How To Improve Squat Form & Variation
- 04 Jun, 2019
It is fair to say that not all exercises have been created equal, as while some target single muscle groups others provide a complete body work-out. Squats are definitely an example of the latter, as they create the type of anabolic environment that promotes body-wide muscle building.
Performing squats with intensity also trigger the release of human growth hormones within the body, aiding muscle growth further. Given that the addition of every pound of muscle also helps you to burn an extra 70 calories each day, squats can play a key role in the development of a successful exercise regime.
If you are to perform squats successfully, execution is key. This applies to both your squat form and the variation of exercises that you complete, and this post we will look at you can improve both of these elements when exercising.
Getting to grips with the basics: How to improve your squat form
Before you even begin to consider performing diverse squat variations, it is crucial that you work on your form and ensure that you have mastered the fundamental elements that contribute to your form. These include:
#1 - Focus on technique over repetition
When you begin to perform squats, there is a temptation to focus on the speed of your movements and the number of repetitions that you can complete during each session. This represents an oversight, however, as it is important that you first refine and perfect your technique. This not only optimises the impact of each individual squat, but it also minimises the risk of injury.
While many people focus on the foot position and the width of their stance when they begin to squat, the most important consideration should be assuming the proper trunk position. Your back should be straight and your shoulders back immediately prior to performing the squat, while your chest should also be raised with your hips pulled back.
Your knees should also be pushed out, as this creates the type of quad-dominant squatting position that aids mobility and performance. This will help you to perform safe and effective squats that help you to achieve your fitness objectives.
#2 - Find the ideal bar position
Typically, you should hold the barbell across the trapezium muscles (your traps) if you are to complete the perfect squat. It is possible to alter the height of the bar position to suit your needs and natural level of ability, however, simply by adhering to one simple and fundamental rule.
In simple terms, the longer the distance from your hips to the bar, the greater the torque and rotation at the hip joint. Conversely, lowering the bar position provides you with better leverage, which may be better-suited to beginners or those who are still perfecting their squatting form.
To maintain a higher bar position, you will need excellent mobility in your upper back and good balance to ensure that you can keep your chest upright during the squat.
The key is to experiment with a lower weight to determine the bar position that suits you and enables you to achieve the best possible form.
#3 - Practice paused squats
The depth of your squat is important, particularly when looking to build muscle mass in the legs. Once you have hit your desired depth, you may want to consider pausing and holding your position, as this incrementally increases your starting strengths while helping you to build more muscle.
Although this means pausing movement and breaking the eccentric-concentric chain, it is an effective technique that can improve your form so long as your maintain tensions and do not relax your muscles.
The key here is to start slowly and increase the length of your pauses progressively, perhaps moving from one second to five seconds over the course of three or four weeks.
After a month or so, you should find that your form benefits from improved strength, a more effective starting position and sustained muscle growth.
#4 - Make your movements explosive and perform jump squats
Whatever your preferred method of exercise, explosive movements can be used sporadically to improve upper and lower body strength and increase your calorific burn. This is evident with the jump squat, which requires you to move explosively and potentially build more muscle.
Jump squats can also help with your form, as they enable you to gain flexibility in your ankles and hips and create a more fluid motion when lifting. This will only benefit you over time while helping you to increase the array of squats that you are able to attempt (a little more on this next).
Just remember, explosive jump squats utilise more energy, so you should minimise the amount of repetitions that you attempt during your work-out. Although this number can be increased with experience, it is important to adopt a balanced approach and that helps you to get the most from your full work-out.
Meet the Squats: What variations are available?
With the fundamentals of squat form mastered, you can begin to diversify your work-out with one of the many variations that are available. This enables you to achieve different fitness objectives and prioritises specific muscle groups, while it also challenges you to improve and revise your form as you become more accomplished.
Below are some of the squat variations that provide will help you to enhance your form, while also working various muscle groups.
#1 - The Anderson Squat
We start with a relatively uncommon variation, but one that will help you to improve your squat form and achieve better control of your movements at depth. This technique has been evolved from the concept of paused squats and is essentially a dead-start squat that was inspired by the legendary 20th-century strongman Paul Anderson. This starts at the bottom of the squat, eliminating the bounce in your movement when descending and encouraging you to control your form at all times.
#2 - The Back Squat
The master! One of the most common and effective exercises known to man, the back squat enables you to strengthen your lower body while also targeting the muscle groups in the posterior chain. These include everything from the glutes and hamstrings to your core. With back squats helping to build mass and improve every single aspect of your form. They certainly improve your starting position, while allowing you to lift additional weight thanks to your improved lower body strength.
#3 - The Overhead Squat
Evolved from the popular front squat, this technique enables you to improve your balance and level of muscular control. It also aids increased mobility, creating a more efficient and effective form and making it far easier to perform jump squats. With superior mobility, you can also optimise the intensity of your squat repetitions, boosting your calorific burn and ensuring that you build as much muscle as possible.
#4 - Zercher Squats
It would be wrong not to include the Zercher technique, as this squat is ideal for boosting the strength of your core and torso. Although it remains a fairly uncommon squat technique, its unique grip and movement will quickly build upper body strength, while the fact that you are required to hold the bar on your elbows also increases leverage and balances your core. You need to be careful of how you load weight with this squat, but mastering this technique will improve your overall form and level of ability.
The last word
As you can see, it is possible to improve your squat form simply by understanding the basics and diversifying your routine with various techniques and starting positions. In fact, there are several squat variations that target specific muscle groups and aid your fundamental form, creating transferable knowledge that can improve every element of your work-out.
Chris is the co-founder of Bodybulk. He has a forceful passion to drive and motivate fitness enthusiasts. An IT geek by trade, Chris’ devotion to health, fitness and bodybuilding drove him to become a key architect and benefactor for Bodybulk, aiming to instigate and inspire change to the fitness industry.