Friday, 12 November 2010

The Back Squat- How do you perform it and is it a good exercise?

I have really started enjoying the blogging lately and I find that the best place to pick up inspiration is when I am in the gym training. Today this wasn’t the case as I actually got my inspiration to write about the Back Squat when I woke up this morning. My gluteus muscles were so sore after the squats I did yesterday that I could barely get out of bed, but it is a great feeling knowing you have worked hard!! So today I will talk a little bit about the Back Squat.
The Back Squat is a very common exercise in the world of Strength and Conditioning, in fitness centres and pretty much everywhere people do some form of strength training. It is an exercise that every S&C coach should have in their exercise “library”. The Back Squat works the key muscles groups in your legs as well as your core muscles. In almost every sport where you move your own body weight around is it important to have strong legs.These are the muscles that you work in a Back Squat if you do the exercise correct:

• Quadriceps, Gluteus Maximus and Medius, Hamstrings, Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi, Abdominals and the Adductors

As with every exercise it is important to perform the exercise correctly and the Back Squat is definitely no exception. I will therefore describe how to perform the Back Squat (from a Squat Rack):

Equipment needed: Barbell, Squat Racks, Weight Discs and enough floor space

Starting position

• Grab the bar with a closed pronated grip (overhand)

• Step under the bar and position your feet parallel to each other

• Place the bar in a balance position on the upper back and shoulder in one of the two locations:

o Low bar position: across posterior deltoids at the middle of the trapezius (using a handgrip wider than shoulder width)

o High bar position: above the posterior deltoids at the base of the neck (using a handgrip only slightly wider than shoulder width)

• Hold your chest up and out and tilt the head slightly up

• When you are ready to lift the bar off the rack, extend your hips and knees to lift the bar off

• Take one or two steps backwards, position your feet shoulder width apart (or wider), with the toes pointed slightly outwards (Picture 1 and 2)
Picture 1- Starting position from the side

Picure 2- Starting position from the front
Downwards phase

• Maintain a position with the back flat and chest up and out

• Allow your hips and knees to slowly bend while keeping the torso-to-floor angle relatively constant

• Keep the heels on the floor and the knees in alignment over the feet

• Avoid rounding your back or lean your upper body forward

• Keep bending your hips and knee until your thighs are parallel to the floor, the trunk begins to round or bend forwards or your heels lift off the floor (Picture 3)
Picture 3 Bottom position

Picture 4- Bottom position
Upwards phase

• Maintain your back flat, elbows high and chest up and out

• Extend your hips and knees, whilst keeping your heel son the floor and your knees in alignment over your feet

• Avoid bending forward or round your back

• Continue extending until you reach the starting position, don’t lock your knees fully

• At the end of the set, step forward towards the rack

• Squat down until the bar rests in the rack

It is great if you can look at yourself in the mirror when performing a Back Squat as you can keep an eye of your own technique, at least from the front. I am not going to describe the most common mistakes people do when squatting in this post, but one thing you can look at if you have a mirror is whether your knees are moving inwards or the distance between your knees stays the same throughout the movement. Knees moving inwards is particular common in women and there can be several reasons why this happens, but sometimes it is possible to correct it by just focusing on it (if you are aware it is happening).

There are a lot of discussions on how deep you should go in the back squat. I personally think that you should aim to get your femur parallel to the floor (like described above). The reason for this is because the gluteus maximus (the big hip extension muscle) becomes more active when you get full range of movement (Picture 5) This is not only positive from an athlete’s point of view, but also for people wanting to get a strong and powerful bottom! From an injury prevention point of view the back squat is a very important strength exercise for the quadriceps muscles, which is important in relation to knee injuries and knee pain so it is definitely a good exercise in my eyes.

Picture 5- Gluteus Maximus
 I know a lot of girls are scared of getting “bulky”, “big” and “massive” which I think is a bit sad (I will come back to this on another blog post) but surely everyone wants to have a nice, strong bum??!

So people, let’s get our bottoms strong, explosive and powerful!

Have you ever tried the Back Squat? Do you like it?


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