How can many of the world's most knowledgeable fitness instructors avoid the "best" exercise for burning fat and packing on muscle?
It is true of the standard back squat. It is considered both a classic and a hot-button workout. Squatting is an essential movement, regardless of whether or not you perform it with weight on your back, so there's no point in arguing about the merits of the back squat.
When people disagree, it's usually about whether or not the movement is safe. It has been argued that squats present an unnecessary risk of injury for some. And if you're avoiding them, it's probably because you're afraid of the same thing happening to you or because you've had negative experiences with them.
Why Do Squats Hurt?
What makes squats so effective also makes them susceptible to harm. Squats are a great example of a compound exercise because they simultaneously engage many muscle groups. When you squat, your muscles are activated, from your legs to your trunk.
Although all those muscles are engaged, you want them to do only a portion of the work. That's why excellent exercise for your legs can quickly lead to issues like back pain.
The Problem: Weak Grip
The first place I look when someone is squatting surprises me. Specifically, I enjoy observing the grip and upper back. Why? Because few people grasp the bar and use their muscles to keep them safe.
When carrying a bar on their back, most people take considerable time to find a comfortable position at the top of their back. It causes them to skip over the very first necessary step.
How to Fix Your Squat Form: Grip the bar as tightly as you can and try to tuck your elbows under it as you get into a squatting position. A squat is not a stable movement if you drop into it.
Increased muscle tension in the hands and upper back spreads throughout the body. Squatting with this tension will help you maintain proper spinal alignment and protect your lower back. Plus, engaging these muscles will allow you to generate more force and lift heavier loads without risking injury.
The Problem: Leaning Forward
The cue to keep the chest up is common and valuable in a squat. When you bend at the hips too much, it's challenging to maintain the proper level of muscle tension in your lower body.
In a forward fall, the body's center of gravity moves from the quadriceps to the glutes, hamstrings, and possibly even the lower back.
Dropping the weight and ensuring your body can handle what you're lifting is the first step in fixing your squat form. Many of your body's signals will say, "This is too much!" when you're squatting. One of these indicators is bending in half as you lower yourself into a sitting position.
Then, make it a point to keep your chest up and elbows tucked in (so they point toward the floor). If the torso is held vertically, the lift will go more smoothly.
Additionally, you should train your mobility and flexibility (more on this soon). If you have tight ankles, hips, and a tight upper back, you won't be able to hit a good squat pattern. This problem will become even more severe as additional weight is added.