Squats are often referred to as “The King of Exercises” – although this title is as often
applied to Deadlifts.
In strength training, the weighted squat is a compound, full body exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, hamstrings, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body. see Muscles Used In Squats
Squats are usually performed with a barbell, but variations can also be performed with dumbbells and some specially designed machines.
Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength of the legs and buttocks, as well as developing core strength.
Isometrically, the lower back, the upper back, the abdominals, the trunk muscles, the costal muscles, and the shoulders and arms are all essential to the exercise and thus are trained when squatting with proper form.
see Squat Basics
The movement begins from a standing position. With barbell squats, a weighted bar is used. The most common bar positions are :
1) High Bar : The bar is braced across the trapezius muscle
2) Low Bar : The bar is braced across the rear deltoid muscle in the upper back
The Squat movement is initiated by moving the hips back and bending the knees and hips to lower the torso and the accompanying weight.
The movement is completed by returning to the upright position.
(see also Squat Basics)
Correctly performed full squats are much safer on the knees and remove pressure from the lower lumbar region.
As the body descends, the hips and knees undergo flexion, the ankle dorsiflexes and muscles around the joint contract eccentrically, reaching maximal contraction at the bottom of the movement while slowing and reversing descent. The muscles around the hips provide the power out of the bottom of the movement. If the knees slide forward or cave in then tension is taken from the hamstrings, hindering power on the ascent. Returning to vertical contracts the muscles concentrically, and the hips and knees undergo extension while the ankle plantarflexes.
Two common errors include descending too rapidly and flexing the torso too far forward.
Rapid descent risks being unable to complete the lift or causing injury. This occurs when the descent causes the squatting muscles to relax and tightness at the bottom is lost as a result.
Over-flexing the torso greatly increases the forces exerted on the lower back, risking a spinal disc herniation.
Another error where health of the knee joint is concerned is when the knee is not aligned with the direction of the toes. If the knee is not pointing in the same direction as the foot during the squat movement this results in twisting/shearing of the joint and unwanted torque affecting the ligaments which can soon result in injury.
The knee should always follow the toe. It is usually best to have your toes slightly pointed outward in order to track the knee properly.
Various types of equipment can be used to assist with squats.
A power cage can be used to reduce risk of injury and eliminate the need for a spotting partner (though a good training partner can help in other ways, such as pointing out errors in technique and providing motivation and encouragement in heavy lifts).
The “Smith machine” can also be used to perform a kind of a squat; this largely removes the use of the hips from the movement which turns the exercise into something resembling a leg press instead of a true squat.
Other equipment used can include a weight lifting belt to support the torso.
The barbell can also be wrapped with a towel, cushioned with a special padded sleeve, or fitted with a device to distribute weight on the body more evenly (e.g. a “Manta Ray”); these are used if the weight becomes uncomfortable for the lifter. see Squat Basics