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Squat exercises for bodybuilding

Squat exercises for bodybuilding


Squat execution

Continuing our series of articles, this May we take a look at the "King" of basic movements for the lower limbs: the squat.

This technically and physically demanding multi-joint movement is considered to be one of the three movements that must make up any training program if you want to build a solid physique and strong, voluminous thighs. The other two movements are the deadlift and the bench press.

The squat is a very demanding movement, as it subjects the body, and in particular the spine, to considerable pressure and a position of weakness which, if the technique is not perfect, can lead to definite injury.

This movement, which consists of squatting with a load on the shoulders or trapezius, depending on the variant chosen, can be performed in different ways and with different equipment, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The classic squat (full and deep)

The classic squat is performed from a standing starting position in a squat rack, using a free bar. The feet are hip-width apart and turned slightly outwards. The user positions himself so as to rest the bar on his trapezius below the vertebra that protrudes when the head is tilted forward. Never above it, as the bar would exert too much pressure on the nape of the neck!

From this position, keeping your gaze fixed on a point on the horizon (to keep your back as straight as possible and avoid bending it), you will squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground (full squat). The descent should be slow and controlled, with the knees remaining in the starting line and not moving forward.

Once in this position, with thighs parallel to the ground, the aim is to return to the starting position, with the push coming from the heels, to ensure optimum work of the quadriceps and glutes. The hamstrings are mainly involved in controlling the descent.

To accentuate the work of the quadriceps, the descent can be made below parallel, but this also increases the risk of injury to the lumbar region. You must therefore ensure that the lower back remains straight during a deep squat.

The wide squat

This version of the squat is performed in the same way as the classic hip-width squat, but with the feet wider apart than the hips and the toes pointing outwards.

This method focuses on the inner thighs, with the abductors and gluteals being put through their paces. The quadriceps are always stimulated, as are the hamstrings.

However, because of the stretching effect on the abductors, it will be more difficult to descend below parallel to the ground, so the user should be careful to stop in this position, with the quadriceps parallel to the ground.

The front squat

This version of the squat differs from the classic squat in that the bar is no longer resting on the trapezius muscles, but on the deltoids and upper pectorals. In this position, it's imperative to keep your elbows pointed upwards and your back very straight, otherwise the bar will slip out of your shoulders.

Standing facing the bar, in a squat rack, the user slides under the bar to rest it on his or her shoulders (hollow of the shoulders), elbows raised. In this position, step back from the rack, then with feet hip-width apart, the aim is to sink slightly below the parallel to the ground, while keeping your back straight and controlling the load. The instructions are the same as for the classic squat, with your gaze fixed on a point on the horizon to keep your back straight!

From a quadriceps position parallel to the ground, return to the starting position, pushing mainly on the heels.

Guidedsquatsand the hack squat

The guided frame squat

Under a guide frame, place the bar on the trapezius muscles in the same way as for the classic squat. Because of the trajectory imposed by the bar's guidance, you'll need to move your feet slightly forward in relation to the bar. With back straight and eyes fixed on the horizon, the aim is to push the buttocks slightly backwards until the thighs are parallel to the ground, or even below it. It's important that the knees don't go forward during the descent.

In this position, the user pushes back on the bar to return to the initial position, pushing on the heels and keeping the back straight.

The bar squat can also be performed in front of the guide frame. The bar is placed in the hollow of the deltoids and rests on the top of the pectorals. It's performed in the same way as the bar squat on the trapezius, but this time the exerciser must remain in line with the bar to keep the stress on the quadriceps and not the lower back.

The hack squat

Finally, the squat can also be performed on a special machine known as a hack squat. In this case, a cart rests on the user's shoulders, and the user is pressed against the part of the cart in contact with his or her back.

The feet are placed on the hack platform slightly wider than the hips. Keeping your back flat against the backrest, and without moving your knees forward, bend your legs until your thighs are parallel to the platform. Then return to the initial position without locking the knees, to keep the quadriceps under tension.

Advantages and disadvantages

Each way of practicing the squat has its own advantages and disadvantages, which is why it's a good idea to diversify squat practices according to the effects you're looking for and the periods in which you find yourself.

The free-weight squat (with barbell), whether behind the neck or on the front, involves more muscles. In fact, using a free bar means that, for the sake of body stability, the practitioner has to use more muscles, and thus stimulate both the lower limbs and the upper body to a greater extent than with the guided version. So more mass in the end.

The guided and hack squat versions, on the other hand, allow you to vary the position of your feet, more forward or more or less apart, without having to worry about balance. What's more, they're safer because they place less strain on the lumbar muscles. They do, however, stimulate fewer auxiliary muscles and therefore trigger less muscle gain in general.

In short, it's important to vary your squat practice and experiment with the one that suits you best. Some people won't get the same results from free squats as others. For others, the free squat is too restrictive for the back, and they'll feel safer doing the hack squat.

Test what works best for you, but don't banish the squat from your training programme, as it's one of the best movements for building superbly muscular thighs, both for the quadriceps and for weight gain in general.