Widely recognized as the boss of all exercises, the barbell squats never fail to live up to their expectations! The squat can be easily termed as one of the most potent strength and muscle building exercises an individual can do. Combine it with a good quality and safe protein supplement such as BSN Syntha-6 isolate and you can enjoy some phenomenal results! In this comprehensive article, I’ll take you through some extremely useful techniques which can go a long way in improving your squats technique. Let’s get started!
1. Wear work boots or go barefoot
It is best to wear solid heel work boots when doing squats. Such boots provide you with natural heel elevation and enable a better power transfer from your legs, in comparison to when you do them with soft heel running shoes.
In case of the latter, the power can be lost at the bottom as the shoes’ sole will get squished at the time of the push. In case you don’t have good quality work boots with you, you can try squatting barefoot. That way, you’ll not lose any of your power through soft shoes. When squatting barefoot, ensure that you set the racking collars slightly lower, so that you compensate for the absence of soles. In the unlikely event that you can neither use work boots nor go barefoot, make use of court shoes instead. Court shoes have a solid sole, and are sure to deliver good results.
2. Work your calf muscles
In case you lean a little too far while coming down towards the bottom of your squat, the problem may be the lack of your calves’ flexibility. Work on your calves prior to every squat session by stretching them for a minimum of 5 minutes.
3. Hands and grips
Your hands should be held fairly close to the shoulders when on the bar (just like they are when doing bench presses). Your elbows must be pointed downwards during the entire squat.
Holding the bar a little too wide will automatically result in your shoulders rotating internally (forward). The elbows will start pointing backwards, resulting in the bar rotating in forward direction as you descend down. The rotation of bar in the forward direction will make you lean over significantly, putting more pressure on your L4 and L5 (of your lower back’s lumbar area). Pointing the elbows downwards activates the external rotator muscles (shoulder muscles that get pulled backwards), which will prevent the bar from rolling in forward direction.
In the event that you find yourself leaning over repeatedly and getting the push from your forefoot a little too much, put pressure from your hands and rotate the bar in backward direction. As a result, the weight will come back onto your heels, thus improving your posture and balance. It’ll work your quads better and also prevent any possible injuries.
4. Trick to free yourself from the bottom lock
Try this trick any time you feel that you’re about to or have already gotten stuck at the bottom position of your squat. Put lots of pressure on your bar, as if you’re trying to snap it into half, on your back. Despite sounding counter-productive, when you do this while putting pressure on the bar simultaneously, it will result in a kind of an emergency stretch reflex inside your quads, thereby giving you an extra push from your bottom movement.
5. Bend your knees first
When lowering down during your squat, it is your knees that must bend first, closely followed by your trunk. A large majority of people descend with their glutes leading, followed by their knees. This puts strain on the glutes and back, instead of thighs.
6. Look forward and slightly upwards
It is important that you look a little upwards, and in forward direction while performing squats. Looking down will make your head go in forward direction. This is how the problem occurs – your lower back or lumbar area mimics your neck or cervical region with its positioning. If your cervical or neck gets flexed forward (when you look down), your lower back or lumbar area will also flex forward in order to match it (whereas it should ideally be held tightly and extended, making a sort of an arch).
7. Position yourself properly during the bottom movement of the squat
To get into a proper position while at the bottom of your squat, your elbows should be squeezed together behind the back and your lower back should be arched as you look up slightly. Doing so will forcibly bring your back into a proper position, apart from giving your back and rear deltoids a great workout.
8. Squatting with raised toes
People have a habit of doing their squats with raised heels. They should actually try the opposite, which is squatting with their toes raised. In order to do this successfully, it’s important for them to thoroughly stretch their calves outwards. If done correctly, this movement will maximize their glutes and hamstring involvement, while focusing on their lower quads. Squatting in this way and with high number of repetitions, employing a full range of motion, will increase the flow of blood to lower quads. Ensure that the toes aren’t raised excessively (it’s better to use a thin weight plate of 5 to 10 lbs.).
9. Pull up your toes
pull up your toes during squats To increase the involvement of your quad muscles, pull up your toes and touch them to the top of your shoes’ insides. Doing so will throw the pushback point towards the heels.
