You may wonder why people go on about the squat so much and why trainers use it in programming. Many people hate this exercise, it’s almost like marmite in that respect, but if you’re looking to improve your body as a whole then this should be your starting point.

Working a large amount of muscles in your body the squat helps you to create full body strength and increase muscle mass or lose fat.


So which muscles of the body do you use when you squat? Well the list is pretty large just like the lift. Just like a story we’ll start at the beginning and work our way through.

You unrack the bar and are under load straight away with your body stabilizing that extra weight.

  • Erector spinae will activate and act as a stabilzer for your spine with your Abdominals (rectus abdominus and obliques) contracting to help.

Once you are in your squat stance and ready to start you are going to move your body down and backwards as if strying to sit onto a chair. Your hips and knees will flex while your  ankle joint will dorsiflex. The muscles that produce the opposite motions will be activated during this motion and create an eccentric contraction.

  • Hip extensors : gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, adductor magnus, Hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosis and biceps femoris) will be the muscles used to straighten your hips and will contract as they lengthen to control your speed.
  • Knee extensors : Quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis) will contract as they lengthen to control your knees during the descent.
  • Plantarflexor muscles : Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus) will contract as they lengthen to control your speed as your body lowers toward the floor.
So you have managed to lower the weight into the correct squat position and  you have recruited a substantial amount of muscle groups. Now you have to push yourself back into the standing position with that load on your back and shorten those lengthened muscles as a result producing a concentric contraction.

  • Hip extensors : gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, adductor magnus, Hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosis and biceps femoris) shorten as they contract, bringing your trunk up into an upright position.
  • Knee extensors : Quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis) contract and straighten your knee joints.
  • Plantarflexor muscles : Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus) push down against the ground, assisting the other muscles as your body returns to an upright position.

The big thing is though, too many people either do it wrong, not at all or with far too much weight. this is understandable as it looks to be a very simple exercise but in fact it is very complex with quite a few pointers to remember. A quick list of problems people face with this great lift are:

  • DEPTH: You squat to a position above parallel. This can be because of a few things such as, you’re not looking down, you’re not shoving your knees out, you have a stance that is either too narrow or too wide, or you are not ready to go deep. Only squat as low as you can maintain good form, with practice and the correct mobility and stability work, you should be able to squat to depth.
  • KNEE POSITION: By not pushing your knees out as you start down, you will make correct depth hard and kill your hip drive.
  • CORE: Make sure that you are bracing your core and taking an adequate breath at the top of each rep. This ensures that it’s not just your ab’s that are tight but your lower back too.
  • STANCE: Are you going too narrow or too wide, are your toes usually pointed too forward? This will result in a squat that is not below parallel.
  • SITTING BACK: A big thing people tend to do is move their knees forward instead of moving their hips back. by sitting back you allow your hamstrings and glutes to engage and provide much more power and control for the lift.
  • GOT BACK?: If your back is too vertical (can be due to incorrect placement of the bar on your back) or too horizontal (not keeping your chest up) Then getting to parrallel or below will become difficult.
  • RACK NOT SET: Don’t set the bar in a position that is too high. This will put the bar into a higher position on your back to start with and can be difficult to re-rack!

All these problems become connected, this is why the Squat can be so complex and a lot more difficult than moving the bar from A to B!


• Set bar on rack at mid chest level.
• Take bar it on your upper-back by dipping under the bar. Raise your chest. – Get tight before you unrack the bar. And keep your lower back and neck neutral.
• Grip the bar – The width of your grip will be dependent on flexibility, keep the bar on your upper back.
• Squat up under the bar. – Put your feet under the bar, Squat straight up and keep your heels on the floor.
• Unrack the bar by walking back. – Take one foot at a time and ensure each step is even and purposeful.

• Bend knees and hips. Both must bend at the same time. This stops the knees coming too far forward or leaning forward to far by moving the hips alone.
• Keep the bar over your mid foot. – Keeping the bar in a vertical line over your mid foot will ensure that you keep your balance and prevent forward or backward leaning.
• Control your squat – Don’t drop with poor form relying on the rebound to help you back up.
• Break Parallel. The top of your knees must be higher than your hip crease at the bottom of each Squat rep. If you can’t, widen your stance so your heels are shoulder-width apart. The deeper the squat, the more glutes that are activated.
• Forget “ASS TO GRASS” – By breaking parallel you’re going deep enough, too far can cause loss of tension and promotes poor form.


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