Barbell Basics: The Back Squat - Ten Ways to Perform This Valuable Exercise

It’s been said that if you don’t have the squat in your program, you don’t have a program. No other single exercise works as many major muscle groups as effectively. The squat is unparalleled for increasing muscle size, thus raising the metabolic rate and making your body a fat-burning machine. It also helps prevent and rehabilitate knee injuries and builds the foundation of great speed and jumping ability. What most new trainees don’t realize is that there is more than one way to perform this great exercise, each with their own advantages. Here are 10 variations for you to try:

#1. Back Squat

The traditional back squat is performed with the barbell held high on the shoulders, elbows under the bar, and initiated with the knee flexion.

#2. Low-Bar Back Squats

In this variation the lifter holds the bar lower on the shoulders and keeps the elbows back, which will increase the forward lean during the exercise. This change increases the work of the glutes, hamstrings and lower back.

#3. 1 1/4 Back Squats

This exercise begins like a traditional back squat, but the twist is that the lifter comes up only a quarter of the way on the accent, then goes back down, then returns all the way to the start. This motion increases the work of the glutes and also the vastus medialis oblique, a teardrop-shaped quadriceps muscle that is key to knee stability.

#4. Back Squat with Chains

Chains vary the resistance on the bar so that it more closely matches the strength curve, thereby working the muscles harder throughout the entire exercise.

#5. Wide-Stance Back Squat

Using a wider stance on the squat increases the work of the inner thigh (adductor) muscles.

#6. Close-Stance Back Squat

Narrowing the stance increases the work of the quadriceps.

#7. High-Board Back Squat

Elevating the heels on a small board focuses more work on the quads because the board keeps the lifter’s back more vertical.

#8. Back Squat with Bands

As with chains, bands attached to the bar and the bottom of a power rack increase the resistance curve at the top of the movement. Whereas chains provide a gradual increase in resistance, bands tend to provide significantly greater resistance near the end of the motion.

#9. Reverse Band Squat

In this version of band squats the bands are attached to the bar and the top of a power rack. This makes it easier to descend in a deep squat and also helps increase speed at the point the lifter comes out of the bottom of the lift, an effect that can help increase overall squatting speed and athletic ability.

#10. Dead-Stop Back Squats (from pins)

In this squat variation, safety supports are placed at or just below the lifter’s most difficult leverage position in the squat. The lifter squats down, pauses with the bar on the pins for approximately four seconds, and then completes the movement. This squat helps increase overall squatting strength; specifically, it increases the work of the muscles because the stored energy is dissipated when the bar rests on the pins.

The squat has earned its reputation as the king of exercises, so make certain to include at least one of these variations in your workouts on a regular basis.


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