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Learn to Barbell Squat | Tips to Squat with Ease

Jan 21, 2019

Hey, you! Yes, you! Would you like to learn to barbell squat?

We all know that squats are the most effective exercise for gaining muscle, after all, they are the King of Exercises.

This is why we need to learn to barbell squat the right way and maximize the exercise with our tips to squat with ease.

A lot of people out there avoid squats, or leg day, for many reasons.

But, with these easy implementations, you will learn to barbell squat with ease — guaranteed!

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Squats Pack on Muscle Mass

Learn to Barbell Squat--muscular lower body running

  1. Squats build up your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
  2. They strengthen your core.
  3. Build muscle throughout your body
  4. Increases your metabolism to burn more fat
  5. boosts hormone release
  6. Helps your balance
  7. Improves physical performance
  8. Makes your back stronger


Squats Benefit Your Entire Body

Your entire upper body will benefit from barbell squats. Protect your back

Because you need a lot of strength and energy to do a proper barbell squat your body is forced to release extra amounts of anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormones.


How to Squat with a Barbell: Stand withLearn to Barbell Squat--woman in a deep squat your feet slightly wider than your shoulders

  1. Hold the barbell across your upper back with an overhand grip – don’t rest it on your neck.
  2. Use your traps to engage your upper back muscles as you slowly sit back into a squat.
  3. Keep your head up, back straight, while pushing your hips back.
  4. Lower until your hips are aligned with your knees, with your legs at 90 degrees.
  5. Squeeze your glutes as you drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up.
  6. Keep your form until you stand up straight. Hold the weight for a second at the top. Breathe.
  7. Then take a big breath, hold it and squat your next rep. Repeat until you’ve done five reps.

Related: Master the Barbell Back Squat: Proper Form & Technique


Learn to Barbell Squat: Focus on Better Technique

If your technique isn’t right it doesn’t make sense to add more weight and possibly injure yourself.

3 Things to Think About When Squatting

Learn to Barbell Squat--man in deep squat

  1. Chest up,
  2. Hips back,
  3. Knees out.

Most people squat straight down, rather than pushing their hips back into a hip hinge position as they drive their knees out.

This forces the body into a vertical and more quad-dominant squatting pattern.

Squatting this way requires more mobility of the upper back, hips, ankles, and a strong core.

If you don’t have all of these qualities and your movement is limited, you will possibly tip forward when the weights become heavier.

Learn to Barbell Squat--Dark Iron knee sleeves

Squats rely heavily on knee movement so wearing a knee sleeve can help decrease the trauma.

The best knee sleeve will combine compression, warmth, comfort, durability, and price into a package that looks goods and allows you to squat more weight safely.

For knee sleeves that do all of this, check out Dark Iron Fitness’ Weightlifting Knee Sleeves for Crossfit Powerlifting and Weight Training.


Exercises for Good Form

Learn to Barbell Squat--man doing goblin squat

There are two movements that will help you keep your chest up, push your hips back, and drive your knees out.

Wall Squats: face a wall with your feet about 6” away and squat down without touching the wall, trying to go as deep as possible

Goblet Squats: hold a dumbbell vertically on one end and squat down as you keep your chest out and drive your knees outward.

This will teach you proper positioning during the conventional squat pattern. 


Learn to Barbell Squat: Try Different Bar Positions

Try different bar positions on your back. 

With a higher bar position where the bar rests at the base of your neck – you will need to have good mobility in your upper back, hips, and ankles to keep your torso vertical during the squat.  

The greater the distance from your hips to the bar then the greater the torque at the hips. 

Try a lower bar position, around mid-trap, and a stance that is slightly wider than your shoulder width.

This will decrease the distance from the bar to your hips and you will have better leverage.

This might enable you to stay more vertical when you squat, provided you have good core stability and hip mobility.

Experiment with the bar position to find the one that works best for you. 


Learn to Barbell Squat: Increase Your Core Strength

Learn to Barbell Squat--man working on coreYour core is all of the muscles that surround your torso from the shoulders to the knees.

