Setting Up the Squat

Squatting is one of the foundational exercises that every good program contains. Some people love it while some people hate it. Whatever your stance is on the squat, we all want to lift more. This can be achieved through a good set up. In fact, the difference between successfully lifting a weight can be determined before you even start the squat.

Our first step is taking a good grip on the bar. Shoulder width plays a big part in this as well as shoulder mobility. Those with wider shoulders obviously need to take a wider grip. Those with poor shoulder mobility or shoulder pain should take a wide grip as well. Choose a grip that is comfortable for you.

Our next step is to get setup under that bar. Again, choose a placement on the back that is comfortable to you. Those taller individuals and those with poor shoulder mobility tend to have the bar higher on the back while shorter people have it a little lower. Wherever you place the bar, make sure it is comfortable. Never place the bar on the neck. At the base of the neck at about shoulder level is a good placement for beginners. At this point we need to tighten our back. To achieve this we squeeze our shoulder blades together just as we do any kind of rowing exercise This provides us with a “ledge” to rest the bar. This can take some of the pressure from the bar off. If you’re having trouble tightening up, try removing you pinky finger and place it under the bar. This will make it a little bit easier to tighten the back. Another tip is not to focus not only squeezing your shoulder blades but also bring those elbows close together.

The next step is to unrack the weight. At this point we should be in a tight position with our feet in a similar position as if we were squatting. We are going to lift the weight off of the rack in a nice controlled movement while keeping our abs tight. We are going to take two steps to get into position to squat. Any more movement will just be wasting energy. When we take these steps, we must turn our feet out so our toes are pointed out slightly. Turning our feet from the hips tightens our glutes in this standing position. This will make squatting the weight easier down the line as tight glutes cause the hips to come forward quicker..

The final step in our set up is to brace our core. From our standing position, we are going to take a deep breath and hold it in our belly. This tightens the abs and keeps us nice and stable through our squat.

In conclusion, our set up is an important part of our squat. Lifts can be made or broken at this point in time. Taking our time in setting up will benefit the lift and keep you safer during the lift. Going through a checklist in your head before each lift can be one of the most beneficial ways to improve your squat.

Sean Willits

Sean graduated from Kutztown University in December 2015 with a degree in Sport Management and is a CPT through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He is a competitive powerlifter and record holder in the state of PA. Sean loves to share his knowledge with clients and helps to push them. He believes that everyone is capable of greatness and that as long as someone creates goals and stays committed to them, they can be achieved. He states that the reason he got involved with personal training is, “The fact that I’ve been able to achieve my own goals and see progress in my own life inspired me to be a personal trainer. Seeing my client’s lives change is what pushes me forward. I want to see my clients succeed. When they do, so do I.  I will do anything to help them out.”