Squat

Muscles Used: All major leg muscles, back, shoulders.

Technique: Much of the bad reputation squats have gotten is because a lot of people use poor form while doing them. This exercise is actually very safe when done correctly. It does require a lot of concentration, so never perform this exercise if you are not up to it. The best way to do squats is on a power rack or cage. This enables you to adjust the safety bars to your desired height. These bars are there to stop the weight from falling to the floor if you fail to press it back up. Set them just below your desired squat depth. Now change the height of the bar hooks. Be careful not to set the bar too high or low, because it will be difficult to remove it from the hooks when you are squatting a lot of weight. Anywhere in your mid-upper chest area is a good level.

Now step up, and place your head and upper shoulders under the bar. To make sure you lift the bar in the middle, aim for the etched middle part of the bar. The majority of the bar weight should rest on your trapezius muscles (not your neck or spine). If the bar is uncomfortable to hold, don't worry: this will go away as your upper body gains more mass and your body gets accustomed to carrying weights in this fashion. In the meantime, you can use one of the bar pads. [Note: Using any type of pad on the bar with heavy weights is dangerous because the bar could easily slip off your shoulders, or become unbalanced.]

Next, pull the bar off the hooks and step away. Before you begin the actual squat, make sure you have the correct foot placement. Ideally, your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width, with your toes pointing out at a slight angle.

The actual movement is just as if you were squatting straight down from a standing position. Without any weight or a bar, you could probably go straight down or up without changing the angle of your torso. But to keep balanced with weights, you must lean forward. As you begin to squat, your knees bend out in line with your toes, and your torso will begin to bend forward slightly to stay balanced. As you do, always remember to keep your chest out and back arched slightly, it kind of looks as if you are sitting down on a chair that is behind you. It forces you to stick your butt out, but that's normal. Do not hunch over, or look down as you squat. These movements will take your spine out of alignment and possibly injure your back.

When squatting, do not let your knees bow in. This is very dangerous. Your knees should always bend outward over your toes. If you cannot control this, you should lighten your poundage until your strength increases.

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