In the previous article [Taekwondo Strength Training Basics – The Back Squat] we discussed the benefits and uses of the back squat within a strength training program. In this article we will address how to perform the movement correctly and safely. To perform the movement using a barbell (either fixed i.e. Smith machine or free) we need to focus on five distinct phases as follows:
1. The Rack Position:
Start with the bar at chest height so it is easy to lift in and out of the rack. Facing straight ahead make sure you are standing in the centre of the bar and place your head underneath the barbell. Pull your shoulder blades back together (by doing this you will create a ‘natural’ rack) so the barbell rests on the trapezius muscles across your shoulders and back of your neck, a little higher than the rear deltoids (powerlifters rest heavy bars on both of these muscles groups).
Hold the barbell firmly with both hands at a length which feels comfortable with your elbows pushed back keeping the bar locked tight into your shoulders make sure you ‘lock’ your core (torso muscles) and have your feet at shoulder width apart under the bar. Once you feel comfortable extend your knees and lift the barbell out of the rack and take a few small steps backward until you have no obstructions and can move freely.
2. The Start Position:
Maintaining the position you had in the rack position (shoulders back, barbell on the trapezius, head up straight, arms holding the barbell firmly, elbows back) ‘lock’ (contract) your core by arching your back slightly and sticking your chest out forwards. Place your feet parallel to each other at shoulder width apart with you feet pointed out (preferably at 45 degree angles). Make sure you feel stable before you attempt to complete and movement.
3. The Descent Phase:
Maintain the rack and start positions for the upper extremity and take in a deep breath. Bend forward from the hips and in a slow and controlled manner descend by flexing the knee joint trying to ensure that your knees stay in line with your toes. This is a very important thing to remember to avoid injury to the knee joint! When your upper legs are parallel to the floor then move into the next phase.
4. The Ascent Phase:
Once your upper legs are parallel to the floor, ensuring our knees are in line with the toes and maintaining that good rack position you then push upwards and driving in an explosive manner with all of the supporting muscles of the leg (as mentioned in the last article). Once you have come back to the starting position exhale then move into the final phase.
5. The Re-Rack Position:
Ensuring that the barbell is still locked in tight to your trapezius on your shoulders then step back into the rack until the barbell is safely above the rack cups. Slowly lower the barbell into the rack until all of the weight has been taken off your back. Only once the barbell has been safely racked do you bring your relax your shoulders and bring your head underneath the bar and let go of the bar completely.
Remember a few simple tips when performing the back squat: keep your torso locked tight, head up, chest out and keep your knees over your toes! Remember safety first at all times guys!
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