Timeless movements: Back squat

Sanford POWER has been developing athletes for 20 years – and the more things change, the more they stay the same. The back squat is one of those “timeless” movements – as effective and essential in 1999 as it is today.

Fargo POWER lead Randy Martin, CSCS, breaks down the basic back squat:

Why it works: It’s a multi-joint exercise. When you think of a squat it’s the hip joint, the knee joint, the ankle joint, but it’s also the small joints in the pelvis – you’re using the joints in your spine. And the muscles surrounding those joints are contracting and working. It’s a big bang for the buck.

Proper form: Place the bar against the meat of your upper back. Feet should be hip width or shoulder width apart. Toes slightly pointed out. Your back posture should be nice and upright – not rounded. Take a big breath. Lower your rear end like you’re going to sit into a chair – not with your knees going forward. Lower to a nice parallel position and drive those feet through the floor. Start moving toward standing upright and let all that air out until you’re into the tall position.

(See the video.)

How often should you do it: This depends on the program you’re using. But if the squat is one of your main lower body lifts then you can do it twice a week. You probably want to supplement something else in there – a deadlift or a front squat or a single-leg variation.

What muscles are in play: The main muscles are glutes, quads, hamstrings, some calves and stabilizing muscles plus some in the back and spine.

Something else you should know: There are countless variations of squats. There’s a front squat, a goblet squat, a box squat or an eccentric squat. Variations depend on the experience of the lifter. If you’re a young lifter, you probably don’t want to start with a back squat or a front squat – start with a body weight squat or a goblet squat until you master the hip-hinging and the lower action and flexibility needed – and then transition to a back squat or a front squat.

In any case, make sure you’re under the supervision of a certified, educated professional in doing this the first time.