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How To Squat With A Bar

Ignite your power and strength in the gym and learn proper squat form with a barbell, plus three variations with adidas.


Why A Squat Is A Great Strength Move

When beginning a strength training routine, a classic exercise that should always be included is the squat. A squat can take many forms—as you’ll see from a few of the variations below—but always functions as a solid full body strengthening move that everyone can benefit from. Josh Davis, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning coach walked us through proper squat technique—something he teaches his clients but also practices himself as a USAPL competitive powerlifter. “Squatting is such a versatile movement,” said Davis. “Whether you're playing sports, hitting the gym for fitness, or you want to be able to get up off the floor with your kids. It's a perfect exercise to build strength and improve function in your life.”

It's A Full Body Exercise

“What I love about the squat is that it's a full-body exercise,” said Davis. “When most people think squat, they think just legs. However, to properly perform the squat, you have to have an engaged upper back, engaged core muscles, and drive your hips through the ground.”

It Can Help Increase Mobility

“To perform proper squat depth, you have to have good hip and ankle mobility. This will allow you to go deep into the squat, recruit more muscles, and build better strength over time,” said Davis. “If you have trouble hitting squat depth, try working on your hip and ankle mobility thoroughly in your warmups. This will allow you to build that mobility over time and allow you to achieve your squat goals.”

How To Squat With A Bar

Step 1: Adjust The Rack Height And Load The Bar

Adjust the height of the bar to be just about shoulder height, where you have room to set the bar on your shoulders and lift it off the rack. Once the height is correct, load the bar with weight plates and secure them with clamps so the plates stay in place. If this is your first time squatting with a bar and you’re unsure of how much weight to use, then use the bar without plates to get a feel for it. Most bars are about 45 pounds.

Step 2: Stand Under The Bar, Lift Off The Rack and Step Back

Center yourself underneath the bar with your feet just outside hip width and your knees bent. Position the bar across your upper back and hold the bar with your hands comfortably outside shoulder width. Engage your core and stand to lift the bar from the rack, then take a couple small steps back so you’re clear from the rack.

Step 3: Breathe In, Brace Your Core, And Squat

Position your feet in a comfortable stance, feet just wider than hip width, and a slight bend in your knees. Keep your chest proud, with a strong back and neutral spine. Breathe in, brace your core, and bend your knees to lower into a squat. At proper depth to get the most muscle recruitment, your quads should be parallel to the floor or deeper if your mobility allows.

Step 4: Press Evenly Through Both Feet To Stand

As you breathe out, push through your feet evenly to stand. Keep your core engaged through the whole movement. Repeat the sequence for another rep, continuing for six to eight reps.

Step 5: Step Forward To Rack The Bar And Rest

Once you’re done with your set, step forward and place the bar gently back on the rack. Rest for a minute or two before going for another set.

Key Takeaways Of A Barbell Squat:

  1. Keep your chest up and your back neutral.
  2. Brace your core with every rep.
  3. Improve your hip and ankle mobility for better squat depth to gain better muscle engagement.

Barbell Squat Variations To Add To Your Routine

If you’re just learning how to squat with weights, start here. These are listed in order of how you should progress until you’re comfortable enough to try a barbell squat. However, these three variations of the squat are great for beginners and advanced lifters alike. “You can progress them by adding weight or adding reps and improving technique and mobility as you go. You can always be working to improve your squat,” said Davis.

Goblet Squat

Overview: “If you've never squatted with a barbell before, the goblet squat is a perfect starting place. The goblet squat is going to teach you to keep your chest up and engage your core, and ultimately allow you to perform a perfect barbell squat,” said Davis.
Set Up: Choose a dumbbell or a kettlebell and set the weight in an open area on the floor. If the weight is heavy, you can set the weight on a bench.
  1. Hold the weight by its sides vertically at your chest. Keep your chest proud, and stand in a standard squat stance with your feet slightly outside hip width.
  2. Breathe in, brace your core and bend your knees to squat.
  3. Push through your feet to stand. Repeat for another rep.

Sumo Squat

Overview: “The sumo squat takes an extra wide stance, which focuses on the side of your glutes and your inner thigh muscles, an area that is commonly neglected in training,” said Davis.
Set Up: Choose a dumbbell or a kettlebell and set the weight in an open area on the floor.
  1. Hold the weight by the top handle so the weight is hanging vertically in front of you. Keep your chest proud and stand in a comfortable wide stance outside shoulder width, with your toes pointed out at about 45 degrees.
  2. Breathe in, brace your core, and bend your knees to squat, lowering the weight to the ground. Your knees should fall in line with your toes.
  3. Push through your feet to stand. Repeat for another rep.
  4. If you’re very flexible, this might not be enough depth for you. Level up by standing on weight plates or boxes to increase your depth at the bottom of the squat.

Box Squat

Overview: After you’ve gotten the hang of squatting with dumbbells, the box squat is a good way to get familiar with the barbell. “It's perfect to hone technique and get comfortable with depth without getting worried about getting stuck in the bottom,” said Davis.
Set Up: Set the barbell up in the same way you would for a normal barbell squat. Set a bench or a box behind you a couple feet back from the barbell.
  1. Stand under the barbell and unrack it, stepping back until you are right in front of the box.
  2. Breathe in, brace your core and bend your knees to squat.
  3. At the bottom of the squat, briefly sit on the box or just tap it with your glutes. Keep your core engaged and your body rigid, don’t relax as you sit.
  4. Push through your feet to stand and repeat.
For beginners, getting comfortable with squatting is about getting a solid feel for the mechanics before moving on to heavy weights. Learning how to squat with dumbbells first is where most people begin. “A perfect starting place might be the goblet squat, and from there you could transition into the back squat. Where you start is not important. It's sticking with it and trying to build up to where you want to get to,” said Davis. Once you master the squat in all its forms, you can try other strength moves like a deadlift and the many variations that come with it.