6 Important steps to make your squats more effective
A good squat starts with a good preparation. And, probably the most ignored aspect of barbell squats is the preparation part.
A barbell squat doesn’t start with the bar on your back. Before learning how to do the barbell squats properly you have to learn how to take the barbell out of the rack. This is called the setup. A proper setup will save you from wasting energy needlessly to bring your body into the squat position.
Here we will see six important steps you should keep in mind to make your setup most efficient.
Step 1 – Height of the bar in the rack
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step… but this first step is never given much importance.
A successful squat starts with a proper height of the bar in the rack but its importance is always undermined.
It is very important that the height of the bar is such that you don’t have to shrug your shoulders or lift your body on your toes to bring the bar out of the rack. This will never allow you to maintain a proper posture.
The height of the bar should be slightly below your clavicle (collarbone).
If this height cannot be matched and you only have the option to set it a bit higher or lower than this height, then go for a bit lower position. It is always better than tiptoeing to get the bar out of the rack.
Step 2 – Proper Gripping
The grip width will vary from person to person depending on their shoulder mobility. Keep the grip as close to your shoulder as comfortably possible. The narrower grip allows the shoulder blades to come closer. Thus, providing more tightness to the upper back.
The thumb will be on top of the bar. Thumb out grip allows the wrist to be in straight line with the forearm. The elbows will be pushed back and up. This will lock the bar between the back and the hands.
Now that, you have set the bar to the proper height and grabbed it with a narrow grip width, it’s time to go under the bar and place it securely on the back.
Step 3 – Bar placement on the back
Place the bar slightly below the spine of scapulae (shoulder blades) – the posterior bump of the shoulders. As discussed above, the narrow grip will bring the shoulder blades closer to each other raising the muscles of the upper back. This will make a comfortable position to place the bar upon.
Also, this position (shoulder blades closer to each other) will naturally bring your chest up, making the position more secure.
Once the bar is properly placed on the back with a proper grip and lifted elbows, its time to bring the bar out of the rack.
Step 4 – Proper walk out
The most common mistake while taking the bar out of the rack is to pull it out with a lunge style stance. Never unrack the bar like this because this type of stance puts an uneven load on your spine.
The correct way to unrack the bar is by placing your feet directly under the bar. This will look like the position of a quarter squat with both your hips and knees slightly bent. In this position take a deep breath, bring your chest out, tense your back and, aggressively stand up, driving the bar straight up.
Now, from the standing position put one leg then the other leg back and get into the stance of the squat. Never take too many steps back.
Step 5 – Taking the stance
Heels will be shoulder width apart with toes pointing out at 30 degrees. This stance will suit most people and will give a convenient position to do the squat.
Step 6 – Gaze (Position of the eyes)
Most people don’t realize the importance of the gaze. Their eyes are wandering around to see who is watching them do the squats.
Fix your gaze 4-5 feet in front of you. This will bring your neck in a neutral position keeping your cervical spine secure while squatting. Looking up while squatting will put the cervical spine into hyperextension. Heavy weight on the traps and a hyperextended neck is a recipe for disaster.
This is the foundation on which you will build your squats. Huge weights can be safely lifted if you keep these steps in mind. In the next article, we will see how to do the barbell squats in the most effective way to get all the benefits that the squats have to offer.