I never took much of a liking to squats as a teenager. Actually, I hated them. Sure I did them, but at the same time, I dreaded them. I followed the techniques I read about in the bodybuilding magazines, with the foam-padded bar high up on your neck and feet close together with your heels on a 2 “board. they were supposed to be of such tremendous benefit and all, I did the stupid things anyway cursing the whole time.
My attitude for the squat changed completely after I was introduced to the powerlifting-style squat. This was a totally different animal. I was living in Colorado at the time where I met a great powerlifter and a great guy named Curtis Bentley. He invited me to start going to his gym every Saturday, where he would teach me a better way to squat. And boy, did he ever!
I loved these new squats, holding the bar down low on my shoulders and with a wide foot stance because I could immediately handle more weight which was a big ego booster. Not only that: they did not hurt my knees. In fact, I have since read that wide-story squats are actually good for your knees. Before I knew it I was squatting over 400 lbs.
This is the way to squat: Grasp the bar with your index fingers just outside the power rings. Duck under the bar and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Let the bar settle into the “shelf” created by your rear delts and traps. Unrack the bar and take a step back. Assume a wide stance by stepping sideways – your left foot first, then your right.
Take a deep breath into your stomach and push out with your stomach against your belt. The descent of the squat should begin by bending at the hips first. Not at the knees. Keep your head upright and stay tight as you sink down, down, down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the tops of your knees. Pause for a second at the bottom. Arch your lower back hard and then EXPLODE upwards driving your traps into the bar. Keep your head upright and your knees spread out over your toes.
1. Be sure to warm up thoroughly with some stretching and light squats before going heavy. If you are not warm up, your hips will be tight and you’ll have a hard time achieving the desired depth. Not to mention, you’ll be more prone to injury.
2. If you plan to compete in powerlifting, do not squat in front of a mirror. At the meet, there will not be any mirrors and you’ll feel really awkward like you might lose your balance and tip over if you’ve always squatted in front of one.
3. A flat soled shoe is popular for squatting, but if you have trouble achieving the desired depth, a shoe with a slight heel might help.
4. Save your belt for the heavier sets. And do not tighten your belt so tight that you can not push out against it with your stomach.
5. A common error in heavy wide-stance squatting is bringing the knees together during the up phase. Do not do this. It’s considered bad form. Keep your knees pushed out over your toes. It may help to push out to the sides with your feet.
6. One of the best assistance exercises for the squat is a good morning.
7. Make sure to include plenty of trap and rear delt work so you’ll have a thick, sturdy “shelf” to rest the bar across.
8. Do not use the Smith Machine for squatting. It eliminates the stabilization portion of the exercise.
9. Squeeze the bar with your hands. This will help you stay tight throughout the lift.
10. Train with other experienced lifters who can coach you and tell you what you’re doing wrong.