Quick Tip #10: Five More Squat Tips!

By: Jonathan Byrd

Squats can be and are probably the most complicated lift out of all the powerlifts. The smallest things in form can cause issues or even worse, major injuries. For most lifters the squat requires a lot of coaching from an experienced lifter. Here are five quick tips to help you improve your squat.

1. Upper back tightness. This is one that I really have struggled with myself. As you get under the bar, you need to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. During this time you should be pushing your shoulders into the bar. A third part of upper back tightness is squeezing the bar down with your hands. If you are pushing into the bar with your shoulders AND attempting to bend it with your hands, there is no way to be loose. Locking your lats in is key as they run from the arm to the hip. This is a HUGE component to staying locked in.

2. Core tightness. Most lifters know to how to get and hold their air in, that’s nothing new. What you should be looking for is where the lifter is holding the air. The air should be held in the stomach and not the chest. This is often a beginner mistake that can cause the lifter to be unstable. Before you squat, you should visibly see and feel the stomach fill with air and the chest should not move. You should use that air to press your belly into the belt to help keep your core tight and body stable. Think stiff, just like if you were bracing for a punch to the gut.

3. Get your butt out of the way! The hip hinge should be the first thing you do in a squat. It is nearly impossible to do a correct squat without getting your butt out of the way first. Have a small arch in your back and slowly move your butt backwards before you bend at the knee. This will allow you to get more hamstrings involved and keep your knees on a better track. Breaking at the knees first often causes the bar to come over your toes as well as initiate some sort of tracking of the knee. By not hinging your hips backward you run the rusk of dropping straight down, which often times will end up with you rounding your lumbar spine.


4. Keep the elbows down. There will be people out there whom disagree with me, but that is nothing new. Forcing the elbows down during the lift will help keep the upper back tight and keep you from collapsing forward. When you see the elbows coming up that most often means the bar is tracking forward and you will eventually end up on your toes with a heavy squat. This is part of the lifters wedge and staying locked in. Again, think lats and pull the elbows down and keep them there.

5. Push your knees out. “Knees out” is an obvious one but it is not as simple as it seems. Too often I see beginner lifters start to flare their knees out as soon as they start to squat. This is a mistake and will cause you to bend and not reach depth. The knees should not start to flair until about midway down and need to continue to stay out as you transition before the bottom of the lift. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between knee tracking and knees caving in. That is a topic for another article and a big reason that a knowledgeable coach is so important. Think hip hinge first, THEN knees out and spread the floor.

To sum things up, the biggest coaching cues are sometimes the simple ones. Remember these five easy fixes on your next squat day and let me know how it goes!


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Jonathan Byrd

Jonathan Byrd is a competitive powerlifter, with over 16 years of training experience. Byrd has been ranked nationally for the past 6 years under multiple categories. His total has ranked as high as second nationally in the 275 class. He currently has a best total of 2500lbs. Best individual lifts include a 1040lb squat, a 750lb bench press, and 735lb deadlift. His 1040lb squat ranks him 26th all-time squats at the 308 class. Jonathan currently trains out of Team Samson Gym in Jacksonville, FL. Before powerlifting Jonathan was a college athlete at Methodist University as both an all-conference football player and track athlete. Following graduation he played four years of arena football in various leagues.

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