The Barbell Squat – What Is It?

This is a supplemental article for those who may be unfamiliar with the barbell squat exercise and would like to understand how it is performed and what affect it has on our bodies.

To many, the barbell squat is referred to as the “King” of all exercises, and for very good reason. The barbell squat helps develop total lower body strength, promotes full-body mobility and stability, and is highly effective for burning calories; reducing body fat.

But what really is the barbell squat and how is it performed? Let’s find out.

What Is It, Exactly?

In simplistic terms, a barbell is placed behind the neck, on your upper back (trapezoids). The barbell is then loaded evenly on both sides to increase the overall resistance. Once the bar is in place, squatting down to the ground and back again will complete one repetition of the movement.

How to Perform the Barbell Squat

First, one must understand that there are two standard starting positions for the barbell squat: high-bar and low-bar. We will be focusing on the high bar, the more common of the two.

Grab the bar with both hands, 3-6 inches outside of shoulder width to hold the bar in place and prevent it from rolling down and off your back. Your feet should be positioned pointing forward, with a very slight angle outward, which will ensure the proper starting position of the movement. The chest should be up with your head facing forward.

Start a controlled decent, allowing the knees to bend in line with your feet. Do your best to prevent your hips from moving back, as this will help your knees moving forward. The main idea is to ensure that your torso remains tight and as upright as possible throughout the entire movement.

As you continue your decent, keeping the bar slightly in front of your heel through the entire movement. Be mindful that if you lean too far forward, you may stumble, so go slowly. Keep going until your upper legs are slightly less than parallel to the ground, ensuring a full stretch and squat. Return to your starting position to complete one repetition of the movement.

The barbell squat is an extremely powerful exercise movement with many health benefits, spanning nearly your entire body. If you’d like to read a bit more about the mechanics and affects of the barbell squat, be sure to read our article “Barbell Squat and Your Spine.”

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