Posted on 26 Sep 2013
5 min read
Let’s be clear on one thing:
If you want to build an intimidating, beastly physique, you need to squat.
As our man Mike Rashid points out, squatting is the “key to a structurally sound physique”.
Although traditionally performed on leg day, this exercise is, in reality, a total body movement.
Not only are your legs powering that weight up, but your hips, core, back and shoulders are all involved when squatting heavy.
Because of all this muscle recruitment, squats build the most muscle, burn the most fat, and they even increase the testosterone your body produces.
Whether you’re a power athlete looking for a higher vertical jump, a bodybuilder searching for the perfect physique, or even a runner looking increase your sprint speed, squatting is a must.
An absolute must.
Problem is, there are too few people squatting right.
Take one cursory glance around your local gym and you will most likely see one of three things:
Nobody squatting (most likely); someone squatting terribly; or maybe, just maybe, someone getting down and dirty with some proper, gruelling squats.
So Gymtalk is inviting you to book yourself into Squat Rehab, group therapy is now in session!
Be honest with yourself, admit you mistakes, and give yourself over to the power of the iron to atone for your sins.
You’re in a safe place.
Don’t feel embarrassed, we’ve all been to a dark place at some point in our lives.
Come into the light…
In the same way that the minimum weight for bench press seems to be 60kg (or 135lbs for imperialists) the minimum allowed weight for squatting would appear to be 100kg (225lbs).
The number of times I’ve seen relatively new lifters slide plates onto the bar only to watch their legs wobble as they dip a quarter of a way down into a rep four times and rack it again…
It makes me despair every time.
As stated in the first sin, an all-too-common sight in the squat rack is seeing some chief bend their knees only slightly, leaning forward a little bit, and standing tall with the proud look of a child who just took their first shit in the big boy toilet.
Unfortunately it’s not a big boy squat and you’ll just end up looking like that child.
Now I know this probably sounds like I want to have my cake and eat it too, but bear with me.
People trying to make amends for sin number two drop their asses to the floor in an attempt to double their gains.
But this requires a large amount of flexibility to be able to get that low and maintain a proper lumbar curve.
Watch someone squat low with just their bodyweight and you will notice that at a certain point their hips ‘tuck’ under their torso causing the lumbar spine to surrender.
Imagine the forces acting on those vertebrae with a decent amount of weight on top of them.
Another common mistake I’ve seen is people going almost chest-to knees and performing some kind of squat/good morning hybrid.
This is clearly going to cause carnage with your lower back and hips and is often caused by your core not quite being strong enough to handle the load.
Your torso should stay as upright as possible with a neutral spine throughout the movement.
If this were one of the Ten Commandments it would be up there with ‘though shalt not kill’.
Don’t be soft.
Be the man that you are and get that cold iron on your shoulders!
Drop that weight down a bit and make sure you are squatting to parallel.
Use a step, bench or medicine ball to squat down to ensure you are getting the most out of your squats.
Need another reason to give up the ‘no rep’ squats?
A recent study from Hartmann et al  showed that half reps were a triple threat of awfulness.
Think of them as the Miley Cyrus of exercises.
Not only did half reps yield less muscle growth than full squats, the subjects also gained less strength (through full range of motion) and they gained an increased risk of knee and lower back injuries.
Time to sack off the illegitimate bastard squats and get into some real squats.
Feel the power of the iron.
Feel the weight and use a full range of motion.
Know how low you can safely go and move through it.
Lower the weight under control and power it back up to the top.
If flexibility is your problem when aiming to get to parallel or below, put a couple of small weight plates under you heels.
This will help you get lower if you have tight hamstrings pulling your hips down under your torso.
If your core is a little weak and you’re really going for a new PR, strap on a belt.
This will give your abs something to push against and provide you with a little more core strength.
Don’t use it on all your sets and for all your exercises but do use it to push through plateaus or to get a few extra reps out.
Chuck that god forsaken pad in the bin.
All it really does is destabilise the weight on your shoulders.
Sack up and feel the cold steel embrace of Lady Iron.
She will make you suffer but she will reward you handsomely with legs that you’ll never fit into skinny jeans.
My primary prescription is to perform three sets of deep squats, even if it’s just with bodyweight, with proper form.
You will feel muscles working in ways you’ve never felt before.
From this point on you can go forth into the world as a legitimate squatter.
May your legs be stronger and thicker than a mighty oak tree.
Let us know how you get on with any or all of these workout tips, or leave any tips or success stories of your own in the comments below.
Lift smart, lift strong, and I’ll see you at the next therapy session: the bench press.
1) Hartmann H, Wirth K, Klusemann M. Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load. Sports Medicine. 2013:1-16.
2) Hartmann H, Weirth K, Klusemann M, Dlaic J, Matuschek C, Schidtbleicher D. Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Dec 26.
3) Bloomquist K, Langberg H, Karlsen S, Madsgaard S, Boesen M, Raastad T. Effect of range of motion in heavy load squatting on muscle and tendon adaptations. Eru J Appl Physiol. 2013 April 24.