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Back Squat: Tips to Improve and Benefits

back squat

Today we are going to talk about perhaps the most hated and, at the same time, loved exercise: the back squat. The truth is that this is a very complete exercise and, as much as we may complain, the squat brings with it a huge list of benefits, such as:

  • Strengthening of the lower limbs;
  • High caloric expenditure – which means greater body weight loss;
  • Lower risk of knee and hip injuries with marked strengthening of ligament structures and bone density;
  • Improved flexibility (especially in older people).

The secret to master the “art” of the back squat is just the basics… a good technique. But make no mistake! This movement may seem basic, however, it is an exercise with a large technical component to its execution and should not be taken lightly.

The squat requires very high body perception and very demanding concentration levels, otherwise you can suffer very serious injuries that can follow you for the rest of your life and even prevent you from training again. For this reason, I will leave here general guidelines and tips for performing a squat well so that, with time and your evolution, you can perform this movement with heavier loads and without putting your health at risk.

It is also important to know that a correct warm-up, specific adjustments to your technique or consulting a sports medicine doctor can be a fundamental help in improving your squatting performance. Having someone by your side to give you feedback on the key points is also a good idea.

That said, to get significant increases in strength, you need to spend some time with a barbell on your back. The important thing is not to get discouraged and to keep in mind that the stagnation points of the loads used in squats are usually attributed to 3 factors: the mental, the technical, and the physical.

1) Mental

One of the biggest mistakes that most athletes make is not creating logical and reasonable progressions in their training. Systematically I observe athletes who in one week are trying to perform a squat with 60 kg (often using the wrong technique execution) and even though they are already struggling, the next week they’re trying to perform that same exercise with 100 kg. Mentally, this will create barriers. By not being able to perform the exercise, a component of failure and/or fear will start to creep into your mind.

Try to create realistic goals and overcome them every week. This way, your mindset will become one of a winner: with each goal conquered, your ego will get a boost, and this will give you more confidence for the next challenge.

Never forget that there will always be periods when “failure” will be present: at these times reassess your training and see what you can change to continue your progress.

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2) Technical

Regarding the technique of performing the squat, there are several opinions. I will try to help you in this aspect, so that you can perform the movement.

First, we have the spread of the lower limbs. In my opinion, you should have your feet slightly “outside” the shoulder line. However, each person is different and you should try to figure out what works best for you, taking into account your morphology, injuries, and goals.

How to know if you are doing a good squat?

  1. Your whole body should be tense, from your hands on the bar, to your feet on the floor;
  2. Back slightly arched;
  3. Chest open;
  4. Elbows aligned under the bar;
  5. Thoracic zone well stabilized;
  6. Inhale ventrally and keep the air (during the descent phase) in the abdominal area and not in the chest;
  7. Grasp the bar with as narrow a grip as possible;
  8. Align knees joints with the tip of your feet.

NOTE: If you have any doubts, ask a professional to help you check these parameters.

3) Physics

Squats are never executed perfectly. Even the most experienced athletes fail in some of the points I mentioned and it takes years of practice to perfect as much of the execution technique as possible. It is important to emphasize again that until you can use heavier loads in the squat, you need to make safe progressions, and let your body adapt to the stress caused by the successively increasing loads.

Each and every one has very specific characteristics and, as such, each person must first discover his or her limitations and work on them in order to be able to perform the squat (and other exercises) with proper technique.

To improve your squatting technique, you can do accessory exercises to, for example, develop your core, which is a fundamental part of your body for maintaining stability during the exercise. You can also do specific gluteal strengthening and joint mobility work in order to have a full range of motion.

A good warm-up is crucial! I know this is one of the parts of the workout that many athletes “skip” so they can immediately move on to the action… Warm up specifically for the days when you will be doing squats. To help you out, here is a short warm-up routine so that you can start your sets with confidence.

  1. Pulldown abs – 3 series of 15 reps
  2. Glute/ham raise – 3 series of 20 reps
  3. Lower limb flexibility exercises

After you finish your squat sets you can do some more accessory work, which will help you improve your technical and strength levels. Here are some examples:

  1. Rowing with barbell
  2. Stiff leg deadlift
  3. Romanian deadlift
  4. Good mornings

I hope I have helped you and that from now on you will see squats, first of all, as one of the best exercises (from which you get a lot of benefits), but also look at them with respect, because they require a very high technical component and mental focus.


The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About João Carvalho

João Carvalho
Personal trainer certificado IFBB/NASM, experiência de 30 anos no fitness Treinador (nível 1) artes marciais Israelitas ( Krav Maga ) Pós graduação - gestão de ginásios e health clubs Cross training specialist Nutrição e exercicio TRX fitness instructor

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