How to Squat

Squat Setup

  • Adjust racks to appropriate height for yourself
    • You should not have to stand up on toes to unrack the bar (racks are too high)
    • You should not have to squat to unrack the bar (racks are too low)
  • Face the bar and find the grip you want to use
    • A narrower grip is about a thumb’s length away from the start of the knurling
      • Pros: Keeps upper back extremely tight
      • Cons: Can be stressful on the shoulders
    • A neutral grip is usually with the ring finger around the ring
    • A wider grip is usually with the index finger around the ring
      • Pros: Very little stress on shoulders
      • Cons: More difficult to keep back tight
    • Closed Grip: Hook thumbs around the bar
      • Pros: Stable hold on the bar
      • Cons: Can put a great deal of stress on the hand and wrist
    • False Grip: Not hooking your thumbs around the bar
      • Pros: Less stress on the wrist and all the weight is carried by the back
      • Cons: Can feel less supported and the bar can slip more easily  

High Bar versus Low Bar Placement

  • To perform a high bar squat: bar is placed on top of traps
  • The high bar forces you to keep your chest up and torso upright which places more emphasis on quadriceps
    • Pros: Does not stress shoulders and it’s good when you want to focus on quads
    • Cons: Usually does not allow you to lift as much as in a low bar position
  • To perform a low bar squat: bar is placed on the shelf of the upper back at base of the traps and on top of the posterior deltoids
  • To make a shelf: pinch shoulder blades together and pull elbows down and towards the spine
  • The low bar position gives you a biomechanical advantage to lift more weight by allowing the torso and chest to bend over further without compromising good form
  • The low bar position places more emphasis on the posterior chain (hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and back musculature)
    • Pros: Can lift more weight and it’s good when you want to focus on posterior chain
    • Cons: Can place stress on shoulders especially if using narrow grip

Squat Stance

  • A narrow stance is about shoulder width or slightly narrower
    • Pros: Places more emphasis on quadriceps
    • Cons: Not as strong of base for balance, usually cannot lift as much weight
  • A neutral stance is about an inch wider than shoulder width
    • Pros: Places emphasis on quadriceps and some on posterior chain
    • Cons: Some may still not feel completely balanced with their base
  • A wide stance is about 3 or more inches wider than shoulder width
    • Pros: Places more emphasis on muscles in posterior chain
    • Cons: Some may find this to be uncomfortably wide
  • Toes should be pointed slightly outward
    • The straighter your toes point, the more rebound you get in the bottom of the squat from stretch from tendons
    • If you lack ankle mobility, you may have to point your toes out further to allow for full range of motion in the squat (never exceed a 45 degree angle with toes)


  • Once you have established your grip and bar placement, unrack the weight by standing upright and taking 2-4 steps out to the middle of the squat rack
    • During these 2-4 steps you should establish the stance you want to squat with
    • Make sure your feet are even
  • Brace by filling your lungs with air, closing your glottis, pushing your abdomen out, and tightening your back
  • Hinge at the hips and squat down by sitting back until you have reached at least a 90 degree angle at your knee
    • Think about sitting back like you would to sit down on a toilet
    • Keep your knees behind your toes

Stand Up

  • Once you have reached the bottom of your squat, stand up by straightening your hips
  • Push your knees out the whole way up
  • Drive through the heels of your feet
More From The Bar Blog