You need a strong core to stay tight and keep your torso as straight as possible when you squat. 

Before you begin the squat, take a full deep breath where you expand your abdomen and your chest.

Hold your breath to set intra-abdominal pressure and to help neutralize your hips.

Beginning your squat movement with a better position at the hips and good intra-abdominal pressure will give you a greater range of motion with a more vertical torso angle.

After you complete one repetition, repeat this deep breath and hold before you hit the next rep.

Think of each repetition in the set like its own single set.

Rather than thinking of 10 reps, think 10 singles. 

Related: Static Core Exercises | 3 Intense Ab Movements


Learn to Barbell Squat: Strong Upper Back Needed

Learn to Barbell Squat--man using pull down barFor better squat form and to be able to squat more weight, you need a strong upper back.

This will help drive the elbows downward when squatting, keep your chest up at the bottom of the squat, and keep you from falling forward.

Your workout program should include pull-ups, bent over rows, seated rows, chin-ups, band pull-aparts and face pulls.

Simple prone back extensions will increase strength in your lower back, enabling you to better manage heavy loads.


Prone Back Extensions

  1. Lie face down on the ground with hands at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and lift your torso and legs off the ground, while trying to touch your hands behind your back
  3. Slowly release and return to the start position.
  4. Breathe normally and when contracting, hold for a few seconds to really work the muscle.


Improve Leg Balance with Single-Leg Pressing Exercises
Everyone has muscle imbalances.

These imbalances can hold you back in bilateral, two-sided exercises, such as the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

Single-side exercises can be very helpful in correcting imbalances,

For example, on a day that you would do squats, try substituting a Bulgarian split squat.

Make sure to take your time to do them right.


Bulgarian split squats:

Learn to Barbell Squat--man doing Bulgarian split squats

  1. Stand a few feet away from a bench or box, holding dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Start by raising one foot and placing it on the bench or box behind you.
  3. With your torso upright and weight in the heel of the grounded foot, slowly lower your body until you feel a deep stretch in the hip flexor of the raised leg
  4. Press your heel into the floor to return to the start position.

Related: The Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats (Variation is Key)


Learn to Barbell Squat: Work on Your Quads

Although it’s relatively rare, there are some people who have weak quads.

To correct this while squatting, shift the load a bit to put the emphasis on your quads with a front squat.


Front Squats: 

  1. Set up in a squat rack with the barbell just below shoulder height.
  2. Hold the bar with an overhand grip and walk under it, as your elbows come in front of your body to about your shoulder height.
  3. The bar should rest across your collarbone and shoulder muscles, pressing against the neck.
  4. Un-rack the bar and take a couple of steps back. This is the start position
  5. Keeping your elbows high, push your hips back and sink your weight into your heels, as you lower your butt towards the ground until the top of your thigh is parallel to the floor
  6. Without letting your knees collapse inward, drive your heels into the floor to return to the start position.

In addition to needing strong glutes for great squats, hamstring strength is a necessity as well.


Hamstring Curls with a Stability Ball

Learn to Barbell Squat--woman doing hamstring curls on stability ball

  1. Lie flat on your back with feet and calves on a large stability ball.
  2. Lift hips off the ground so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
  3. This is the start position
  4. Dig your heels into the ball as you draw your feet in towards your body.
  5. Roll the ball towards your butt as you lift your hips to keep that straight line from shoulders to knees
  6. Slowly return to the start position. 

 Do hamstring curls on a stability ball after squats to get maximum benefit from squats.


Loosen Your Lats

Many of us have tight lats and spinal erectors.

When squatting tight lats can cause the lower back to round before getting to full depth, resulting in back pain.

To help loosen up those big, fan-shaped back muscles, use the overhead squat.

This is an advanced move so if you’re not ready to add weight do the same movement holding a towel or dowel rod overhead.


