Introduction To The Squat
Basically, if you don’t squat, you’re strength is worth SQUAT.
Squat, by many is considered as the king of exercises in terms of strength development. And by many means, it deserves this unofficial title.
The Squat (along with the Deadlift) is one of the best exercises (compound, ground-based movements) that you must include in your strength training program. If done right, there are many benefits to the squat.
Build strength and enhance power potential. Add massive lower body muscle, develop core strength and rigidity, injury prevention and strengthening of knees, posterior chain development And my favorite benefit which is increased release of HGH (human growth hormone) that promotes muscle strength and tone. And increased fat burning metabolism. You will never get this effect with bicep curls and other isolation exercises.
The squat will develop total body strength and works the posterior chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings) and quads in particular very hard.
The squat requires a mental edge and the heart of a lion. The ability to walk to a weight that last month you could do just 3 reps of, and now do 5.
Smoking your personal best time and time again will result in a massively ripped and sculpted body. Without the worthless bulk and pump.
If you have ever spent time on the worthless leg machines like I did, know that the squat is nothing like it. Even your face will be under pressure, as you descend with 300 pounds on your back. The squat unlike worthless isolation leg exercises, will strengthen your muscles, tendons, ligaments, tissues of your entire lower body, nothing is left behind, perfectly balanced strength.
Ground-Based, Back Squat Is The Safest And Most Efficient Way To Perform A Squat
Note: please don’t spend your time at various squat machines, they are just another way of saying ISOLATION EXERCISE. The only way to preform a proper squat, is put a loaded bar on your back, take 2 steps backwards, take a deep breath and squat that iron .
The squat is not an up and down movement, it’s a back and forward movement. The entire movement and pressure is based around your hips. Your hips go back as you descend, and then they move forward as you ascend.
Squatting doesn’t give you knee pain, it does the exact opposite, it strengthens your lower body and makes your knees stronger. Of course, just like in anything, you can get knee injury if you do technique improperly, it’s just a matter of learning the technique, nothing complicated…
Which Muscles Are Involved In The Squat
Gear and Support Accessories
Shoes are the biggest thing you need to worry about, and is the biggest pitfall for most squatters.
Chuck Taylors Converse (most popular option)
Adidas Power Perfect II
The Power Shoe
Vibram 5 Fingers
Do not use running shoes as the air and gel filling will make you unbalanced. On heavy weights you will risk injury. Good lifting shoes have incompressible soles.
Squat Gear- All You Need Is Proper Footwear
Knee wraps optimally you don’t need to use them, however you can use on them heavy sets (usually the last set).
Never use knee wraps chronically. this will create imbalances and eventually will hurt your knees. If you have knee pain try to check your technique first, are you focusing on driving knees out while descending and ascending ? Is your stance wide enough ? are your toes point outwards in 30 degrees ?
I don’t use knee wraps as I don’t go into super heavy weights, no reason for it, 350 pound squats for achieving a ripped hollywood physique are more than enough.
Belt belts take pressure of your core and stabilize. Do not use chronically as this will lead to imbalances.
Usually belts are used to increase the lift numbers. You shouldn’t care about increasing numbers, but giving your best without any equipment. Doing squats without belt will build your six pack really hard, and will help you achieve that ripped hollywood body without doing any ab exercises.
I use only Chuck Taylor’s Converse shoes on my squats, no other gear.
Squat suit for pro lifters only, you won’t need it.
Anatomy Of A Perfect Squat
How To Squat
Step #1 – The Setup
Symmetric hand position – a little beyond shoulder width, evenly spaced grip.
The bar has markings on it, so you don’t have excuses for uneven grip.
Head below center of bar – some people don’t get this right, so check yourself if you’re just starting out. If the bar center is not placed directly behind head, you lose balance and you’re guaranteed to have a bad squat. This is like the basic of the basics.
Narrow grip – a little wider than shoulders hand position, allows you to squeeze back harder which increases strength.
Thumbless grip – put your thumbs on top of bar, next to fingers. This allows to keep wrists in line with forearms, creates greatest strength leverage in elbows as they squeeze your lats.
Low bar position – positioning the bar high might create unnecessary pressure on neck and puts you at high chance of rounding back while squatting. Eliminate the neck pressure, increase your lift strength and keep arched back with the low bar position.
Low Bar Position Safest and Greatest Strength Leverage
Elbows back – this usually comes naturally with your thubmless grip and flexing of upper back.
