How to Do a Back Squat

Back squats are another classic weight lifting exercise that is very well known for strengthening the lower body. This exercise targets the spinal erectors of the lower back, as well as the glutes and hamstrings, also known as the posterior chain. As a bonus, you’re also activating the quadriceps of the front upper leg during the exercise.

Performing back squats regularly can help to improve coordination as well as more comfortable, fluid movement during daily activities such as picking up items and climbing the stairs.

How To

  • To perform a back squat, you need to start by safely loading a barbell onto your traps. The best way to do this is by using a racking a system. With your shoulders just under the bar, grip the bar firmly with palms facing up. Stand up and step away from the racking.
  • Stand with feet planted firmly on the floor at about shoulder width apart and make sure to keep your chest up.
  • Bend through the knees as you slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your gaze forward throughout the entire movement.
  • To finish the movement, squeeze the glutes and press through the feet as you straighten through the knees to return back to standing.


A good goal to aim for is three sets of 12 repetitions. You should be completely comfortable performing this many squats with your current weight before adding additional weight. It is perfectly acceptable to start with just the bar and no additional weight.


Stance: Depending on the structure of your hips, you may be more comfortable performing a squat with a narrower stance. On the other hand, you may prefer a wider stance. As long as you maintain proper form through your back and knees, foot stance can be adjusted to suit your needs.

Front squat: The front squat sees the barbell placed on the front of the shoulders instead of on the back. This shifts the weight forward, causing your quads to become a more primary muscle while the glutes work a little less.

High bar/low bar: High bar positioning sees the bar help on the back of the trapezius. This position engages the back as more of a stabilizer for the bar. Low bar positioning sees the bar held across the rear deltoids and causes the back to take on more of the actual work. Consult a fitness trainer if you are new to weighted squats, in order to make sure you are maintaining proper form.

Cautionary Notes

Make sure to maintain proper form through the knees. You do not want your knees to slide forward, out past your toes, or to collapse inward. Both of these issues are really hard on your joints.

Letting your shoulders round disengages the posterior chain, which is the whole benefit of the exercise. If you are loading really heavy weight, rounding the shoulders can also put an excessive amount of strain on the spine. Pulling the shoulder blades together and down, as well as keeping the gaze forward, can help you to maintain proper form.

Don’t forget about your core while squatting. Although back squats are about the lower body, it is important to protect the back by keeping the core engaged throughout the entire exercise.

More Back Squat Related Resources

Back Squat – The Box
Butt & Hip Exercises | Back Squat
How to Properly Execute a Barbell Back Squat | Muscle & Fitness
How To Master The Barbell Back Squat | Coach
Front Squats vs. Back Squats – How to Find the Best Squat for You
How to Squat with Proper Form: The Definitive Guide | StrongLifts

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