Overhead SquatsLearn to Barbell Squat--man squatting with just weight bar

  1. Take a barbell, weighted bar or towel/dowel rod and hold it in front of your chest at shoulder height.
  2. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  3. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, press the bar or towel/dowel rod overhead.
  4. This is the start position
  5. Push your hips back as you lower your butt as far down as possible.
  6. Return to the start position.
  7. If you cannot bend your knees more than 90 degrees, place a slightly elevated object under the heels of your feet.

A weight plate would work well.

This will allow you to gradually work up your mobility to a point where you won’t need the objects under your heels.

These can be done before your standard squat as part of a warm-up.


Learn to Barbell Squat: Grip the Bar Tighter

If your grip on the bar is loose, then your arms, shoulders and upper back will be loose.

If you have a death grip on the bar you will create tension across your entire upper body.

The harder you grip the bar, the more tension you’ll have in your hands, forearms, biceps, shoulders, and upper back.

This tension, combined with a deep breath will create the core stability and tension you need to stay upright and safe when you squat.


Learn to Barbell Squat: Change the Bar

Learn to Barbell Squat--man using camber bar

Trying different barbells – such as a buffalo bar, safety squat bar, giant cambered bar – these can help you get a stronger squat and stay in a better position.

Related: Different Types of Barbells – 9 Different Bars and the Benefits Each Have


Are You Wearing the Right Shoes?

We’ve all seen lifters who squat with their heels on 10 lb plates.

This allows them to squat deeper and stay more upright, even though they might have tight ankles. 

Weightlifting shoes, with a firm sole and elevated heel, can also change your squat immediately.

They work the same way as 10 lb plates.

They allow you to squat better and stay more upright even when ankle mobility isn’t that great. 

Related: 7 of The Top Powerlifting Shoes Actually Worth Buying


Learn to Barbell Squat: Tighten Your Buns

One of the most common issues people have with squatting is known as valgus collapse, or the knees collapsing inwards during the “up” phase of the exercise.

To strengthen your glutes, try basic bodyweight glute bridges, or if you’re ready for more resistance: barbell hip thrusts.

Glute Bridges: 

  1. Sit on the ground with your shoulder blades up against the side of a bench.
  2. Place a barbell across your hips with a neck pad in between you and the barbell.
  3. Slide your feet in so they are flat on the ground and your heels are under your knees
  4. Lift your hips off the ground, so your butt is about three inches from the floor.
  5. Thrust hips up by squeezing glutes until your body is a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  6. Slowly lower yourself back to the start position.

Related: What Muscles Do Glute Bridges Work? Booty Burning 101


Barbell Hip ThrustsLearn to Barbell Squat--barbell hip thrusts

  1. Lie with your upper back supported on a bench, and your feet planted on the floor in front of you.
  2. Hold a barbell across your hips, a neck pad on the bar will provide protection and cushion.
  3. Lower your hips down so your glutes almost come in contact with the floor.
  4. Pressing through your heels and squeezing your glutes, return the barbell to the start position.

It’s important to engage your glutes throughout the lift.

You can experiment by moving your feet around until you feel your glutes maximally engaged.

At the upward portion of the thrust, tuck your butt under the bar.

This is referred to as a posterior tilt.

The lift should be done smoothly with the glutes lifting most of the weight.

If you perform it correctly you will feel a nice strong pump in your glutes after the fourth or fifth set.


Learn to Barbell Squat: Final Thoughts

Learn to Barbell Squat - Dark Iron Fitness Barbell Neck PadIt will take time to progress to weighted barbell squats so don’t overdo it by loading on too much weight and compromising your form.

It’s better to lift safely with less weight until you master this move.

With safety (and comfort) in mind, I highly suggest investing in accessories like our barbell squat pad and our knee sleeves (while supplies last!).

These accessories can really help you feel at home when you are performing a barbell squat.

Not only will you be at ease with comfort, but you will also have the confidence to reach progressive overload quicker and safer.

Doing it right is worth the investment–practice makes perfect, so keep squatting!


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