The Back Squat
My favorite exercise and most beneficial to anybody’s exercise program is the back squat. I include it into every one of my clients programs, depending on ability, I’ll choose a regression or progression exercise, and my own.
Its predominantly a lower-body exercise and therefore will work the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings and lower limb muscles such as the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior.However, as the exercise requires the weight of the bar to be transferred from the back of the shoulders into the legs through an upright trunk, it will also recruit the trunk musculature, including the erectus spinae, the rectus abdominus, the transverse abdominus, the internal and external obliques, the trapezius, the rhomboids and the latissimus dorsi.
The benefits of using a squat in training
A squat is also classed as a gross motor skill, as it recruits a large number of muscles and requires them to co-ordinate themselves in one efficient movement. It will therefore improve a client’s inter-muscle co-ordination as well as intra-muscle co-ordination, which will help a muscle to contract more efficiently.
A squat also transfers well into everyday tasks, as well as other gym-based activity. By improving the strength of the trunk and the lower body, it will make tasks easier, from getting up from a chair, to walking up and down stairs, to picking up shopping bags. In addition, improving the ability to carry out a back squat will correlate to an increased ability to jump higher, run faster, turn quicker and reduce injury to the lower limbs.
How to perform a squat
After grasping the bar and placing it on your trapezius muscles you should, walk away from the ‘squat rack’ and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. This is because they need sufficient space for their hips to drop into, rather than pushing them back. The knees should track over the toes and the posture should be upright, with the spine in a neutral position and head facing forward. Once the position has been established, you should flex simultaneously at the knees and hips, making sure that the weight goes through the back of the foot and the spine remains in a neutral position. How far that you can continue the squat will depend on your muscular strength, but look out for hyperextension or flexion of the spine, as this means the force is being transmitted through the vertebrae of the spine rather than the muscles, risking injury. Equally, the weight should be put through the heel of the foot rather than the toes. Over a period of time, you can progress from 90° to parallel and further. Increasing the depth of the back squat will improve the development of the muscles that are being worked, in particular the gluteus maximus, which will give a more balanced physique.