How to Squat Correctly for Size and Strength

The barbell squat is the first exercise in the Beginner Strength Training Full body Workout. In order to progress and avoid injuries, it is imperative that you perform the exercise with correct technique. What the exercise will give you is not big legs, but overall strength throughout the body. To get big legs from squats you have to squat very heavy.
[In the video I did not take the bar from a squat rack, but you should not do it like me. Instead, start the exercise properly from a squat rack.]

Barbell Squat – The Exercise

First – start your squats by taking the bar from a power rack. Grab the bar with both hands. Position it on top of your squeezed upper back muscles and not on your neck. Make sure you have an arch in your lower back at all times.

This is what prevents you from hurting your back. At the same time, this will make your lower back strong so you won’t hurt yourself at home trying to move the couch.

Arch in the Lower Back For Safe Squatting

To understand what I mean by an arch in the lower back, try this. Lie on the floor face down, with your arms in front of your body. Now try to lift your arms and your legs off the ground at the same time. This is an exercise called superman. See what happens with your lower back and hold it the same way when you squat.

Barbell Squat – The Basic Movement

Your heels should be approximately shoulder width apart. Your toes will point a bit out. Now, make sure your weight is towards your heels and not towards your toes. Begin by sitting back with your butt as far as you can. At the same time, you will be going down and your knees will go to the sides.

Your knees will at all times point in the direction that your toes point. When your knees and the crease between your legs and your stomach are even (so your legs are parallel to the ground) you can start ascending by squeezing your butt and legs. Try to go up and down, like an elevator, and NOT with your butt up first.

7 thoughts on “How to Squat Correctly for Size and Strength”

  1. Thanks buddy! If people never get anything from going to the gym, but only learn how to protect their lower backs with “the arch,” they can save themselves a lot of trouble and pain 🙂


  2. Yavor,
    I am squatting my body weight now. I want to go heavier. However, I am in caloric restriction for fat loss. How do I gain strength now? I am trying banded squats. A strength plateau is looming, I fear. I could be wrong, though. How much progression in terms of weight should I expect in unit time? Like a gain in lift of 10 lbs in a week or two weeks? I am intermediate level, I guess.

  3. Doc,

    First of all – get your priorities in check – pursue one main goal at a time. I suggest focusing on perfect squatting technique, slow and steady strength progress AND going really hard with the fat loss diet. It’s summer now – go heavy on salads and veggies and restrict food hard to lose the weight.

    Beginners, intermediates and advanced lifters can be defined by either how often they can progress or how how much they lift compared to their body weight. I’d say strength-wise you are at a beginner level on the squat (sorry man 🙂 )

    Focus on perfect form and add weight each workout (add as little weight as possible but as often as possible).

    When you stall – back off a bit on the weight and start over with perfect technique and again by adding as little as possible, as often as possible.

    Hope that helps-


  4. Yavor,
    (Just to show how I keep coming back to read your old stuff)
    One more question: I find it better to squat with my legs wider and toes pointing well out. I believe this is the powerlifting way of squatting. Is there anything wrong with it (I find it more comfortable and easier on the knees)?

  5. Doc,

    nothing wrong with it, especially if you got knee issues. But powerlifting style squatting is made for this discipline – it relies heavily on the posterior chain and allows for heavier poundages.

    Regular squats give better overall leg development and transfer to athletic activities. In the video you can see how I squat – some would call these wide stance. But this is the position most comfortable to me.

  6. Yavor,

    I’ve just started the 5×5 plan and squats are the major part. Historically I’ve always had problems preventing back pain doing heavy squats, but your explanation of how to protect it has helped no end.

    Brilliant explanation, thanks mate.

    Keep up the great work.


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