June 9, 2014

Muscle & Mind 5: The Squat

The Squat – strength & conditioning exercises

Guest Blog by BarrieJon Mulder, Strength & Conditioning Coach

The Squat

The squat is a movement we all have an obligation to master and perform flawlessly. Think about all of your daily activities that require in most part the ability to pick something up, to carry your suitcase, take a flight of stairs or pick up your children. As the bulk of the human race descends further into physical decay, take charge and get squatting. The ability to execute the squat in all of its various forms from back squat, front squat, overhead squat to Bulgarian split squats is key to building a superior foundation of strength whether for sports performance or everyday life.

Technique is key when performing any weight lifting movement and building a bulletproof technical foundation is essential for staying injury free and getting stronger. Injury results from weakness or incorrect technique from poor mobility and coaching. Don’t blame the movement if you cannot execute it.

Tension is another component that needs attention before we get under the bar. What does tension do? Quite simply improving your ability to create tension will allow you to get tighter to the bar, stabilise your trunk, and recruit more muscle fibre for the movement.  Creating full body tension or tightness is invaluable in ensuring your lower back is protected, your chest stays upright and you are able to hold against the weight.  You don’t see a rugby player going into a tackle without bracing himself…and if he does chances are he will get put on his behind and hurt……so get tight!!!!

Mobility is the third component that needs to be addressed. Soft tissue limitations throughout your body will affect your ability to perform a movement as simple as walking. Do not fall into the trap of saying to yourself you will do it next workout or tomorrow. Keep up the daily foam rolling, stretching where necessary and keep notes on which movements make you tighter than others so you can address them.  

When setting up to perform the squat have a checklist in your mind that you run through. Detailed below is one such list. Everyone will have their own way of doing things so feel free to tweak it to your needs.

  • Set your hands shoulder width or slightly wider on the bar and bring the shoulders back
  • Lock the shoulder blades down by externally rotating the shoulder and tightening the Lats
  • Drop under the bar and set it as is comfortable for you on the upper traps
  • Gripping the bar as tight as you can pull the ribs down and breath deep as if filling yourself up from your groin
  • Brace the abdominals and unrack your bar taking two steps back
  • Set the feet hip width or slightly wider-no further than shoulder width apart as this can cause stress on the medial collateral ligament of the knee
  • Screw the feet into the ground by driving the knees out and tensing the Glutes
  • If you role onto the outside of your foot you must correct this
  • Keeping the abdominals braced and ribs down, arch slightly in the lower back
  • Staying tight squat down as fast as is possible with good form by imagining your body dropping down between your legs
  • During this time you are driving the knees out, squeezing the Glutes  and bracing the abdominals and oblique’s
  • Allow the knees to track out over the big toe
  • Reach depth-hip below the knee or hamstrings to calves
  • Explosively drive yourself out of the bottom by driving the legs and hips into extension

There is no evidence to suggest squats are bad for your knees or back rather that squats have been extensively shown to be the number one exercise for building strong legs and glutes, and decreasing the occurrence of lower back and knee pain. Furthermore the squat improves lower body flexibility, sporting performance and vertical jump height. Perfect your technique and add strength to that base and you have a superior athlete.



BarrieJon Mulder is a Strength & Conditioning Coach of superb calibre and a huge future. I am really happy and grateful that he will be doing some strength and training related blogs for COTG. This is relevant whether you are a serious athlete, someone who likes to lift heavy stuff or just someone who wants to move well and stay strong in day to day life.


You can find BarrieJon @CoachBJM on Twitter and in real life at The Athlete Centre, Osney Mead. This is a superb training facility with professional, enthusiastic and supportive staff and members. Whatever your goal – you’ll reach it quicker if you involve the Athlete Centre for training.


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