But visually your elbows will be aimed back and down. Not down, not up. Usually you don’t have to worry about them.
Tighten upper body – with a narrow, (wider than shoulder width) grip you can easily create a strong squeeze of upper back and shoulders.
Hold your breath – allows you to create tense core and upper back and maintain it the entire squat
Arch lower back – arching lower back is the most important thing during squat, keeps your balance, it is the strongest leverage point for your spine and it minimizes risk injury. (rounding back at bottom causes lower back pain and is the most common mistake)
Step #2 – Descend
Drive hips backwards first squat is a ‘back and forward’ movement, NOT an ‘up and down’ movement. A mistake beginners will do is to sit down from standing position, however you must focus on driving your hips back as far as you can, and then you automatically do the descending motion (try it now with a broomstick).
Descend Slow And Steady – this is a very common mistake for beginners that can lead to knee pain quickly, the squat movement is mostly focused around ascending, but it doesn’t mean you can descend with uncontrolled high speed, you must maintain and increase the tension as you descend slow and steady, and then as you reach position you explode back up with all the tension created.
Knees out – this is the second most important thing on a squat, you must focus on spreading knees out while descending and ascending. This eliminates knee pressure and minimizes risk of injury. This is the most common pitfall of beginner/intermediate squatters and can lead to knee pain very quickly if you keep tucking them in and not focusing on driving them out. It’s a very easy mistake to avoid that will make your squats perfect.
Hit parallel – Get down to parallel position (when hip joints are slightly lower than knee joints). The most common mistakes are stopping to early, meaning that your hip joints are not lower than knee joints (this transfers all tension to knees) or going down too deep (ass-to-grass) which is much more riskier. The second you hit parallel, you bounce back in a steady way
Parallel Position Hips Slightly Below Knees The Optimal Way To Squat
Step #3 – Ascend
Steady bounce back – never reach full stop, once you hit parallel, immidiately start driving forward with your hips, back into standing position.
Focus on hip drive – the power and force to drive yourself up lays in your hips. The muscles around your hips are activated (core and legs), however you must focus on driving the hips forward, not your chest up. The mistake of focusing on driving chest up steals your strength.
Knees out – again, don’t forget that you must focus on the knees out. Especially if you’re a beginner, this will save you trouble and after a while will become an automatic thing. Beginners tend to tuck the knees inwards, so you will have to focus on the spreading out.
Maintain upper body and core tightness (should be automatic if you take one breath and hold it as intended)
Remember to keep the arched back – this is probably the most common pitfall, losing the arch = losing the tightness, the strength, the balance, the leverage. Most likely will fail or round your back and risk injury.
Once reaching full stance, don’t go immediately back down, stop, relax, take a breath, this process is about 2-3 seconds but is crucial.
Treat each rep as a new set. This is not a continuous movement like in single joint-exercise where you can pump it up.
You must have everything in place, the arch, the tightness or else on heavy weights you will fail, or have bad form and risk injury.
Racking / Unracking
Take minimum steps necessary Usually on normal squat racks 1-2 steps is all you need. Training yourself to do the bare minimum is important as you progress into higher weights. You will not want to make that long travel distance after a set of 5×400 pound reps.
Hold your breath – take a deep breath, tighten your core, lift the bar and take 1-2 steps back. When you hold your breath you hold everything tight which is important. Usually this comes naturally and you won’t be able to breath while walking. Keep core tight and a belly full of air, walk slowly towards the rack and put the bar in place.
Always unrack backwards – you never want to unrack and walk forward, because at the end of your squat set you will have to rack it backwards which is more challenging and not very fun after a heavy set.
Practice walkouts – put heavy weights (that you can’t squat) and just practice walking out of the rack 2-3 steps and then walking back. This will improve your technique tremendously and will make it easy on your normal squats.
Squat Racking / Unracking Technique Is Crucial On Heavy Weights
Squatting and Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain in your squats is caused by rounding your back at the parallel position, instead of maintaining the arched back.
There are two main reasons for rounding the back:
1. Inflexible hamstrings
2. Improper technique – high bar position, descending first without taking hips backwards etc…
It’s a mistake 80% of beginners do, and most don’t fix this and as they advance into heavier weights they start getting a lower back pain.
My suggestion: stop and re-asses what you’re doing, start practicing with a broomstick for 15-30 minutes everyday, doing squats in front of a mirror. And put an emphasis on keeping the arched back and not rounding it at bottom.
