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Back Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

The back squat is without a doubt one of the best exercises you can do. Usually, this exercise is simply called the squat because this is the most common squat variant. There are many different ways to perform a squat.

To properly perform the back squat, not only strong leg muscles are required, but also good tension in your core, your back, and even your arms. That is why a back squat is really indispensable in your fitness schedule.

This compound exercise ensures that you not only become stronger but also that your stability improves and of course your muscle mass increases.

Which muscles are involved while performing a squat

First of all, of course, you use your leg muscles for this exercise. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are put to work while performing a back squat. Even your calf muscles are used while squatting. In addition, stability from your core is extremely important.

After all, you want to be able to stand neatly with a barbell in your neck. Your core muscles will definitely get stronger when you start squatting. During squats, your abs are used to remain stable and to keep your upper body straight.

Your lower back also plays an important role in this, as it also has to work hard to keep your body upright. Your upper back muscles are also contracted and serve a role in stabilizing.

During the exercise, you have to squeeze the bar hard, which will even use your forearms and biceps to a limited extent! All in all, a great exercise for the general development of your body that should therefore be an absolute part of a versatile training schedule.

Back Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

Back squat explanation: correct execution

Follow the steps below to perform the back squat correctly and safely. The back squat is performed with a barbell and if you are unsure about your performance, always consult an instructor at your gym to assist you.

  1. Setup

    Grab a barbell and hang it in the squat rack. Make sure the bar hangs slightly lower than shoulder height so that you can easily lift it out. Hang the desired weight on the barbell and secure the plates with clips to prevent them from sliding during the squat.

  2. Stand in the starting position

    Stand under the barbell and grab it slightly wider than shoulder-width. Position the barbell on your trapezius and the back of your shoulders. Push your shoulder blades in and squeeze the bar. Make sure your upper body is tense. Now lift the weight off the squat rack and place your legs about shoulder width. Make sure your toes point out a little bit, that makes it easier to sink deep enough.

  3. Drop the weight

    Keep tension on your upper body and inhale deeply. Now lower in a controlled straight line by bending your knees and leaning slightly forward with your torso. Make sure the bar is positioned over your feet at all times to maintain your balance. Push your knees out slightly as you lower to make room for your hips. Keep lowering until your hips are just below your knees.

  4. Push the weight up

    Explosively push yourself up and blow out at the same time. Avoid bouncing the bar at the bottom to avoid using momentum and maximize muscle stimulation. Stop when your legs are almost fully extended again. Do not lock your knees to limit pressure on the knee joint.

  5. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

It is very important that you perform the squat in a controlled manner and start with a lightweight. It's much better to start slow and practice your squats well than to put too much weight on the barbell and injure yourself. If you feel pain anywhere during the exercise, do not continue. It is better to stop in time and recover well than to train through the pain. You then have the chance that you will only make it worse and that you will not be able to squat for much longer. Of course, we want to prevent that!

Most common mistakes

The squat is an exercise that is quite difficult to master perfectly. Many people are guilty of one or more mistakes. See below which errors these are and how you can correct or prevent them yourself.

  1. Not lowering deep enough
    Without a doubt, the most common mistake made is not lowering enough when performing the squat. Many people stop dropping early and miss an important portion of the exercise as a result. The stimulation of the muscles is greatest in the lower part of the squat. This is also regularly associated with using too much weight. So pick up a weight with which you can comfortably lower your hips to below your knees.
  2. Round or hollow back
    A barbell with a lot of weight in your neck can feel strange and uncomfortable for many, resulting in an incorrect posture. In particular, a rounded back at the bottom of the movement, also known as the 'butt wink', is a common problem. Make sure to tighten your upper body and keep looking straight ahead to maintain a straight back. Do you still suffer from around back? This is probably due to limited ankle mobility.
  3. Knees inward moving
    Another common mistake squat is the inward movement of the knees, especially the bottom of the movement. This is often the result of weak hip and/or glutes. You can strengthen these to solve this problem. It is also important that your toes point outwards to prevent sagging knees.

Frequently asked questions about the squat

Below you will find some frequently asked questions about the back squat. Nice and clear and concise, so that you immediately find the answer to your question. We've already covered some things above, but if you read too fast or prefer to read the information briefly, then you've come to the right place.

What does squat mean?

Literally, the word squat means: squat. However, in the way we use it here, it has a different translation. The squat exercise translates to knee bending.

How low should you squat?

The aim is usually to lower the hip just below the knee. This is generally considered to be the correct depth for a squat. In the beginning, this can feel very deep, but as you start paying attention to this it becomes easier.

To squat low, you need to have a certain amount of mobility. If you find that you really struggle with it, you can take a look at mobility exercises for the squat.

How many times a week should you squat?

How many times a week you should squat depends entirely on what your goal is. If the back squat is part of your varied training schedule with which you want to gain more muscle mass, then once a week is sufficient.

However, if you specifically want to become stronger in the squat, you will have to think about it at least twice a week. There are even powerlifters who squat three to four times a week, alternating with squat variations. It is therefore completely personal how often you have to squat for a few weeks.

How do you build up squats?

How you build up squats during training depends entirely on what you like. For example, choose to start with an empty barbell, so that you can also pay attention to the technique.

Then you can build up the squats towards your desired weight in steps that are comfortable for you. It does not matter whether these are steps of 5 kg, 10 kg, or 20 kg. Make sure you don't do too many warm-up sets because then you will be tired before your real sets have to start!

Can you squat when pregnant?

Now, of course, we are not doctors, so we recommend that you always consult your doctor with these kinds of questions, but squats can be done during pregnancy.

In fact, squatting contributes to stronger pelvic floor muscles and can improve your posture during pregnancy, and reduce possible back pain. Make sure that you perform the exercise in a controlled manner at all times.

Can you use a belt when squatting?

A belt when squatting contributes to the tension you can put on your core. You see many people use a belt when they start squatting heavily, in order to provide more tension from their core. A belt while squatting is therefore certainly useful, but absolutely not a must. If you don't want to look up the edge of a 'one rep max' and you just want to improve your posture, a belt is not necessary for squats.

Curious about other exercises for the quadriceps? check them out in this category: quadriceps exercises.

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