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Barbell Squat | Benefits, Technique, Tutorial

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

An illustration of a man performing a barbell squat.

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The barbell squat is one of the all-time great strength and power-building exercises. As well as being a favourite among weightlifters, the barbell squat also features in the training programs of athletes from a wide range of sporting disciplines. It’s common training practice for professional athletes to include strength exercises, such as the squat and its many manifestations, in their routine.

But the barbell squat isn’t just for weightlifters and professional athletes. Anyone who is desirous to improve their leg strength and physical robustness needs to include the barbell squat in their routine.

This article will provide you with the technical application of the barbell squat, including a video tutorial, an overview of the benefits, and an assessment of the muscle groups this indomitable exercise targets.

Benefits of the barbell squat

The primary benefit that you can expect from regular barbell squatting is increased strength and size in the thighs. In addition, the barbell squat develops superior pushing power in the quadriceps and glutes. But barbell squats do more than just strengthen our legs.

A common misconception is that the squat is purely a leg-building exercise. However, weightlifting lore has it that squatting can promote whole-body growth. It does this by stimulating the increase in testosterone, which promotes tissue growth.

In The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us that to develop whole-body size and strength he ‘included a lot of Heavy Squats in my leg routine, especially Half Squats.’

More benefits of the back squat

  • Develops awesome strength in the quadriceps and glutes.

  • Can promote whole-body growth.

  • Improves postural alignment.

  • Forges a robust physicality.

  • Enhances pushing power.

  • Can improve performance in other fitness and sporting disciplines.

  • Makes daily tasks and activities (such as climbing stairs and getting on and off the toilet) easier.

Muscles targeted by the squat

The traditional barbell squat, where the bar is positioned across the upper back, primarily targets all four heads of the quadriceps. But as alluded to above, the squat also engages the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, lower back, core, and a host of synergist muscles.

How to perform the barbell squat

Before attempting the barbell squat, make your environment safe. Remove any protruding objects that may impede the trajectory of the barbell as you squat. Also, for those squatting for the first time, consider enlisting the services of a spotter – that is, someone to support you through the exercise. And, finally, don’t forget to use clips to secure the weights in place.

  • First, position a barbell across your trapizus muscles. If you are a beginner, and have never squatted before, it is advisable to learn with an unloaded bar.

  • With the bar resting securely across your traps, space your feet so that they are slightly over shoulder-width apart. Angling the feet slightly can make the movement more comfortable to perform.

  • Ensuring to keep your eyes fixed forward and slightly up, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms at the back of the knee.

  • To conclude the squat, stand up under control focusing on pushing your hips forward as you do so.

Barbell squat dos and don’ts

  • Do use a weight commensurate with your current level of strength. It’s best to perfect the technique before piling on the poundage.

  • Don’t hold your breath throughout the movement.

  • Do maintain control over the exercise ensuring to engage both quadriceps in equal measures.

  • Don’t round the back or hinge at the hips at any point during the lift.

  • Do squat regularly and mix up your squat variations.

Key squatting teaching points

  • With the bar resting securely across your traps, space your feet slightly over shoulder-width apart.

  • Keeping your eyes fixed forward, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms at the back of the knee.

  • To conclude the squat, stand up under control focusing on pushing your hips forward as you do so.

Back squat video tutorial >


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or

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