How to perform the Barbell Squat

barbell squat diagram

Performing the Barbell Squat efficiently

The barbell squat is one of the best movements for building leg muscle. It’s truly in a league of its own and a movement you should definitely be looking to perform every time you hit the gym. It’s a simple movement to perform however there is lots of room for error. An example of this is having the bar too high above the shoulders and resting on the neck, this can cause you to fall over forward causing serious spine or other bodily injuries.

To combat this, my first recommendation when first learning how to perform the Barbell squat is to start off with very light weights. Get a feel for the bar and how to position it on your traps, it should sit on them almost as if they are a shelf. This might hurt at first especially if you start to put a lot of weight on the barbell too soon, but the pain should pass after the first few sessions. In addition to sorting the bar positioning, you’re going to need to get you feet spacing correct. Failing to do so could result in serious knee or ligament damage so be sure to practice with just the barbell while still learning how to barbell squat correctly.

Target muscles

Synergists: Adductor Magnus, Soleus
Target muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius)

Steps to squatting in the gym:

1. First, find an empty squat rack in your gym and place a barbell horizontally just slightly below shoulder so you can get underneath it to un-rack and re-rack it the bar comfortably.

2. Now you’re going to want to load the barbell up with some weight. If starting out don’t put too much on in your first session, work up in weight over the first couple of weeks. Place plates of the same weight on either side of the bar and secure them with clamps.

3. Get underneath the bar making sure to position the weight correctly on your traps and un-rack the bar. Now step back a couple of feet into your starting position and take a deep breath.

4. Begin the squatting motion by lowering your glutes towards the ground in a controlled fashion going as low as possible without sitting down while exhaling.

5. From this position press the weight up activating the leg muscles while exhaling. You should now be back to your starting position

6. Continue this exercise in a rep range of 8-12 reps before walking forward again and safely re-racking the barbell.

Additional Equipment

Lifting Belt – A lifting belt can be used for this exercise, it is used so your abdomen has something to push against in order to deliver more pushing power to the legs.

Knee sleeves – Beneficial for knee health and will keep your patella centred throughout the movement.

Knee wraps – Wraps can help improve the weight you are able to squat significantly as they are elasticated and make squatting springier. However, I don’t recommend these for general training as they put unnecessary pressure on your knees and when training if used frequently can cause damage.

VIDEO: Guide to doing a Barbell squat correctly

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