An absolute key exercise with the barbell is the squat. In principle, the squat is seemingly simple at first glance, but it is actually a very complex movement that requires a high degree of coordination and body awareness. Furthermore, it not only offers optimal training for the leg muscles. This also effectively innervates the core and back.
There are also numerous myths surrounding the squat: you should never bend more than 90 degrees, you have to go "ass to grass", bending without belts leads to herniated discs, etc.
It is understandable that this thicket of rumors is confusing and intimidating, so that some would rather keep their hands off than possibly do something wrong.
However, anyone who does so is missing out on the long list of benefits the squat offers. So that you know how to do this king exercise correctly and sustainably, as well as tricks to make your squat even stronger, you can find out here.
First of all, the squat is obviously a workout for the leg muscles. The quadriceps femoris, biceps femoris and gluteus maximus are particularly stressed here. But did you also know that it also demands a high degree of core and back muscles - here especially the erector spinae? If you squat correctly and sufficiently, you save yourself the crunches, leg raises and other abdominal muscle exercises. If you have neglected the squat so far, this may be a reason that motivates you to rethink. The stability of your back muscles and, as a result, your posture is also improved. You benefit from this not only with the deadlift.
At the same time, you will become more agile with the exercise that the squat offers you. The range of motion of the hip, hamstring and ankle increases, which sometimes represents an important prophylaxis with regard to herniated discs. The strain also thickens cartilage, ligaments and tendons and you become more resistant to injuries.
Squat is squat you think? That's not entirely correct. There are a number of ways to perform a squat, each with its own benefits.
High bar squat
This represents the "classic squat" as you probably know it. The bar lies on the trapezius in the neck, you grasp it on the right and left of the shoulders with your hands and stabilize them.
This results in a higher strain on the leg muscles, but especially on the gluteus muscles. The back mainly has auxiliary functions and prevents tipping over. Your abdominal muscles further support the overall stability of the exercise. They are particularly important for maintaining abdominal pressure when using the Valsalva maneuver.
Low bar squat
The low bar squat differs from the high bar in the position of the bar. This is about 5-10cm below the trapezius on the back, the upper body is slightly inclined. The hands support most of the bar. The advantage is that due to the changed center of gravity, the back muscles are significantly involved in the development of strength, especially in the accelerating movement section. This allows higher loads to be moved.
As the name suggests, in this variation the bar rests close to the collarbone in front of the body rather than behind it. It is stabilized by the arms, which hold the barbell against the body, depending on the type of grip. In order to perform this exercise with heavier weight, it is absolutely essential to keep your torso almost vertical to the floor and to minimize any horizontal movement of the bar. Due to the completely different focus, the front squat primarily uses the gluteus, hamstrings and abdominal muscles.
Begin the exercise in a standing position slightly above shoulder width. Try to avoid arching your back at this point by actively engaging your core and pushing your hips forward.
Initiate the movement with a controlled bend in the knees. The upper body should remain as upright as possible and the bar should be lowered vertically without forward or backward movements in the horizontal. Continue the movement to at least a knee flexion angle of less than 90 degrees. In this way you avoid the creation of high shear forces, which can damage the joint. With the exception of the front squat, you should always make sure that your wrists and forearms form a line.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
Uncleanliness often creeps into the movement. Try to recognize the ones below when they happen to you so you can avoid them later on.
- 90 degree knee angle in the final position
- insufficient trunk tension
- ”Drop” in the decelerating movement
- inward falling of the knees
- Forearms pointing strongly backwards and upwards
- Forearms and elbows not in line
- Hollow back before beginning the lowering movement
- no extension of the knees in the top position
- Upper body falls sharply forward in high bar and front squats
- after bending the ankles inwards
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Even if squats are a constant learning process, you can improve your technique and thus your strength by a good deal if you pay attention to these points:
- Consciously tense the gluteus and thigh muscles before each lowering movement
- Forearms point to the floor like a plumb line during high bar squats
- When doing front squats, your upper arms should be as horizontal as possible to the floor
- Either wear lifting shoes/chucks or squat barefoot
- Become aware of each bend as a single movement, short breaks in the upper position of approx. 1 second.
- Vary the stance from time to time to find what works best for you
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
Squats are an ingenious exercise that work far more muscles than just your legs. That is why they should not be missing in any training plan if possible. Even if the process of learning to move is very demanding at first, it is definitely worth it.
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