No Barbell, No Athlete: PART 2. Back Squat

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By Carl Paoli - Posted on 25 November 2009

If you had to pick one movement to make yourself better at your sport, this would be the one.


Squatting enhances overall body strength, especially in the legs and hips-the human body’s power generator- and facilitates speed and power development. It also takes trunk stability to the next level. Yes, TRUNK STABILITY, not core*

*Core: core strength is equivalent to saying kidney, liver, and intestine or stomach strength. We are not talking about organs; we are talking about the muscle mass that surrounds and maintains our spine in a strong and safe position to allow for an efficient movement through space while carrying heavy loads, or simply flying through the air, which is what we usually do as athletes.

The athlete should start by learning how to squat unloaded. Here are 3 STEPS and their details to keep in mind while squatting.


The Set up: The goal is to create a column from heels to head. This will allow for future placement of heavy loads and tons of crazy performance results.

  1. Place feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Turn toes out 7 degrees.
  3. Without moving heels, push them out and against the floor to wind up the hip.
  4. Tighten up your belly by pulling your ribs in and down.
  5. Pull your shoulder-blades back and down.
  6. And pull your arms up in a straight-arm fashion so your hands are above eye level.


The Descent: The eccentric (or negative) phase of the squat.

  1. Push your hips back, trying to imagine you are pushing something heavy, or tagging something behind you.
  2. Continue the descent of the hips by bending gradually in the knee, but without letting them cave-in or shoot forward. In an ideal world we would like for our lower leg to stay vertical through out the entire movement.
  3. The bottom (or hole) will be reached when our hip crease is bellow knee height.


The Ascent: The concentric (or positive) phase of the squat.

  1. Once the hip hits the bottom of the squat, turn the movement around and commence your ascent.  The faster the turn over, the stronger and more efficient your lift will be.
  2. Maintain heels and knees in position by pushing outward against the floor and drive the hips away from the ground.
  3. Finish the movement with hips and knees in full extension.

Once this movement is dialed in and feels comfortable unloaded, it is time to get under the bar! In order to make this happen we will have to learn how to rack the bar first.*

*The Rack:
The shelf we create to support the weight on our back…

Step up to the bar on a squat rack.

  1. Place all five fingers over the bar.
  2. Stick your head through your arms and under the bar to place the bar on your upper traps (meaty area of the upper back) and shoulders.
  3. Bring hands in as close as possible to your shoulders.
  4. Drive elbows back and up to create a big shelf for the weight to rest.
  5. Repeat STEPS 1, 2 and 3.

If you follow this guideline you should have all the essentials covered in order to be able to back squat the right way. This simple skill takes years to perfect and is constantly being reviewed and improved, even by the most advanced athletes and coaches so don’t lose hope!.

Coach-got to squat-Carl