10. Give up that weight belt!
weight belt for squats Yes you heard that right! Avoid the use of belt while squatting. As an alternative, pull your gut inside and keep it tight at the starting point of the squat movement, thereby activating your transverse abdominus muscle (internal supporting muscles at the core). This will provide you with a natural weight belt. Such tightening of muscles will enhance the intra-abdominal pressure, the same effect that is experienced when wearing a weight belt.
You’ll be surprised to know that use of a weight belt can cause weakness and dysfunction of your transverse abdominus, often leading to injury. Wearing of a weight belt inhibits your body’s natural ability to fire up the muscle when required and can also put your back at risk by weakening those critical and supporting muscles. Another important point that must be noted is that if you’ve gotten used to wearing a weight belt during your squats and have decided to go without it, you’ll have to take it slow and work your way up to heavy weights gradually. Start with lightweights and more number of repetitions to enable the supporting muscles to get strengthened over a period of time.
Jumping on to heavy weights right away after giving up your weight belt, without providing sufficient retraining to your core muscles can lead to injury. Maintain focus on tightening and sucking of your abdominal muscles and feeling their contraction while doing the squats.
Lastly, it’ll be a better idea to invest in a good quality protein supplement like BSN Syntha-6 isolate instead of a weight belt.
11. Fire up your lower quads!
lower quads squatsAn excellent method of firing up your lower quads while squatting is that as you go down, come up on your toes, just as you do in case of a calf raise. Remain upright and sit back. Please take care that you don’t lose the tension in your quads during this movement and do this only with very light weights. Furthermore, maintaining your balance while trying this trick can be slightly difficult. So, take it easy the first time. Don’t allow your knees to drift too forward and avoid leaning over. Doing this will contract your calf muscles too.
12. Use some good quality protein supplement
Syntha 6Regular use of a good quality protein supplement such as BSN Syntha-6 isolate will deliver even better all-round results as you’ll see the real fruits of your squats in quick time.
13. Power up the bottom position of your squat
bottom position of your squatsAn easy way to build some power in the bottom position of your squat movement is by regularly performing an exercise known as wall sit exercise, post every leg workout. It is one of the best methods of strengthening the thighs isometrically (without any movement). Let’s learn how to perform this exercise now.
Get into a sitting position pressing your back against some wall, arching your lower back and your knees bent at around 90° angle. Hold yourself in that position as long as possible, simultaneously pushing yourself backwards, hard into the wall while keeping your overall position intact. It’ll help you in building tremendous power in the bottom position of your squat. This exercise can be further customized by increasing the resistance through weight plates or dumbbells in your lap (however, make sure that you have someone handy to pull the dumbbells or plates off when you get tired).
14. Avoid use of Smith machine for squatting
Smith machine for squattingUse of Smith machine to squat makes this exercise quite easy, especially when it comes to balance. Furthermore, it will put pressure on the patellar tendons of your knees owing to the involvement of the shearing forces. Exercising with Smith machine is also harmful for the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and it neglects the involvement of stabilizing muscles and hamstring muscles too. Use of this machine is especially harmful when your feet are slightly forward and you end up pushing backward against the bar while coming up. Doing so has a very harmful grinding effect on your knees.
Typical problems and solutions during squat movements
Raised heels – While raising your heels, your eyes and chest should be up. You should be leaning back slightly.
Rounded back – Your lower back can be strengthened by arching it a little more, as you lift up your toes inside your shoes during the squat. Always make sure that the bar’s kept close to your shoulders.
Lack of depth – Turn out your toes in the outward direction (around 30°) as you open up your stance. Remember that your knees must come straight over the toes.
Buckling in of the knees – This can be corrected by wrapping up a weight belt around the thighs and pressing against this belt while coming up.
Leaning over excessively – This can be corrected by thorough stretching of the calves and squatting with the heels raised. On the whole, work regularly on the improvement of your calves’ flexibility, stretching them and working them whenever possible.
Follow the above-mentioned tips as you head to the gymnasium next. You’ll see how they can make a great difference in your squat movements and how much weight you’ll actually be able to use! And don’t forget to use a good protein supplement like BSN Syntha-6 isolate for best results.