All you need to know about Barbell Squat variations

All you need to know about Barbell Squat variations

All you need to know about Barbell Squat variations

This month our very own fitness expert Terri Snelling is back to bring you another installment of exercise top tips. With the focus on the lower body this time, she covers all things squats to help you perfect your technique and get the most out of your training. From back squats to lunges and front squats you may learn something new, at the very least get a great workout.

Our Top Tips:

  • With all squat variations make sure you take a deep breath before you start and do not exhale until you have completed the repetition, this will give you additional stability and power.
  • When doing back squats keep your back flat, chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your bar tight when performing the squat movement.
  • For the front squat keep your elbows pointed forwards during the movement this will help keep your back upright.
  • When performing split stance squats keep your torso upright throughout the exercise, if you find yourself leaning forwards it may mean you have tight hip flexors and if you find yourself leaning back you may have tight glutes. Both of which can be address with regular stretching and strengthening.
  • With split stance squats perform the exercise with a light weight and work on form before trying to go heavier.
  • When doing the split stance squat it is not uncommon to feel a stretch in the hips and quadriceps when doing split squats.

Barbell Back Squat 

The barbell back squat is one of the most popular and effective strength building exercises for the legs. Use them in your workout if you want increased strength, muscle mass, speed or power.

1. To perform the back squat you will want to use a squat rack for safety purposes.

To begin, set up the safety bars just beneath your maximum squat depth. Once this is done you want to set up the barbell at about the height of your upper chest and load it with the appropriate amount of weight.

2. To un-rack the bar, adopt a squat stance beneath the bar taking the bar in your chosen position.

Drive through the legs lifting the bar out the rack. Take 2-3 steps back and set your feet shoulder-width apart with the toes turned out to about 30 degrees.

3. To begin the lift, take a deep breath in and hold it.

Begin to lower the bar by simultaneously bending the knees and hips in tandem, sitting your hips back over your heels and pushing your knees out in line with your feet. Keep lowering until you break parallel (hips beneath your knees) this will ensure full hamstring and glute activation.

4. Once you have reached your maximum depth you want to reverse the motion and drive up out of the bottom of the squat.

Hips and knees should rise at the same rate until you are standing upright again. At this point you want to release your held breath and squeeze your glutes at the top.

High Bar vs. Low Bar Squats:

High Bar – with the bar resting on your traps (upper back) muscle, squeezing them together so the bar doesn’t dig into your spine. This bar position will keep your torso more vertical.

Low Bar – with the bar resting between your traps and rear shoulders, around the top of your shoulder blades. With the low bar squat you will lean forwards more.

Generally speaking the low bar squat will increase your squat by 10-20%, however the high bar is a more natural position so it is a matter of seeing what works for you personally.

Depth: An important note on squat depth, to receive the full benefits you MUST break parallel (hips beneath knees) when squatting. Without this range of motion you will not get activation of the glutes and hamstrings.

Barbell Front Squat

The barbell front squat has its roots in Olympic lifting but is growing in popularity with gym goers. With the bar being held across your shoulders, the front squat puts more emphasis on the quadriceps and upper back than the back squat. It also keeps up in much more upright position and is therefore much harder to do badly.

1. To perform the front squat you will want to use a squat rack for safety purposes.

2. To begin set up the safety bars just beneath your maximum squat depth.

Once this is done you want to set up the barbell at about the height of your upper chest and load it with the appropriate amount of weight.

3. To un-rack the bar adopt a squat stance beneath the bar taking it across your shoulders, with your fingers hooked underneath and elbows pointing straight forwards. Drive through the legs lifting the bar out the rack. (See photo)

Take 2-3 steps back and set your feet shoulder-width apart with the toes turned out to about 30 degrees.

4. To begin the lift, take a deep breath in and hold it.

Begin to lower the bar by simultaneously bending the knees and hips in tandem, sitting your hips back over your heels and pushing your knees out in line with your feet. Keep lowering until you break parallel (hips beneath your knees) this will ensure full hamstring and glute activation.

5. Once you have reached your maximum depth you want to reverse the motion and drive up out of the bottom of the squat.

Hips and knees should rise at the same rate until you are standing upright again. At this point you want to release your held breath and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Bulgarian Split Stance Squat

Single leg squat variations have grown in popularity over the years and offer a viable alternative for anyone who does not like to squat, cannot squat or does not have the equipment to squat. The split stance squat also has the added benefit of working one leg at a time and therefore addressing any strength imbalances.

1. To perform the split stance squat you will need a bench or raised platform.

This can be done in a squat rack if you would like. To begin you will need to set a bench or platform for your rear leg at about mid shin to knee height.

2. Adopt the starting position with your back leg foot resting on the bench on the ball of your foot.

Imagine you are doing a normal lunge just with one leg elevated.

3. To begin the lift, take a deep breath in and hold it.

Begin to lower your body by bending the front knee and allowing the back knee to bend and lower towards the floor. The bottom position is either when your front leg reaches parallel or when your back knees is just above the floor.

4. Once you have reached your maximum depth you want to reverse the motion and drive up out of the bottom of the split squat until you reach your starting position.

At this point you want to release your held breath.

Note: This exercise can be performed with a barbell in either the back squat or front squat position, with one dumbbell held in front at chest height or with dumbbells in either hand. The weight being lifted will dictated the method used and it is best to experiment and see what works best for you.

About the Author

Terri Snelling is our health and fitness programme manager here at the Club and a qualified personal trainer. She started her fitness journey as a volunteer with YMCA when she was only 13 years old. Since then, she has held various jobs in her 15 years in the industry including working with a premiership football team and being a personal training manager in the city, before settling into her calling as a fitness manager at the Central YMCA Club. Over the years Terri has developed a vast and impressive set of skills ranging from but not limited to lifestyle management coaching, advanced kettlebells, indoor cycling and pre and post-natal care. She teaches several classes on our timetable such as indoor cycling, kettlebells and Octane Circuits.

 

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ymca | 1 December 2015