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Safe Squat Technique

Learn to squat safely and build great muscle strength


Updated November 20, 2003

The squat lift is one of the best overall weight lifting exercises for building lower body and leg strength. It can be used by athletes of all abilities to improve performance and reduce injury. In general, most athletes should use the following technique:

  1. If just beginning, work with a trainer to learn proper technique.
  2. Always have one or two competent spotters available.
  3. Position the squat rack so the bar sits about 3 inches lower than your shoulders.
  4. Position your hands evenly on the bar and and back up and under the bar so it rests comfortably on your shoulders.
  5. Maintaining a wide stance place your feet squarely under the bar and lift it from the rack using the legs.
  6. Keep the weight centered; do not lift from your heels or toes.
  7. Slowly bend your knees while keeping your torso erect. Do not lean forward. Keep your hips under the bar at all times.
  8. At the bottom of your movement the angles of your knee joint and hip joint are nearly equal.
  9. Never relax or drop to the bottom position. Remain constant, slow, and controlled muscle tension.

  10. Slowly return to starting postion while keeping your torso and back erect and hips under the bar.
  11. Repeat for additional.
  12. Weight belts are generally not recommended. (See: The Proper Use of Belts During Weight Training).
  13. At the end of the exercise have your spotters help to guide the bar back to the rack.

Tips for Avoiding Injury
The squat can cause a great deal of stress and strain on the knees even for those with no history of knee problems. By varying your foot placement you can change that stress. Using a wide stance decreases the stress on the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). A narrow stance significantly increases stress. The angle of the foot (toes turned out or toes pointed straight ahead) however, does not affect the stress on the knees. There is no evidence that the squat exercise produces excessive force in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Seventy-five percent of all squatting injuries occur before or after the actual lift; either moving into position or returning the weight to the rack. Make sure you have competent spotters at all times.

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