Another tip is to do hamstrings stretching to improve flexibility.
Two tips that will help you keep an arched back:
1. Use the low bar position, optimal spine position, this puts less risk of you rounding your back.
2. Understand that squat is a back and forward movement, not an up and down movement – your hips are the core of the movement, you take them back and then you bring them forward back to standing position. (Many people descend without taking their hips backwards first, focus on bringing hips backwards and then when you can’t anymore, you descend)
Extra Tips On Squatting
Parallel squat is the optimal form Many personal trainers advise doing half squats (meaning you don’t get below parallel into ‘the hole’), really bad advice as the entire pressure of weight will transfer to your knees.Not to mention the muscle imbalances created by not doing a full squat and missing the hamstring and glute development.Therefore going low into the hole is actually better for you, and is the proper way to pefrorm a squat.
Use the low bar position – Most beginners start out with high bar position because it’s comfy, however on heavier weights high bar position predisposes you to rounding your back which causes lower back pain. Therefore in order to avoid this, or eliminate the back pain, use the low bar position placement and make sure you don’t round your back at bottom.
Don’t bother yourself with squat variations – our goal is to keep it simple, there are box squats, hack squats, overhead squats, and many other variations. But the back squat is more than enough for achieving your ripped physique. I do add front squats as they work core harder (you can learn more about it at the strength training workout page), but nothing more than that…
Start light – When you’re just starting out with squats, I call this is the ‘oiling up’ phase where the tendons, ligaments and tissues in lower body will be activated and get used to be under pressure. This may be the first time they will be under such pressure in your life, therefore you don’t want to create too much of it to avoid injury. I remember on my first week I could only squat 70kg two times, within two weeks I did 5×5 of 70kg like a walk in the park. Beginners advance very quickly in terms of strength, so don’t rush things, you will get to intermediate level in about 12 weeks of strength training. If you’re just starting, leave your ego out the door (I know it might be hard when people are watching you and you want to prove yourself, but trust me on this one, slow and steady wins the race). People who rush things are out of the game quickly with various injuries.
Master your squat technique with small weights – as you just getting started with light weights, you also want to use the fact you use light weight to your advantage and focus 110% on your technique.It takes 500 repetitions to master a move and 2000 to unlearn. So do it right in the first place.Also small mistakes with small weights, turn into big mistakes at high weights.
Avoid knee wraps and belts – the belt takes load of the core, which we want to developthe knee wraps take the load of the knees. They may impede the growth of structures around the knee or even cause some harm if used chronically.Focus on driving knees out, and you will eliminate injury risk and will get rid of knee pain because the squat strengthen the knee muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Perform ‘shoulder dislocation’ exercise – Use a broomstick or resistance band to improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion, it will be easier for you to achieve a tight, narrow grip on the bar when squatting.
Record yourself on video this is a must, record yourself on video and review your technique back at home against the checklist on this site.Improve accordingly, until 90% of technique becomes automated. Also post it on the forums for other people to review it, so if you miss on something, expirienced guysare more likely to bring it up.
Keep It Simple after 10-15 squat workouts, you should already master 70% of squatting technique which causes to do most things right automatically. However there are always 2 things I focus on, no matter how much I squat: arch lower back, spread knees out. Focusing on these allows me to hit the perfect squat every single time. Find out what are those 2 things you want to focus on all the time, for most it usually the same, arch and knees out.
Narrow, thumb-less grip
Low bar position
Tighten upper body
Arch lower back
Take a deep breath and hold it
Drive with hips
A Final Note
The journey to achieving a ripped Hollywood body is fairly fun and pretty much straight forward when combining the protocols intermittent fasting and strength training.
Intermittent fasting is a fantastic diet protocol that allows you to enter a prolonged calorie deficit without any hungers, mental challenges or strict rules.
I was able to recharge every weekend with my favorite cheat foods, and now after reaching my goal the maintenance is much more simple. You just can’t ignore the benefits of having a lean and ripped physique.
Great energy, feel comfortable in clothes, look great, better skin, more confidence, more sex appeal, more attention, more respect and the list goes on…
This road is worth taking, we only live once after all, do you want to look back and regret for not making the progress? You will not get a feeling of self-accomplishment from being an average couch potato that spends time watching various TV series all day long, believe me, I’ve done that.
I really hope youve got something out of my experience.
Best of luck for getting lean ripped — I really hope it goes without a glitch.