When done correctly, the Squat can boost your strength and muscle mass, reduce your body fat, and increase your mobility at the foot/ankle, knees, hips and thoracic spine. But you won't reap the benefits if you don't do it right.
Here are four Squat progressions to bulletproof your technique:
1. Goblet Box Squat and Goblet Squat
Kudos to Dan John for developing this beauty. It's very easy to do either at the gym or at home, because the only equipment required is a kettlebell or dumbbell
The Goblet Box Squat offers an anterior load that is easy to sit away from while you control proper posture without loading your spine. It's especially good for people who lack adequate mobility, strength and stability to perform a full Goblet Squat. If you are unsure of your abilities and form, start with the Goblet Box Squat variation and transition to the full Goblet Squat.
- Grab the kettlebell by the "horns" or cup the head of the dumbbell with your palms.
- Tuck your elbows at your sides.
- Set your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart, pointing your feet square or slightly out.
- Keep your chest tall and start the movement by engaging the abdominals as you sit back, keeping your weight through your heels and driving your knees outward.
2. Zercher Squat
The Zercher Squat is an extremely effective variation for introducing a barbell. It directly loads the anterior core rather than the spinal erectors, and it will turn your hips, thighs and torso into a brick house. The position of the bar forces engagement of the anterior core and teaches great hip drive and mobility.
- Hold the bar in the crooks of your elbows, hugged tightly to your torso.
- Set your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart.
- Start the movement by engaging your core.
- Squat below parallel while driving your knees out and keeping your torso tall.
- Finish by driving up through your heels and glutes.
3. Front Squat
Like the Zercher Squat, the Front Squat is quad-dominant and will greatly activate your anterior core.
- Set the bar at collarbone level.
- Pull yourself into the bar so it rests at the bottom of your throat.
- Grip the bar, either Olympic or cross-armed style (both shown in video).
- Set your feet hip-width apart, brace your abs and drive your elbows up as you sit into your squat.
- Keep your weight through your heels.
- On the way up, drive through your heels—keeping your knees out—and finish by squeezing your glutes.
RELATED: Front Squat 101: A How-To Guide
4. Back Squat
Having the bar on your back targets your posterior chain.
- Make sure the bar is racked at chest height.
- Set your feet shoulder-width apart and pull yourself under the center of the bar.
- As you pull yourself under, pull your shoulder blades back to create a shelf for the bar to rest on.
- Lift your chest tall, brace your core and extend the bar off the rack, walking it out away from the rack and resetting your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your chest tall and your knees out and brace your core as you sit back through the hips.
- During the ascent, spread the floor apart with your heels as if you wanted to create a crater in the ground. Lock out through your glutes.
Note: Box Squats are a good way to teach the Back Squat. They can be performed with rest-pause variations to promote extra strength gains.
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