narrow of a stance. This can cause your lower back to arch during the movement, which we now know is not in proper form. Holding a wider stance that is roughly shoulder-width apart depending on the length of your legs will allow you to engage your groin muscles to exert more force during the exercise.
- Relax your shoulders
Loose and relaxed shoulders will allow you to hold the bar in an ideal position in which you start with your elbows aligned underneath the bar. This position will make it easier to engage your lats throughout the lift, which will prevent injuries and maximize gains. We recommend stretching or using a foam roller on your shoulders prior to squatting.
- Keep your neck straight
Don’t look down! Seriously, rounding your neck either up or down during a squat can throw off your spinal alignment, which is not a good thing. It is best to work through this movement with your neck as straight as possible. Pick something off in the distance that is eye level with you and focus on it as you squat to ensure that you do not damage your neck or spine.
- It’s all in the hips
Okay, maybe it’s not all in the hips but your hips play a huge role in this workout. Rather than shrugging the bar out of the rack and wasting valuable energy, simply use your hips to arch the bar out of the rack. As you perform the movement, try to hinge your hips so that your butt moves backwards as you move down. This will keep tension off of your lower back and arms so that you can perform squats with ease.
- Don’t forget to breathe
Like in all other exercises, breathing is super important. Improper breathing can cause light headedness or other side effects that may ultimately cause injury. Your breath will also give you that extra edge as you challenge yourself with each squat. Remember to inhale deeply as you lower yourself down and exhale forcefully when you push yourself back up.
- Practice makes perfect
This is especially important to note if you are a beginner. There is a lot to remember for such a seemingly simple movement and it’s best to practice proper form regularly. Try to take into account all seven of the tips mentioned above as you train and be sure to not go overboard with the weight.