The barbell back squat is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles in the lower body, most notably, the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The barbell back squat utilizes the muscles in the posterior chain more than the quad dominant front squat. It also strengthens the core muscles.
A barbell should be used for this exercise. A traditional barbell may be used and to increase the resistance users may add weight plates to each side. Some gyms have fixed weight barbells which are shorter than a traditional barbell and the resistance is not adjustable. These fixed weight barbells often increase in resistance by 5-10 pounds (50 lbs, 55 lbs, 60 lbs, 65 lbs, and so on). As for the extra resistance, you can use traditional weight plates, or bumper plates. You also have the option of using safety bars, and clips keep the weights in place.
In some instances, the barbell back squat might be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. If this is the case, beginners might prefer to start with the goblet squat, goblet box squat, or barbell box squat variation.
The barbell back squat is a great option for the intermediate lifter. You can perform this exercise on its own, you can pair it with another upper body pushing or pulling exercise as part of a superset, or can you even make it part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. However, if you are planning on using heavy resistance, it should be done towards the beginning of the workout when your body is fresh. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the barbell back squat.
Women who are comfortable with the barbell back squat can choose to perform negative barbell back squats where the lowering phase is increased to 3-5 seconds. This trains the muscles eccentrically. You can also perform the barbell back squat pause variation, where you pause for 3-5 seconds when you are in the bottom position, or you can combine the negative and pause squat variations. You can increase the weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). You can also challenge the glutes by placing a resistance band both above and below the knees, and actively pressing both knees out against the bands while performing the barbell back squat.
There are many barbell squat benefits. How a woman chooses to use the barbell back squat is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where the exercise falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, the barbell back squat can be used to do any or all of the following:
The barbell back squat is one of the more advanced squat variations. I generally like to have my clients master a bodyweight box squat, a bodyweight squat, a goblet squat and sometimes a front squat before moving on to a back squat. The reason being, there are a lot of moving parts in a squat and having a bar on your back makes things a little more challenging.
Just like all the other squat variations your squat is going to look slightly different from everyone else’s -- based on your height, your limb length, your training history, and any mobility or disability limitations you might have… so the advice I am going to give you on how to barbell back squat is going to be general principles but you might need to change things up a little bit based on your specific needs.
Just like with other squats we generally barbell back squat with our feet just a little wider then a shoulder width apart. Now often times you will see people barbell back squatting really, really wide. This is a technique used by powerlifter to shorten the range of motion. There is nothing wrong with this position, but in general we like to show woman a more moderate stance position. So you are going to have your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, and toes turned out somewhere between 15 and 30 degrees. You are going to make sure your core is extremely braced in the barbell back squat. I like to take a deep breath in through my nose, blow all my air out through my mouth, and brace my core. But I do that -- I blow my air out -- simply to get my rib cage towards my pelvis and brace my core. I never barbell back squat with my air all the way out. After I blow the air out I’m going to breathe in again and make sure I expand circumferentially. So what does that mean?
That means that when I go to breathe in, I'm not just breathing out in the front. Because, you can see what happens, I go into lumbar hyperextension. I want to make sure I breathe in the sides, the back and the front. So I'm going to take a deep breath in, blow my air out and get my rib cage in position, and then I’m going to breathe in circumferentially . You should see my hands kind of expanding because my front, side and back are all expanding at once. Once I get in that position, I am going to drive my knees out and sit back and down in between my hips.
Now I have long limbs, long legs and a shorter torso so I am going to have a little bit more of a forward lean than someone with shorter legs and a taller torso. Another thing that is super important: before you get underneath the bar, you are going to make sure you squeeze your back together nice and tight and create a little shelf for the bar to sit on. Often times people say “Oh the bar hurts my neck.” The bar should not be sitting on your neck, especially not on any bony prominences. You are going to make sure you squeeze your back together to create a little shelf back there and set the bar right there. You are also are going to be gripping the bar really tight because it help maintain more tension throughout your body, and thinking about almost pulling your elbows underneath you.
Now the more mobile your shoulders are, the closer your hands will be able to be. If your shoulders are not that mobile your hands are going to need to be out a little bit wide. Again that's why you see some of the power lifters with their arms out really wide, because they lack the shoulder mobility to get in a little tighter. So, grab the bar with hands a little wider than shoulder width apart, get under the bar squeeze my back together to make a nice little shelf, squeeze the bar nice and tight, pull my shoulders under, stand up, take a couple of steps back, get into my stance, take a big deep breath through my nose, blow my air out, get my rib cage down to brace my core. Another deep breath in, drive my knees out and sit back and come up.
Now I get the question a lot: How should I be breathing during my squats? As I mentioned, a big deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, then you fill up again with air, That intra-abdominal pressure can be one of things that keeps your spine safe and supported in neutral. So generally when I do that, I fill up with air, I get a couple of reps in, then when I feel like I need to breathe again I will hang out at the top and reset again. If you can only do one squat per breath that's ok. It's just absolutely critical that you're maintaining good spinal alignment and enough intra-abdominal pressure to keep yourself safe.
So guys that's the barbell back squat and remember, yours might look slightly different than mine based on our individual differences but in general those are the principles you should be following.
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