How to perform the squat
Good squat technique requires the proper stance and grip and a smooth action when squatting to lower and raise the barbell.
Using the correct squat technique will ensure you can lift the most weight comfortably and reduce your risk of injury.
Correct squat technique
The correct squat technique includes stepping out for the squat and preparing to descend into the lift. The descent and ascent for the squat should be slow and controlled without any jerking.
Below is a guide to proper squat technique:
Stepping out for the squat
The bar should be lifted off the hooks by using the legs and straightening the torso, not by using the back. Keep the weight centred, over the entire foot.
Take a small step away from the rack with one foot then the other foot so that you are clear of the rack. Feet should be positioned slightly wider than shoulder width.
As you lift, you should look forward at about a 10 to 20 degree angle ahead of you to align your head correctly for the lift. Keep the bar over the hips and be careful not to lean forward.
Maintain a strong, erect back. Keep upper back tight, elbows back and up, with wrists straight.
The descent for the squat
Inhale deeply. Gently move the hips backward; do not bend the knees at this stage. Be careful to keep a strong back. With your hips flexed in this way you are in a strong position to engage the legs into the full movement of the squat.
The lower legs, below the knee, should be in an upright position at a 90 degree angle to the ground. The angles at your knee joint and hip joint at the base of the squat should be about equal.
Be careful not to squat too low as it can cause too much pressure on the knees. Thighs should be roughly parallel to the ground or very slightly less than 90 degrees. Your knees should not be further forward than your toes at the bottom of the descent.
Keep muscle tension throughout the movement to ensure a smooth, controlled posture. Elbows should be back and high throughout to ensure upper back tension.
The ascent for the squat
Once you have reached the bottom of the squat, start to exhale as you begin the upward movement.
Holding ankles firm to provide stability, push into the ground with your heels and move your hands upward while extending your chest and head.
Be careful not to bounce in an attempt to gain momentum for the rise as this can harm the knees.
Keep the weight over the arch and heel, not on the front of your feet. Push upward with your legs, keeping your back strong.
The ascent should be a little faster than the descent, but be sure to keep a firm, smooth and controlled movement throughout.
Returning the bar to the squat rack
Take the small steps forward into the bar hooks. Be careful to place the bar securely into the hooks before you fully release the bar, preferably aided by your spotters.
Common errors when performing the squat
- Descending too rapidly. The descent should be slower than the ascent. If you descend too quickly, you might feel too much downward momentum when you reach the bottom and therefore find it too difficult to complete the ascent.
- Leaning forward during the lift. This causes severe pressure on the lower back and could result in back injuries.
- Squatting too deep. Be careful to only squat as low as is comfortable. Attempting a deep squat too soon runs the risk of harming knees and making the ascent too difficult.
- Using the back to lift the bar off the hooks. Only use your legs to raise the bar, never your back, which should be rigid.
- Lifting too heavy. This will cause your knees and the bar to wobble and increase your chances of injury.
- Positioning the bar too low. This will mean the bar keeps sliding down your back. For a correct low bar squat position, keep the bar on top of the deltoids, just below the traps.
- Dropping elbows and wrists. This risks injury to the arm as it puts strain down through the wrists, forearm and elbow. Keep elbows high and back throughout the motion, with hands on top of the bar and wrists straight and firm. Keeping elbows high and back also helps to keep the bar firmly in position on the upper back.
Read more about the squat: